Changing tracks: Hungaroring

This year sees the 25th F1 race at the Hungaroring.

When the track was first built it was derided for being slow, boring and lacking opportunities for overtaking.

But as track designs have become ever less varied, has the time come to re-appraise the popular view of the Hungaroring as one of the worst tracks on the calendar?

Hungaroring, Hungary – 1986

Length: 4.014km (2.494 miles)

In its original configuration the circuit was slightly shorter than it is today, and with even less room for overtaking.

The first change came in 1989 when the exit of turn three was straightened out. This had originally been a tight curve put in to avoid an underground stream.

It was a good thing the organisers managed to move it, or we might not have seen one of the most dramatic moments ever witnessed at the Hungaroring that year: Nigel Mansell’s three-abreast passing move on Ayrton Senna as the pair lapped Stefan Johansson.

Hungaroring, Hungary – 2010

Length: 4.831km (2.722 miles)

Two further changes were made to the track layout in time for the 2003 race. The start/finish straight was extended (though it remains one of the shortest on the calendar) and a new, tighter first corner built with the aim of increasing overtaking opportunities.

For the same reason the fast chicane at turn 12 was turned into a straight followed by a right-hander. The former change has had a greater effect on racing than the latter, but this is still a track with a reputation for being very hard to overtake on.

Nonetheless, after a succession of increasingly similar Hermann Tilke-designed new tracks have appeared on the calendar, perhaps it’s time we cut the Hungaroring a little slack.

As Fernando Alonso, who scored his first win here in 2003, points out, the twisty section at the back of the circuit is hard work for the drivers:

You need to drive a bit like a rally driving style all through the lap. There is no time to breathe, it?s corner after corner, it?s like a small go-kart circuit for Formula 1.
Fernando Alonso

It’s also a good venue for spectators. Set in a natural bowl, views across the circuit are good from several stands. It draws a substantial crowd from nearby countries which don’t have Grands Prix, such as Poles coming to see Robert Kubica.

After 25 years, is there now something to be said for the Hungaroring? Does it just seem better because of the quality of the new venues added to the F1 calendar in recent years? Or is it still the same unexciting, unloved venue it’s always been?

Have your say in the comments.

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94 comments on Changing tracks: Hungaroring

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  1. Robert McKay said on 28th July 2010, 22:20

    “After 25 years, is there now something to be said for the Hungaroring? Does it just seem better because of the quality of the new venues added to the F1 calendar in recent years? Or is it still the same unexciting, unloved venue it’s always been?”

    Yeah, there is something to be said for the Hungaroring. Ten years ago I would have said worst venue on the calendar – not now.

    Admittedly it’s mostly because the newer tracks have less character and are more identikit, even if you can pass at them. Valencia is dreadful, Abu Dhabi is dull, Bahrain is soulless, and Shanghai is just a big car park of vast emptiness (but at least it rains there a lot). Somehow the act of not being a Tilke track is instantly worth something to the Hungaroring. Shanghai excepted I probably put Hungary ahead of the others as “places I’m looking forward to on the F1 calendar”. I’d also rather watch Hungary than Barcelona, which has become extremely tedious too especially with the final corner neutered.

    But partly it’s because the tweaks in 2003 have actually made a bit of an improvement and allowed at least a smidge of overtaking. The last few races there have been reasonable. And I still have 2006 in my memory, which was a great race :-D

    Oh and it was actually always one of my favourite tracks to drive round in Geoff Crammond’s GP2/3/4!

    I don’t think it’s high praise to say I actually like Hungary, but it’s definitely not my least favourite venue on the calendar any more.

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 28th July 2010, 22:35

      Yeah it’s a good circuit for video games… in which case perhaps you could assume that it is also a good track to drive in reality?…

      • US_Peter said on 28th July 2010, 23:28

        It looks from a driver’s perspective as if it would be one of the funner circuits to drive, up there with Suzuka.

        • Dooyeahtime. said on 29th July 2010, 7:39

          In a video gamer’s perspective; i would have to agree with you strongly. turns 3,4,5 and 9 would have to be my favourites

          2006′s hungarian grand prix was a very exciting one to watch; although the rain had alot to do with the spectacle.

          Jenson Button’s charge from 14th on the grid to his first victory on my birthday was also a plus, although the race was aired here in Australia the date after because of the time difference. Jenson’s eye buldging through his helmet with his classic pointy finger victory pose came around midnight haha

          • James Bolton said on 29th July 2010, 10:55

            I also strongly agree that this is a great circuit for video games. It might be because of the constant radius corners and the ninety-degree corners.
            It’s presumably easier to create a virtual version of these than the flowing corners of Spa for example.

