The only Formula 1 race to be held behind the Iron Curtain, the Hungarian Grand Prix has been staged at the Hungaroring circuit outside of Budapest every year since 1986.
The first Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix, held in August of 1986, was the culmination of Bernie Ecclestone’s desire for the sport to venture beyond the Iron Curtain. After considering Moscow, the initial Hungarian plan was for a race to be held on the streets of the capital Budapest. In the end, the communist authorities in Hungary decided to construct a purpose-built track 19km outside of the capital. The Hungaroring circuit was completed in just eight months and the first race drew an estimated 200 000 fans from all over the Eastern Bloc.
The tight, twisty Hungaroring circuit is located in a valley, which provides excellent visibility for fans. From higher vantage points, it’s possible to see around 80% of the circuit. At 4.381km, the Hungaroring is the third shortest Formula 1 circuit on the current calendar and the second slowest after Monaco. The tight layout of the circuit makes overtaking difficult, one reason why many drivers and fans don’t rate the track highly. The race is held each year at the height of the European summer, often in stifling heat. Since the race was first held over thirty years ago, rain has only fallen during the race three times, in 2006, 2011 and 2014; while the 2020 race began in damp conditions.
Estimated race-day crowds have hovered around the 100 000 mark in recent years. During Robert Kubica’s first stint in F1, the Hungarian event became the defacto Polish Grand Prix, with as many as 25 000 Polish fans making the trip to the race each year. With his return to the grid in 2019, the figure once again grew by around 20 000.
Hungary remains a popular F1 destination for fans from all over Europe. A contract extension was signed in 2016 which guaranteed the Hungaroring’s place on the Formula 1 calendar until at least 2026. The contract was recently extended to 2027, due to the 2020 race being held without spectators. The 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix was moved forward two weeks from its provisional date as a result of calendar changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. It was won by Lewis Hamilton, who secured a record-breaking eighth win at the venue.
Hungarian Grand Prix: Did You Know?
- Lewis Hamilton has won more Hungarian Grands Prix than any other driver, with his tally currently at eight. That’s a shared record for the most wins at a single circuit. Michael Schumacher also won eight times at Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours during his career.
- Hamilton and Schumacher share the record for most poles at the track, with seven apiece.
- McLaren have enjoyed more wins at the Hungarian Grand Prix than any other team, with 11.
- Jenson Button took his first F1 victory at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, winning the race from fourteenth on the grid. It’s one of only two times, the other being Nigel Mansell in 1989, where the race has been won from further back than fourth on the grid.
- Aside from Button, Damon Hill, Fernando Alonso and Heikki Kovalainen all took their first F1 victories at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
- The Hungaroring has seen F1 reach two century milestones. Heikki Kovalainen became the 100th F1 driver to win a World Championship Grand Prix here in 2008, while Max Verstappen became the 100th driver to start from pole at a Grand Prix at the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix.
- While many drivers can boast a 100% finish rate at the Hungaroring, it’s Ralf Schumacher’s run which is the most impressive. He finished the race on all ten of his Hungarian Grand Prix appearances.
- In every season from 2005 to 2017, the winner of the Hungarian Grand Prix failed to go on to win the Drivers’ Championship. In fact, in its history there have been only eleven occasions where the winner of the event has won the title in the same year.
- Zsolt Baumgartner is the only Hungarian driver to have competed in the Hungarian Grand Prix since it joined the F1 calendar in 1986.
- Robert Kubica is the only driver to have been disqualified from a race at the Hungaroring. On his Grand Prix debut, the Polish driver finished seventh but was later disqualified as his car was 2kg underweight.
- Ferrari have been present at every Hungarian Grand Prix since 1986, but it took until 1999 for both of their cars to reach the chequered flag in the same race here!
- Nigel Mansell and Michael Schumacher are the only drivers to have claimed a World Championship in Hungary. Mansell took his only title at the track in 1992, while Schumacher took his fourth at the 2001 event.
- Felipe Massa was the victim of a freak accident during qualifying for the 2009 race. He was struck in the head by a suspension component which broke away from Rubens Barichello’s Brawn GP car. Massa suffered a serious eye injury and was ruled out of racing for the remainder of the 2009 season.
Memorable Moments in the Hungarian Grand Prix
1986: Piquet overtakes Senna: Nelson Piquet passed Ayrton Senna around the outside of Turn 1 (on opposite lock!) on his way to victory in the inaugural Hungarian Grand Prix in 1986. Many consider this to be one of the best overtakes of all time!
1992: Finally Mansell: After years of almost clinching the championship, Nigel Mansell finally secured the title in 1992 at the Hungaroring with five races to spare. Mansell finished a distant second to Ayrton Senna in the race, but it was all he needed to do to become the seventh British World Champion.
1997: A miracle for Hill: In 1997, driving the unfancied Arrows, Damon Hill came within three laps of a famous victory at the circuit, before a hydraulic issue forced him down to second. The Arrows car was both uncompetitive and unreliable, but that didn’t stop the reigning champion from comfortably leading the race. With his failing car, Hill was passed on the penultimate lap by former team-mate Jacques Villeneuve. Despite the disappointment, Hill secured the final podium finish for the Arrows marque.
2006: Button’s first win: Jenson Button won the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix from fourteenth on the grid. The 2006 race was the first at the Hungaroring to be held in wet conditions. Title rivals Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso also started from the lower half of the grid along with Button. The trio’s fight through the field supplied much of the afternoon’s entertainment, but both Alonso and Schumacher ultimately retired from the race. Button kept his cool, and even carried out a courageous overtake on Schumacher, to claim his maiden win. It was the final victory for a Honda-powered car until Max Verstappen won the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix.
2007: Qualifying drama: All the headlines from the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix came from qualifying. Lewis Hamilton failed to let McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso by on track. The Spaniard retaliated by tactically stopping in the McLaren pit box as Hamilton waited behind him. Alonso waited for long enough to prevent Hamilton from setting a lap time, thus ensuring pole would be his. It was Hamilton was eventually awarded pole, as Alonso received a five-place grid penalty for the incident.
|Track Length||4.381km (14 turns)|
|Race Distance||70 laps (306.630 km)|
|Lap Record||1:16.627, Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2020|
|2020 result||1st Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:36:12.473|
|2nd Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +8.702s|
|3rd Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +9.452s|