World

Can Lewis Hamilton become Hungary GP’s most successful driver and claim title lead?


It seems hard to believe, but this year is the 30th anniversary of the first Hungarian Grand Prix.

When the race first appeared on the calendar in 1986, the world was a very different place. For a start, Hungary was a communist country under the control of the Soviet Union. It was, in fact, the first grand prix ever to be held behind the ‘Iron Curtain’.

Now, Hungary is within the orbit of the west as a member of the European Union. But while the political background to the event has changed, it has held on to its uniqueness.

The Hungaroring was built on a dusty piece of land 12 miles or so outside – but in many ways a million miles away from – the boulevards, cobblestones and historic squares of central Budapest.

And yet on this unpromising natural amphitheatre, the Hungarians built a special grand prix track, with unprepossessing looks but a unique challenge.

“Like a street circuit without the houses,” Martin Brundle famously remarked on F1’s first appearance there; a reference to the track’s tight and twisty nature. In reality, it is more like a go-kart track writ large.

Corner tumbles after corner as the track plunges and rises around its bowl of hills, the drivers subjected to a relentless cascade of curves.

The long, downhill hairpins of Turns One and Two, followed by a downhill kink at Three, then the very fast uphill sweep at Four into another long, long hairpin.

After the chicane that follows, the mid-section of the lap is a blast – left, right, left, right in a series of medium-fast sweepers that test a driver’s skills and his car’s aerodynamics and balance to the limit.

The incessant corners and short pit straight make overtaking very difficult, and yet still somehow the place seems to produce its fair share of great racing.

Many of the recent races there have been terrific – and Daniel Ricciardo’s fighting win for Red Bull in 2014 was an all-time classic.

Perhaps it’s the breathless, relentless nature of the track, which teases errors out of drivers; perhaps it’s the low-grip, low abrasion surface; probably, it’s both.

Whatever, with a great little race track allied to one of Europe’s great cities, it is a low-key highlight of the season.

And with Lewis Hamilton chasing yet more history – a win would see him become the most successful driver here with five wins – there’s plenty to play for this year too.

Andrew Benson, chief F1 writer.