The Hungaroring is a rather odd place. It is as tight and twisty as Monaco but minus the Armco, the harbour, the glitz and the glamour.
It is also a place with two personalities: its races can be dull and painfully boring but they can also be action-packed and exciting. While it tends to be more of the former than the latter, it seems to have done enough to stay on the calendar for a while. I’ll be showing you some of the more exciting moments at this track:
1986: The first Hungarian Grand Prix was as much a political statement as it was a proper motor race. Here was a major Western sport, holding an event behind the Iron Curtain. ESPN’s Chris Ekonomaki even reported that there was nothing on state TV and radio except the race!
The Hungarians weren’t disappointed. They watched Ayrton Senna try his best to hold off Nelson Piquet in the quicker Williams. But Piquet didn’t just pass Senna once, he did it twice! At the second attempt Piquet passed him in style, powersliding his way round the outsides to win.
1989: Nigel Mansell had a great start to his Ferrari career by winning the first round in Brazil – a race he didn’t think he’d even finish.
When the second win finally came it was just as much of a surprise as he started 12th at a track where it was next to impossible to overtake.
But give “Our Nige” a sniff of a win and he always pounced. He battled his way from P12 to P2 and stalked Ayrton Senna. Just like 1986, Senna got passed in style by the car behind – this time, when he got stuck behind Stefan Johansson’s Onyx. Mansell never looked back and went on to win.
1990: When Williams took the front row for this race, with Thierry Boutsen on pole and Riccardo Patrese second, many thought they’d be easy prey for the McLarens on row two. But this was Hungary, and while Patrese fell off the pace, Boutsen controlled the race at the front, while Senna kept falling back after a litany of errors.
Senna eventually fought back up to third and was in yet another tight battle, this time with Benetton’s Alessandro Nannini. Senna played aggressor, passing Nannini on the inside at the chicane. But there wasn’t enough room for both of them, and Senna punted Nannini pff, forcing the Italian out of the race. Senna then tried passing Boutsen in the closing stages, but the Belgian prevailed to take his third and last Grand Prix win.
1992: After falling short of the title in 1986, 1987, and 1991, you couldn’t blame Nigel Mansell if he thought he’d never become champion. But 1992 saw him become the dominant force of the year, winning the first five races and eight of the first ten. Mansell had a huge lead entering Hungary, but he still wanted to wrap up the title as early as possible.
He had a rough start, falling back after starting second on the grid, then having to pit after suffering tyre problems. But Mansell’s pace was very quick. And when teammate and theoretical championship rival Riccardo Patrese retired, he only needed to finish third to win the title. Not only did he fight back to third, he even passed Gerhard Berger’s McLaren for good measure. Senna won the race, but Mansell won the championship – at last.
1993 Yet another Englishman driving a Williams enjoyed success here a year later. This time, it was Damon Hill taking his first Grand Prix win. He had come very close to winning the British and German Grands Prix that year, but had mechanical failures in both, allowing teammate Alain Prost to pick up the pieces and take the victory. This time, pole-position man Prost stalled and started from the back. Hill’s second place grid slot became pole by default, and it was third time lucky for Hill.
Damon Hill was also involved in another magical Hungarian GP – this one in 1997. I’ll pick up from there tomorrow.
This is a guest article by Journeyer. If you’re interested in writing for F1 Fanatic see the information for guest writers here.