The Spectator’s Column: Hungarian Grand Prix
Written by Hugh Waring, Edited by Ishani Aziz
Firstly, what a brilliant weekend! We saw one of Verstappen’s excellent drives, winning from 10th on the grid in addition to Hamilton's seventh to second. Perhaps what most surprised everyone was George Russell's ability to put his Menace of a Mercedes on the pole on Saturday. This was the eighth Grand Prix that I attended and I was lucky enough to share the experience with one of my close friends, which was his first. Being in Budapest for a week really showed why it is one of the major tourist cities across Europe. Although we had only two full days outside of the Grand Prix weekend we still managed to visit and attend some of the main areas and attractions across the city.
For st arters, I have been to multiple other venues across the calendar. This was my first time going to a mainland European event and quite honestly I didn't have great expectations that would surpass what I've experienced at Silverstone. I didn't think I was wrong in having these expectations following the weekend but what was most notable is that my friend and I only paid £80 for the entire weekend's general admission and what was surprising is the views that the general admission was able to get. We placed ourselves around the circuit throughout the weekend around the areas that were excessive.
On the hot and humid Friday, the conditions were pretty unbearable, with temperatures reaching up to 35 degrees and the day, it was really core that people around staying hydrated throughout the day but the Grand Prix venue doesn't really offer much shade and the sun, unfortunately, thinking ahead, bringing an umbrella to this event definitely made the difference. We used Friday as a sort of day to explore different locations whether this was the final corner or the middle sector complex including the Chicane where you could get really close to some of the cars and see how certain cars have better grip and better traction coming off corners. What was noticeable is the tremendous amount of speed that the Ferraris could go through the Chicane complex and maintain that speed and traction. Throughout that sector, there are other cars such as the Aston Martin and the Williams I thought were possibly the weakest of the bunch. being up and close to the cars though you could feel and hear the different engine components working on different cars. I would argue that the Renault is a more high pitch engine than say the Ferrari for example.
Overall though the Friday or despite the heat and weather conditions, sitting down and just watching some of the feeders series pass through such as the W series and Formula 3, it was a joy to watch up-and-coming drivers that could possibly be in Formula 1 seats in the future, I even saw a person wearing Dennis Hauger merchandise.
The following day on Saturday was completely different in terms of the weather conditions, it was already cold and wet throughout the night, which obviously started the Formula 3 race under safety car conditions but following the conclusion of that event, oh my. I've never seen such a downpour in my life where there are all the spectators unless you're on the start-finish straight grandstand, you’re completely drenched in rain and soaked through. Again, having the raincoat and umbrella certainly helped but like many others, we eventually turned to buy an overpriced poncho which previously at the Malaysian Grand Prix was actually free. My first event was the infamous 2009 GP where only half points were given. People trying to take shelter where they could but were being forced out of merchandise stores and less than they were actually looking at merchandise, there is simply no other place to shelter from the thunderstorm. Given the number of people holding up umbrellas on top of a hill probably isn't a good idea. But it soon went away after three-quarters of an hour and dried up quickly throughout FP3. Part of me hope they would continue rating throughout the day to keep up with an interesting qualifying session but I still think we were given that due to the colder conditions that suited the Mercedes more than Ferrari the shock qualifying session for the Red Bulls, which certainly left a glum face on many Red Bull fans that were attending.
But this is where, if you were interested in following qualifying there was still a Formula 2 race, it was quite obvious to me from Friday that this would be an issue but as was noted on Ted's Notebook on a Sunday night there were 3-hour taxi queues to leave the circuit. Considering if you're going to be paying £50 and being taken advantage of in the process. That said, we would take an alternative, which was the queue for a bus. This was moving quickly and there were buses picking up spectators. Yet, the bus drivers would drop hundreds and hundreds of people off at this one specific train station which only had trains arriving every 15 minutes or so. As you can imagine, the mass crowds attending would just cause a logistical nightmare. I'm not too sure why the Hungarian authorities didn't think of this more, but considering previous events attended had many buses that would just pick up people and take them to the city centre, rather than dropping them off and moving the issue to a single train station with 40 or 50-year-old trains. My friend and I kind of outsmarted the system and we went able to get to a train station further up the line people but got on to this idea ear by the Sunday. But there is a massive queue at this station as well, so we went on a train that went in the opposite direction. Logically, we knew it had to turn back eventually and pick up all the people on the other side of the platform. It did so, but this train was full and then the masses of people being dropped off by the buses simply couldn't even get on to the train. It amazes me how the authorities didn't realise these issues beforehand and there was more of a safety issue as people were standing on the train tracks and being trampled on to get onto the train. Our train driver did brighten up the mood with his Hungarian banter which did please quite a few of the British and Dutch tourists, and yes the Supermax chant was being shouted from time to time.
To close, on the morning we go to the track on Sunday, the key is to get there early enough to get a good viewing vantage point. However, even that proved impossible for us, especially due to the campers next to the track getting priority.
Nonetheless, the two of us had a very enjoyable time over the weekend, seeing some amazing action for the Grand Prix. For its price, it is probably one of the most affordable options across the calendar at face value. Although so the race itself wasn't the most exciting, and limited TV viewings (which they should improve), it was still definitely worth the time and money.
Food: I was surprised by the food prices at the Hungaroring, even exceeding some of the food prices that were seen at Silverstone. This is unfortunate as the variety wasn't top-notch either, but it was made up by having cheap alcohol that came in memorable reusable cups.
Transport: My advice if you're going to go to the Hungarian Grand Prix in future, is to rent out a car, they can avoid some of the logistical nightmares by taking trains or buses, I'm still curious today about how long it would take some of the individuals that were unfortunate to wait hours to get home. Along with the taxi queues being enormous.
Ticket prices: In hindsight having just a general admission ticket, probably wasn't worth it as it would only be an extra £30 or so more to have a seat on a grandstand at the final turn. So, I’d definitely do that in future if I come again. Nonetheless, the atmosphere around the final sector was definitely memorable, and it seemed pretty easy to get onto the track after the chequered flag.
Thank you for taking the time to read my spectators column for the Hungarian Grand Prix, I hope you can continue reading my two upcoming columns where I travel to the Belgium Grand Prix, and Monza in the next month!