The Hungarian GP made history when it was held for the first time in 1986, becoming the first World Championship race to take place in eastern Europe.
The fall of communism was still several years away, making Bernie Ecclestone’s achievement in making the race happen all the more impressive. A huge crowd attended the inaugural event, while visiting F1 folk had a rare chance to sample life behind the Iron Curtain before it fell in 1989.
The Hungaroring was constructed in a hilly area in Mogyoród, off the M3 motorway just 20 minutes from central Budapest. From the start it was known for its tight and twisty nature. Originally the layout included a chicane after the second corner, introduced to avoid an underground spring, which made it even slower.
That section was by-passed in 1989, and the track has barely changed since then, apart from a lengthening of the pit straight and slight adjustment to the first corner that was completed in 2003.
The Hungarian race has been a constant presence on the schedule from the first event, surviving the COVID pandemic in 2020 and serving as the third round of the World Championship.
Often compared to Monaco without the walls in terms of the downforce levels required, the track does not encourage overtaking. Nevertheless there have been some dramatic races over the years, with rain sometimes adding a little confusion to proceedings.
The first two races in Hungary were won by Williams driver Nelson Piquet. Subsequently Ayrton Senna won three times at the track, although the McLaren star’s defeat by the much slower Williams of Thierry Boutsen in 1990 is perhaps better remembered.
Other notable early races include 1989, when Nigel Mansell scored an unlikely win for Ferrari, passing Senna in traffic from 12th on the grid, and 1992, when Mansell finally won the World Championship after years of near misses.
Michael Schumacher scored the first of his four Hungarian victories in 1994. In 1997 Damon Hill nearly scored a shock win for Arrows, before slowing right at the end and ceding victory to Jacques Villeneuve.
Fernando Alonso scored his first GP win in Hungary with Renault in 2003, and Jenson Button did the same with Honda three years later in what was the circuit’s first rain-affected race. It was also he first victory for the Brackley team that later became Brawn GP and then Mercedes.
A dramatic weekend in 2007 saw Lewis Hamilton win as tensions ramped up with his then McLaren team mate Alonso, who tried to block him in the pits in qualifying. Hamilton has always been a major force in Hungary, adding seven more victories over the years, including the 2018, 2019 and 2020 races. He
Other recent winners who are still on the F1 grid were Daniel Ricciardo, who triumphed with Red Bull in 2014, and Sebastian Vettel in 2015 and 2017.
Over the years the Hungaroring became a popular venue for overseas visitors, in particular attracting German and Finnish fans when Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen were battling for the title.
The history of women at the Hungaroring
In its early years the Hungaroring was rarely used outside the August Grand Prix weekend. Later it became busier, hosting major touring car and sportscar events, but nevertheless participation by female drivers has been relatively rare over the years compared to other tracks on the 2021 W Series schedule.
In 1988 the DTM made what remained for many years a one-off visit to Hungary, with BMW drivers Annette Meuvissen and Mercedes Stermitz both in the field.
Claudia Hurtgen took part in the first FIA GT race at the venue in 1998, although her Porsche was eliminated on the opening lap. She had better luck the following year, reaching the flag in 16th place.
In 2010 Vanina Ickx participated in the ELMS race in a Lola-Aston Martin, and three years later Natacha Gachnang finished fifth overall in the same event, partnered by former F1 driver Christian Klien.
The Renault 3.5 World Series made regular appearances in Hungary, and future Indycar racer Pippa Mann took part in the 2007 and 2008 events.
Tatiana Calderon has been a regular visitor to the track, and in 2012 she earned a fourth place in a Euroformula Open event. The Venezuelan also competed in the FIA F3 race in 2014, and the GP3 encounters in 2016-’18, earning an eighth place in the Sunday sprint race in her final year in the category. She also took part in the FIA F2 event in 2019.
In 2019 Sophia Floersch contested the Formula Regional Europe races in Hungary, earning a best result of fourth. The German returned to the track in 2020 for the FIA F3 event.
Hungary’s own Anett György has often competed at her home track, and took park in the TCR International events in 2017, at the wheel of a SEAT.
Another local star is 2019 W Series contender Vivien Keszthely, who has also raced regularly at the Hungaroring. In 2018 she finished second in an Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup event.
Of those on the current W Series entry list the driver with the most extensive experience of the Hungaroring is probably Beitske Visser. She competed in Renault 3.5 races in 2014, 2015 and 2016, earning a respectable seventh place in the latter season. In 2018 she returned to the track to contest the GT4 Euro South event with a BMW M4.
The 2012 GP3 event that supported the Grand Prix saw two current W Series contenders in action, with Alice Powell and Vicky Piria both in the field, although neither made the points.