      • Patrickl said on 29th July 2010, 17:05

        I never liked this track much in games. Just as I don’t like driving around Monaco and Magny Cours either. Not suzuka either actually. Too tight and twisty for me I guess.

        I prefer Spa, Interlagos and Canada. Even Catalunya.

    • Gusto said on 28th July 2010, 23:39

      When I read the headline i thought of only one thing, its a excellent track to time trial around in a Geoff Crammond Sim, Its a track that needs the concentration of Monaco with the rhythm of turns 3,4,5,6 an 7 Suzuka. To try an go fast there loses you time, its a track that requires a Zen like calmness, something Fernando surely lacks.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th July 2010, 0:03

        Except Alonso’s won there already. And Suzuka, come to think of it.

        • Ben said on 29th July 2010, 0:57

          In fact it was the track where Alfonso scored his first win if memory serves me correctly, and became the (at the time) youngest ever GP winner.

          • Gusto said on 29th July 2010, 1:28

            But were talking now, not then :-)

          • Gusto said on 29th July 2010, 1:52

            If Fernando displays any of He`s humpeness on this circuit then He will surely travel backwards down the grid till He meets He`s tail gunner. And It`s a tail gunner thats not very happy to be their.

          • Alex Brown (@splittimes) said on 26th July 2012, 21:52

            My Grandad used to call him ‘Alfonso’, and we still do in our family! My daughter even built a racing driver teddy bear, complete with birth certificate with the name firmly emblazoned across it for posterity!

        • Gusto said on 29th July 2010, 2:09

          GP2 time from memory,,,,01m 18.953s.

    • Spectator said on 29th July 2010, 3:43

      yes i agree with you not the most sofisticated but classical which naturally lacks on all new gps

  2. sojcarter said on 28th July 2010, 22:23

    I agree with you on this one, I think that the Hungaroring is one that should stay on the calendar for the most part for two reasons. Firstly, like you the article points out, it is a unique track that provides an extra challenge to the driver. Sure it might not lend itself for overtaking, but it can be done and is by no means an impossible task. Overtaking is a challenge, and should be kept that way.

    In addition, the cultural significance of the track is one that I think should be kept. This was one of the first major international sporting events to occur behind the Iron Curtain, and its addition to the calendar started the explosion in exposure that makes F1 what it is today. Sure it may not be the most exciting tracks to race on, but its place in the history of F1 cannot be overlooked.

    • Macca (@macca) said on 29th July 2010, 3:44

      I thnk they shold straighten out turn six (where Massa had his accident) into more of a kink that can be taken at full speed. I think this would help over taking into the long right hander at turn 7.

  3. HounslowBusGarage (@hounslowbusgarage) said on 28th July 2010, 22:25

    Nonetheless, after a succession of increasingly similar Hermann Tilke-designed new tracks have appeared on the calendar, perhaps it’s time we cut the Hungaroring a little slack.

    No, it isn’t. It started out as a nasty little track and remains as such. The fact that other nastier tracks have also found their way onto the calendar is in no way a commendation or excuse for the Hungaroring.
    When it first opened, it exhibited all the hallmarks of a hastily constructed communist-era bodge – the right left right kink behind the main straight was only included because they discovered a natural spring in the way of the intended track.
    And even when the organisers overcame that and extended the start/finish straight, the track was only elevated to a dusty, narrow, post-communist era excressance.
    No, it’s not time to “cut it a little slack”. It’s time to cut it out.
    Maybe you can tell I don’t like it, eh?

    • PeriSoft said on 29th July 2010, 2:30

      And replace it with what? A mile-wide tilkedrome in Riyadh with 28 constant-radius corners and half a meter of elevation change?

      It might not be worthy, but God knows it’s worthier than anything that would come along to replace it.

      That said, I’m not sure I care – if the Mario Kart wing changes come into effect next year, I won’t be watching anyway.

      • HounslowBusGarage (@hounslowbusgarage) said on 29th July 2010, 7:31

        “And replace it with what? A mile-wide tilkedrome in Riyadh with 28 constant-radius corners and half a meter of elevation change?”
        No, never. And that’s the ptroblem. When Hungaroring was introduced, it was recognised as awful. Since then other tracks have been opened that are even more awful and Hungaroring looks less awful by comparson. But it’s still awful.

        • PeriSoft said on 29th July 2010, 20:47

          But that’s my point – it deserves a place on the calendar if only for its preventing yet another desert monstrosity. I mean, seriously – I’m Jewish, and I’m starting to dislike the Arab bloc as much for hosting such terrible tracks as I am for their vowing to push Israel into the sea!

      • GB2009 said on 29th July 2010, 7:46

        There’s a reasonable patch of dirt in Texas I hear that might be a good alternative??

