The Hungaroring in profile
Last Updated: 21/01/16 11:27am
A curiosity in more ways than one, the Hungaroring boasts a unique piece of history in being the first circuit to have staged a grand prix behind the old 'Iron Curtain' in 1986.
Yet that remarkable piece of history now hangs heavy on the circuit's shoulders. Although alterations to both the twisty track and paddock have naturally had to be made over the last two decades as F1 continues to demand more of its venues, the circuit is conspicuously narrow by modern standards and the facilities are far from the best on the calendar.
Yet for all this the Hungarian Grand Prix has been ever present for the last 30 years and has its own inimitable charm. Indeed, ahead of the 2013 race, Bernie Ecclestone signed a new five-year extension to the current deal securing the event's future through until 2021. The first phase of much-needed redevelopment is taking place in time for this year's July race.
Set in a valley, the circuit's original designers made full use of the natural terrain, using the bumps and crests to create a unique driving challenge. With 80 per cent of the track visible from certain spots in the grandstands, it's also great venue for spectators to attend.
Indeed, with the circuit situated close to tourist hotspot Budapest, fans from around the world travel each year and, with the entire area caught up with F1 fever, the result is a real party atmosphere. Indeed, with the successes of Mika Hakkinen and latterly Kimi Raikkonen, it has become something on an unofficial 'Finnish GP' owing to relative proximity of the two countries.
Despite all the positives, however, overtaking is notoriously difficult at the circuit. A core issue is that the Hungaroring is hardly used throughout the year, meaning the surface becomes very dusty and 'green'. Its characteristics become similar to that of a temporary street circuit, where the track is at its quickest on the final lap of the race weekend.
The dust also means it is difficult for drivers to go off the racing line to attempt an overtaking move as even if the pass is successful, the dirt on the tyres makes the car difficult to drive for the next few corners.
Unless it rains, as has been the case in a couple of recent years, the best overtaking spot will be into turn one, a right-hand hairpin at the end of the pit-straight and DRS zone. The straight was lengthened in 2003 by 200 metres and the corner tightened to try to facilitate overtaking. In practice, however, any benefits from the tweak have been minimal.
Still, the drivers love the 'go-kart' style challenge - no one more than four-time victor Lewis Hamilton, who holds the joint record for wins with Michael Schumacher.
The 2016 Hungarian GP takes place on July 24.
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