Just a week after the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim and the paddock (and everything in it) has shifted to the Hungaroring on the outskirts of beautiful Budapest. But while most of the drivers would have had the chance to nip home for a few days in between events, spare a thought for F1’s legion of truckies. A 600 strong convoy of trucks left the paddock in Germany on Sunday night, each of them laden down with everything from cars, garage equipment, motorhomes, and all of TV production paraphernalia that goes into broadcasting Formula One around the world. They arrived at the Hungaroring 16 hours later and most were fully unloaded by Tuesday lunchtime. What an epic effort!
But despite the rather hectic schedule for many of the paddock, the Hungarian GP is traditionally one of the most popular on the calendar. With F1’s summer break looming, everyone in the paddock is keen to let their hair down, and where better to do that than Budapest, a fine party town. The weather is also usually warm and sunny and the grandstands are more-often-than-not packed with diehard F1 fans from all over Europe. The circuit itself resembles something of an oversized go-kart track, with corners flowing into each other and the barriers close to the edge of the track. As a result the Hungaroring boasts the lowest average lap speed of any permanent circuit on the calendar.
The Hungarian Grand Prix has also traditionally been a race of firsts. Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Heikki Kovalainen all won their first F1 races here, as did Damon Hill, whilst 20 years ago Nigel Mansell clinched his first and only world title at the track. In the past it has been a circuit that has favoured McLaren – the Woking-based team has won here ten times, four of those victories coming in the last five years.
The man who won two of those races for McLaren – Lewis Hamilton – breezed into the paddock on Thursday looking cool and collected. Maybe it was because on Wednesday night he met one of his heroes at the Sports For Peace gala in central London – legendary boxer Mohammed Ali. “I’ve got books on him, I had posters on my wall of him…he’s an inspiration to me,” Hamilton said. “It was very special to meet him.” Ali had to recover from adversity several times in his glittering career, can Hamilton do the same in Hungary after a disappointing weekend in Germany?