Situated close to one of Europe’s finest cities, this pioneering track is now part of F1’s establishment
Writer Peter Higham
The Hungarian Grand Prix is now a popular summer fixture, but when the Hungaroring opened 30 years ago it broke new ground for F1. The first world championship race to be held in eastern Europe became an epic duel between Ayrton Senna and eventual winner Nelson Piquet – witnessed by more than 200,000 spectators in scorching temperatures.
The twisty nature of the circuit has often been likened to a street circuit and made overtaking difficult before the introduction of the drag reduction system in 2011. However, the layout has also caused a surprise or two with engine power less important than it is elsewhere.
Nigel Mansell’s pass of Ayrton Senna for the lead of the 1989 Grand Prix lives long in the memory. Damon Hill almost pulled off a shock win for Arrows in 1997 and McLaren team-mates Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button both scored their breakthrough victories in Hungary – in 2003 and 2006 respectively. Mansell was crowned world champion here in 1992, as was Michael Schumacher nine years later.
Hungary holds a unique place in the history of GP racing, with Ferenc Szisz having won the very first such event in 1906 for Renault. Nepliget Park in nearby Budapest held the 1936 Hungarian GP – won by Tazio Nuvolari’s Alfa Romeo – and it was originally considered when Bernie Ecclestone first explored the idea of resurrecting the race. It was rejected on environmental grounds, however, and instead the Hungaroring was built in seven months.