There are so many questions to answer when deciding to attend a grand prix: What tickets should I buy? What is a goulash? Is Hungarian supposed to sound like that, or has Ted had one too many before breakfast? I’ll do my best to try answer some of these dilemmas and hopefully convince you to visit one of the most fun venues of the season.
Where’s it held?
The Hungaroring, which contrary to popular belief, is not the arena where the Hunger Games took place. It’s about 25km outside of Budapest, the equivalent of approximately 1% of a taxi driver’s pension plan – a necessary evil unless you want to put your triathlon skills to the test (uphill sprint from the train station, prolonged stationary queueing, followed by a mad dash for a bus seat where all disregard for your loved ones is advised). But seriously, a lovely place.
What’s so good about it?
First of all, some might argue that it’s slightly more affordable than the big European races, but the real reason is this: great nightlife. Expensive snacks, dull racing and a slight heatstroke are all forgotten when you’re having one too many glasses of wine afterwards, in entertaining company – and you will, without a doubt, find some fun people to show you around.
Secondly, it’s a good excuse for a prolonged summer holiday visiting some beautiful European capitals, from Prague and Vienna to Budapest and Bratislava. Now repeat after me: Budapest is not Bucharest, as hundreds of confused football fans have found out the hard way.
Finally, you can enjoy one last breath of fresh European air before Bernie will force a ticket to Qatar onto your piggybank – you think a goulash in the paddock is expensive? Think again. And think caviar.
Where should I sit?
The general consensus is that the last turn is good for General Admission as there are decent vantage points, while turn one is the only proper overtaking spot so you might get a little more action (for a lot more money). But if you want to see the moment that decides the race, just face the main straight, as more often than not, it’s the pit strategy that makes the difference.
If you don’t have the money or the willingness to get fried like a bratwurst, I would suggest a more atypical alternative: Aquaréna, the nearby waterpark with adventure slides, flying carpet rides and decent views of the track. Now it’s not exactly a race experience but you probably won’t be missing much action anyway.
What should I wear?
Contrary to what Sky F1 might have taught you, showing up in traditional costume is not the best way to honour a country’s racing history. So try to resist that temptation, even if Hungary’s looks pretty cool and UV-protective.
If you’re a rocker, a businessman or a Pirelli tyre, go shopping. Wear anything black and you will be burnt down to the ground the moment you step off the train/bus/helicopter. Wear something too revealing and you’ll turn into a tomato wrapped in General Admission passes. So what should you wear? Sunscreen. And a sombrero.
What should I pack?
Packing essentials include anything that you could use in a volcano hike: an umbrella, a few power bars and some serious water supplies (the source of the Danube River if possible). I cannot overestimate just how hot it can get in July around these parts.
A pair of binoculars is also recommended if you want to have any clue of what’s going on in the race, while a Finnish flag will help you blend in seamlessly. The big lull in on-track action could also be a good opportunity to brush up on your Hungarian card game & fortune telling skills. Spoiler alert: the ace of hearts symbolises a meeting with strangers, while a 5 of acorns means “50m away there’s an extremely expensive beer with your name on it”.
Who should I be cheering for?
That’s the beauty of having no local drivers – you can support whoever you want. Geographically, a Finn would be your best bet, as many vodka-sharing Nordics see this as a home race, but feel free to flaunt your allegiance, whatever it might be. If you’re a Lewis fan, you might want to be there as he’s got a good chance of becoming the sole driver with most wins at the circuit, an honour he currently shares with Michael Schumacher.
What else should I know?
The food: Brits should be delighted with the large selection of sausages and stews available – none of that salad & cheese nonsense of Western Europe – but everything’s just a tad spicier. With that in mind, the circuit has, arguably, the longest toilet lines of the season. Or at least deserving of a podium spot.
The drinks: Local wines are quite famous and you have plenty to choose from, but no one will frown if you order a cold beer instead. But if you’re committed to the whole authentic experience, some shots of palinka and a taste of Unicum are in order – arguably the most unpleasant forms of alcohol known to humans, yet almost a rite of passage around these parts.
The weather: with its ridiculous temperatures, it’s difficult to tell if attending this race makes great practice for the Malaysian GP or it’s the other way around. It rains every ten years or so, in which case you should forget most of what I’ve said so far and go read the Silverstone thread instead. Fun fact – it also needs about the same time frame for something unpredictable to happen on track. So fingers crossed, although, after last year’s antics, we might be done for the decade.
Either way, sunscreen up and enjoy your Hungarian GP!