What’s next: the Hungarian Grand Prix

The first country from behind the ‘iron curtain’ to host a Formula One race, the Hungarian Grand Prix has been a permanent fixture on the Formula One calendar since 1986.

The first country from behind the ‘iron curtain’ to host a Formula One race, the Hungarian Grand Prix has been a permanent fixture on the Formula One calendar since 1986. This year’s race will be the 31st consecutive Grand Prix at the Hungaroring in Mogyoród on the outskirts of the Hungarian capital of Budapest.

Heavily subsidised by the Hungarian government, who signed a renewal with Formula One Management (FOM) in 2013; the 2016 race will be the first season of a new six-year deal that ends in 2021.

The twisty circuit doesn’t necessarily lend itself to spectacular racing but changes to the first corner in the early part of the Millennium have enabled more overtaking and the races are usually tense affairs. The Hungaroring is a wonderful track to view competitive racing – the track is situated in a natural bowl, which results in more than 50 per cent of it being visible from most vantage points. “They have done a lot to the circuit,” explains Nigel Geach. “It used to be a very tight circuit for both teams and drivers but they have expanded the paddock.”

Away from the track, the Hungarian race is popular with teams and fans alike because of its proximity to the charming city of Budapest, known as the ‘Paris of Eastern Europe’. 

The Hungaroring is one the season’s smaller and perhaps quainter circuits with a capacity of only 70,000 people, but the circuit has always drawn a full and diverse crowd, from Hungary’s large Finnish population cheering on Mika Häkkinen and now current Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen, to the significant delegations from Russia and Poland.  

Until the dissolution of tobacco sponsorship in Formula One, the Hungaroring had a longstanding title sponsorship with Marlboro cigarettes. Most recently the promoters, Hungaroring Sport Plc, have preferred to have short-term deals, lasting no more than two years at a time, with ING, Eni, and tyre manufacturer Pirelli.  The 2016 race is yet to announce a title sponsor but does have German car manufacturer Opel as one of its main partners for the race.

Geach believes that the eastern-European race has become something of a hidden gem on the schedule. “It’s very popular and a good time of year,” he says. “It’s mid-summer, beautiful weather normally. That is why it attracts a lot of people who drive there. Hungary has a big catchment area for the different demographics of Formula One fans and I know they have very good parties there.”

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