  4. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 28th July 2010, 22:26

    I think that the Hungaroring’s biggest drawcard is that, while it may not produce the most exciting races, it has a habit of throwing out an unpredictable and unexpected result. After all, there were seven different winners in the seven years from 2001 to 2008. It was also the scene of Jenson Button’s and Heikki Kovalainen’s first wins.

    • sumedh said on 28th July 2010, 22:30

      And Alonso’s as well

      • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 28th July 2010, 22:36

        And Damon Hill!

        • GeeMac said on 29th July 2010, 8:01

          Let’s not forget Damon’s near miss in 97…

          • Daniel said on 29th July 2010, 13:25

            Yes. Never has an Arrows-Yamaha more deserved a win.

            I recall Hill saying that the secret to being fast at this track is having a car that works well at full-steering-lock (all the hairpins).

            I like that the track is different. I don’t care if occasionally we get a mickey mouse circuit with lots of hairpins, so long as we don’t have more than two of them. F1 is a championship, and championships need different types of circuits.

    • Lustigson said on 28th July 2010, 22:30

      Hear, hear! The Circuit de Catalunya, for one, has seen many more snorefests in the past decade, I reckon.

  5. Qwerty_uk said on 28th July 2010, 22:27

    So what’s the deal with the Hungaroring having been on the calendar for so long, and seemingly never under threat? I seem to remember something about Bernie having an involvement with it. Myth or fact? Fill me in!…

    • GeeMac said on 29th July 2010, 8:02

      It’s still the only race which is held “behind the iron curtain”…so its place is pretty safe.

    • Ilanin said on 29th July 2010, 20:17

      If Bernie being involved got you a Grand Prix, we’d have been racing at Paul Ricard for most of the last decade.

  6. James said on 28th July 2010, 22:27

    I’ve never been a fan of the Hungaroring. It’s just a bit… boring. The track isnt very wide, which is it’s biggest problem. Opportunities are very limited in F1 races at the best of times on the widest of tracks, but here it is just so much lower. I would trade Imola for the Hungoraring quite gladly!

  7. Jonathan said on 28th July 2010, 22:31

    “Is there now something to be said for the Hungaroring?”

    At least no overtaking opportunities means no “subtle” team orders.

  8. sumedh said on 28th July 2010, 22:33

    I think it is the only track in Eastern Europe, right? Depending on whether Turkey counts Asia or East Europe? Formula 1 must be present in all parts of the world. So, as long as the Russian GP isn’t finalised, keep the Hungaroring on the calendar.

    Wasn’t there some commotion over a Greece Grand Prix sometime?

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 28th July 2010, 22:38

      Bernie wanted a Bulgarian Grand Prix, but that went bust. Greece have also considered it in the past, but there’s no way it’ll happen in the current climate.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 28th July 2010, 23:03

        I don’t think Bernie wanted it the way he wants a Russian Grand Prix. He was willing to support it, but Bulgaria wasn’t high on ihs list of places to go.

        • Gilles said on 29th July 2010, 9:08

          I think there are more exciting alternatives to this dull karting track; even in Eastern Europe: how about Brno ? Or a street race somewhere: Warsaw, Krakow, Prague (instead of Rome) ?

          • graigchq said on 29th July 2010, 9:16

            F1 at Brno would be awesome.. i’d defo want to see that ;)

          • KlBD said on 29th July 2010, 18:58

            Hear hear for Brno…it’s a bit big for some of the other racing series that run on it, but its size seems just right for F1. Plenty of elevation change too! :D

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 28th July 2010, 22:41

      Yeah you’re right. Istanbul Park is just over the Bosphorous in Asia, although presumably it attracts a few fans from Eastern Europe.

  9. Robert McKay said on 28th July 2010, 22:36

    What I’ll also add is that it’s one of the few places they’ve made minor changes that have actually improved the place in recent times. Most other places have made minor modifications and lost something.

    Barcelona – ruined the last sector with that chicane
    Monaco – have moved the barriers back in a few places (e.g. Ste Devote) and definitely lessened the challenge
    Spa – ruined the Bus Stop at least twice
    Nurburgring – the Tilke first sector doesn’t really do anything for me
    Hockenheim – ok we know why they did it and they new one isn’t bad but we’ve still lost something
    Bahrain – lengthened with extra sector this year and made even worse

    The only other track that might have a case for recent changes actually improving it might be Silverstone.

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 28th July 2010, 22:50

      Actually, while the tightening of Turn 1 was a good idea, I wish the organisers hadn’t straightened out that fast chicane towards the end of the lap. That was a decent corner.

      And, when Keith writes ‘The former change has had a greater effect on racing than the latter’, reading between the lines I think what he really wants to say was ‘the latter change has had no effect on racing whatsoever, and was a complete and utter waste of tarmac!’

