I’ve jumped forward about 50 days here, but it’s been such an excellent weekend, and we spent a bit of time in the bus today getting out of the circuit so I got some writing done. I thought I’d share my thoughts on the Hungarian F1…
Days 82 – 84, Friday 25th to Sunday 27th July
Hungarian F1 at Hungaroring
I stood with tears in my eyes listening to ‘Advance Australia Fair’. I am not overly nationalistic, but this was the first time I’d been to a Formula 1 race and heard my national anthem played for the first placed driver. I was surprised at how emotional I was.
It just doesn’t get any better than this!
Hungaroring is a spectacular circuit, nestled in a valley just outside the town of Mogyoród, about 30 minutes east of Budapest. Like Catalunya in Spain, and Hockenheim in Germany, it is picturesque, perhaps even more beautiful than the other two. Most of the grandstands are elevated on hills above the track which means you not only get a great view of the circuit, but when there’s nothing to look at on the track, you can look at the surrounding hills, fields and townships.
We were in ‘Silver 4’ grandstand, on turn 14 (the last corner). We could see turn 11, the run up to turns 11, 12 and 13, across the track to turn 5, as well as the whole of pit straight and the grid. I struggle now to decide whether these are the best seats we have ever had, though it’s likely my opinion is influenced by the quality of the race, and the result.
There is only one covered grandstand, and it wasn’t ours. Friday and Saturday were hot and sunny. Sunday was also warm, but it cooled a lot when the storm hit about 45 minutes before the race started. It gave us the opportunity to finally use our wet weather gear, but I imagine the F1 teams had to throw their tyre strategies out the window.
I can’t remember ever having felt quite so enraptured by a sporting win. I have always been very pleased when Queensland won a State of Origin match, and inevitably, the series, though I always felt very magnanimous towards my NSW work colleagues the next day.
I was in India in 2009 when Mark Webber won his first race at the Nurburgring in Germany. Paul sent me a SMS to let me know.
That was an excellent season. Honda were resurrected as Brawn GP. Two of my favourite drivers (Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello) came in from the wilderness to drive for Brawn GP, Button went on to win the world championship that year, and Webber had his maiden F1 victory.
I missed two races in 2009, Germany on 12th July, and Hungary on 26th. One of them was Webber’s maiden victory, but I watched it when I got home.
2014 is also an excellent season, not just because we get to go to 8 of the 19 races, but because of the fantastic technological initiatives that have been introduced, and also because of the wonderful racing to be the ‘best of the rest’ behind the Mercedes team.
It just became a bit more excellent today with Daniel Ricciardo’s win.
But what can I say about the Hungarian F1? Well, if I were to sum it up in one word, that word would be ‘surprising’. To be honest, I’m not sure why I should be surprised that Hungary would stage such a well organised event. I think it is less to do with Hungary and more to do with how my expectations were lowered, if ever so slightly, by Silverstone and Hockenheim, which I thought would be the pinnacle of organisation and precision engineering.
But the fact is, they may have been a bit more lackadaisical in some aspects, but the Hungarians did the better all-round job. Of course, I say this without completing my spreadsheet to score the event dispassionately. And, of course, our Daniel did win. Surely that should count for something!
It is true that when we turned up in the bus each day we couldn’t be certain where we might be directed to park. But on both occasions we were dropped off directly behind our grandstand. I’ve never been to a race where we haven’t had to walk at least some hundreds of metres to get to our seat.
But to be serious, Hungary did do the little things well:
- FREE drinking water;
- Lots of toilets – portable loos supplemented the permanent structures;
- Huge variety of food, from greasy fried sausages to fresh fruit;
- The least expensive tickets of all the races; and
- And this is a big one! FREE shuttle buses to and from Budapest. OK, so you had to walk a couple of kilometres from the track to the centre of Mogyoród, but then the 30 minute trip to Budapest is gratis. That’s the equivalent of free train travel from Mannheim to Hockenheim (which cost us €25.80 each for our three-day return tickets) or free bus travel from Silverstone to Milton Keynes (which cost us £13 each for a one-way trip). On this point Paul and I have disagreed. On Friday we used the free service from the track to Budapest. Paul said it was the worst bus ride he’s ever had. We were packed in and he could not hold on to anything. It was hot. I was backed up against the front windscreen. I see a couple of positives. For all of us, if you fainted, you weren’t going to fall down and hurt yourself, and for me, one way or another, I was always going to be first off the bus. I honestly don’t believe it was worse than the packed train trips back to Mannheim the previous weekend, and there was far less BO smell.
Last weekend I came home from Hockenheim thinking that nothing could top that for a F1 experience. And even now, I would have to say that they are the best seats we have ever had for a race. They were fully covered (which helped when the temperatures were exceeding 35oC on Friday and Saturday and it was raining on Sunday), there was a lift up to our level (if you had a dodgy knee and couldn’t manage the 120 stairs), and there were clean toilets in the grandstand on our level. To top it off, we could see about 37% of the lap from our seats.
As it turns out, we could see roughly the same percentage of the lap from our seats at the Hungaroring. The grandstand wasn’t covered, the plastic seats were perished so you got covered in white powder, it was pretty warm on Friday and Saturday (but not mid-30s, only low 30s), and it poured down for a few minutes on Sunday (but that’s why we’ve carted our wet weather gear 20,000 km).
So, acknowledging that I still haven’t done my spreadsheet analysis, I’m going to put it out there that the Hungarian is the best F1 I’ve ever been too.
That may change in the cold hard light of day, when the euphoria of our Daniel’s victory is wearing off, and I tally up the scores in my spreadsheet, but I’ll keep you posted on that.