Classic. This is the description that the Hungaroring has received, or rather earned, in recent years. Built almost 40 years ago, it was a curiosity then because it was the first track behind the Iron Curtain, and today it is the second track (ahead of only Monza) to be permanently on the calendar.
Incredibly, the Hungaroring was the venue for the 38th Hungarian Grand Prix in 2023 - and perhaps it's a good time to indulge in a little nostalgia. We can recall Nelson Piquet's victory - in the first race, in front of three hundred thousand (!) spectators. We can remember Nigel Mansell (who always celebrated his birthday with us and was once presented with a horse called Scala) losing his wheel from the lead - and the race (1987). We can recall Damon Hill's great misfortune ("Where's Damon Hill?!"), when a technical error on the last lap cost him victory (1997), or the great battles between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. Jenson Button's victory in the rain (his first) is as much a part of the history of the track and the sport as Michael Schumacher's four or Lewis Hamilton's eight Hungarian race wins - the British record holder.
Today it is history, but at the time it was a great feat (and there are hardly any similar examples in the world) that the Hungaroring was built in record time, eight months, and it was thanks to this that the 1st Hungarian Grand Prix was held on 10 August 1986.
The track was rebuilt twice afterwards - first in 1989 (the triple chicane was removed from the track) and then in 2003. The latter was a major change: the target straight was lengthened and turns 1, 12 and 14 were changed. The length of the track was originally 4,014 metres, then reduced to 3,975 metres, and for more than 15 years the world's top drivers have been racing on a 4,381-metre track.
Our track is dusty, our racing is hot - that's the first thing you say when asked about the Hungarian race. Immediately afterwards, he adds that, from the drivers' point of view, this is one of the toughest races of the season. It's a challenge to win on our technical, twisty track, which is not full of straights - it took Sebastian Vettel, one of the best drivers of the modern era, nine years to win at the Hungaroring in 2015, but he won again in 2017.
Among the many modern, uniformed circuits, the Hungaroring represents tradition - a classic style that has now become very much appreciated. The drivers and teams love to come here.
"The valley and the scenery are very beautiful, and the proximity to the city is loved by everyone, without exception. And the track... Well, we resurfaced it in 2016, and this is just the first step of the planned improvements," says Zsolt Gyulay, CEO of Hungaroring Sport Zrt. He says the Formula 1 field and crew are clear and good to work with - simply because they are easy to work with.
"Everyone is very disciplined here, and that's basically what motorsport is. On the other hand, it also requires professionalism to know that we are part of the most watched, if not the most watched, racing series in the world, which is as much an obligation for the drivers as it is for the host countries," adds Gyulay.
Although the Hungarian Touring Car World Cup or the European Truck Championship is almost as challenging as F1, the Hungaroring team preparing for the 37th Hungarian Grand Prix is not only using the experience it has gained over the past decades within the walls of the track.
Back to the Hungarian Grand Prix. It is worth mentioning that our race has never been under threat in the past decades, and once (in 2002) it won the Race of the Year Award, which was presented at the International Association's year-end gala, and in 2020 the closed-door Hungaroring race was the most-watched race of the season on television.
As an integral part of the track's history, the Hungaroring was the first Hungarian to drive a Formula 1 car (Csaba Kesjár, who died in a tragic racing accident in 1987 testing the Zakspeed), and the first Formula 1 race of his career was completed here by Zsolt Baumgartner (2003 - Jordan), who, after Ralph Firman's accident and injury, got his chance to run a full season at Minardi the following year.
There are currently no Hungarian drivers in the Formula 1 World Championship series, but the Hungarian Grand Prix, which has a contract until 2027, has been a key fixture on the calendar for decades.