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th July 2010, 23:00

        Yeah I do think that, actually. The change at the end of the lap was a total waste of time.

        • US_Peter said on 28th July 2010, 23:32

          They were probably attempting to create another overtaking spot, but it’s just not a long enough straight. I liked how in the Webber video he says “1 ideal spot for overtaking.” Usually Red Bull is overly optimistic in those videos and claims there are more overtaking opportunities than there are.

  10. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 28th July 2010, 22:40

    I like the Hungaroring. If only it didn’t have that chicane in Sector 2 and there was just one final corner, not the right-hander and two hairpins bends.

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 28th July 2010, 22:42

      Oh, and let’s not forget it was the scene of the only genuine for-the-lead overtake from last year that wasn’t because of a Safety Car restart or the start itself.

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 28th July 2010, 22:52

      Yeah cutting out that loop to the hairpin at the end would improve the track no end… but IIRC there’s a hill in the way so that isn’t gonna happen unless they get tunneling!

  11. SoLiDG (@solidg) said on 28th July 2010, 22:40

    I agree with some here. It used to be a bad track with boring races. But the last years, they weren’t that bad!
    It’s also strange indeed it’s still here and was never seeminglty under threat.

    I do also like driving the track in F1 games.
    The fourth corner leading to the hairpin (or something like it) is a fun corner!

    Hamilton believes he can overtake here, hard but possible. Let’s hope we can get some good action again!

  12. Tim said on 28th July 2010, 22:41

    This track with a wet race is simply outstanding.

    • Todfod said on 28th July 2010, 22:52

      A wet race definitely makes this track way more exciting to watch. A Driver’s ability in the wet definitely is definitely tested.

      • PeriSoft said on 29th July 2010, 2:35

        As opposed to a driver’s ability in the dry, when their skill isn’t tested?

        The only difference is grip level and predictability. If wet races had consistent grip, it’d be easier than dry racing, since car response is slowed.

        Handling a car with maddening amounts of grip, driven on the ragged edge, is insanely difficult. Wet driving requires better preparation, better understanding of changing track conditions, and a ton of luck – but not better car control, per se. It’s much easier to catch a car that slowly slides out from under you with 1g of cornering force than one that snaps away in 1/10th the time under 4gs.

        Driving an F1 car in the wet is similar to driving a GT car in the dry – and it’s a hell of a lot easier to drive a GT car than an F1 car.

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 28th July 2010, 22:53

      But then you could say that about all tracks…

      • Tom L. (@tom-l) said on 29th July 2010, 13:09

        Yeah, I agree, any track can produce an entertaining race in the wet. Look at the races we’ve had at Shanghai over the last few years, the dry ones have been pretty dul and the wet ones have been some of the most exciting of the season.

  13. Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 28th July 2010, 22:45

    Never mindthe circuit, Hungary itself is a fairly obscure place to have hosted a GP for 25 years. I mean, it’s hardly awash with money, the Hungarian market isn’t a big one for sponsors and car manufacturers, there have been no decent local drivers (unless you count the legendary HWNSNBM!), and there is no major motor racing history in the country.

    • Robert McKay said on 28th July 2010, 22:53

      It’s kind of a good reason in itself to have a race there. I kind of hate nowadays that to have any race anywhere we have to ask “what’s the market like, and what do the manufacturers get out of it” first and foremost.

      It’s kind of a bit of a throwback, in a weird way. And I can get on board with that.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th July 2010, 23:02

      It passes the “does it draw a crowd?” test better than several other venues though.

      • RedBullRacer said on 29th July 2010, 3:47

        Having been to Hungaroring last year, I’d have to say that one of the best things about it is the crowd it draws. Not only is it a popular event but there are supporters from pretty much all over Europe, and the atmosphere among the fans is more fun than many other GPs I’ve been to.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 29th July 2010, 7:14

        I think it was often awash with Finnish fans coming for Mika and Kimi, now or Heikki. The polish fans have come in for Kubica now and i expect quite a few Russians might attend as well.
        As Budapest is certainly worth a visit and not too expensive (and only a days drive away), it makes for a nice trip from central europe, including Germany.

  14. One of the biggest problems with the Hungaroring is that it always just has the one racing line, and once you go off-line it’s very dusty, which means that overtaking or even following closely is difficult. However, it’s obviously a challenging track to drive because there are so few straights for the drivers to relax on, which probably makes it worth keeping even if the races aren’t always the best.

    In addition, Budapest is one of my favourite cities in the world. Great place.

    • graigchq said on 29th July 2010, 9:31

      mine too… i love budapest, and go every year on my way back from Exit Festival in Serbia.

  15. US_Peter said on 28th July 2010, 23:06

    It’s definitely not one of the worst, but not one of the best either. If they could create a couple more place that promoted overtaking it could be a great track.

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