July 29, 2012 - Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary
27.07.2012 - 30.07.2012 35 °C
Last weekend of July saw me in Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The temperature was crazy. I landed on Friday, and the thermometer said it was 41C. It was hard not to start melting right away. I managed some site seeing on the Friday, and spent Saturday and Sunday at the track. There was the threat of rain all weekend, but we didn't see any until Sunday evening, long after the race had ended. So most of the weekend was spent in the heat and the sun.
I had tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but because I only flew from London on the Friday, I missed the two practices and races on Friday.
Saturday was the first day at the track. I got up early, and headed up to the Árpád híd metro stop, where buses left every 10 minutes or so for the track. The bus was free, and took about 30 to 45 minutes to get there.
The Hungaroring is just outside the village of Mogyoród, Hungary. The bus dropped us in the village, and then there was a 10 to 15 minute walk to the track itself. You can bring food and drink into the track, so lots of people were lugging coolers and bags full of food, water and beer.
I was sitting in the Gold 2 section, along the main straight just by the finish line.
Saturday saw two sessions of Formula One, and races for Porsche, GP2 and GP3. First session for the F1 was free practice 3, and then later was the qualifying sessions.
Qualifying in F1 is split into 3 short sessions. After each session, a group of the slowest cars are eliminated. In the end, my favourite driver Lewis Hamilton took pole position, meaning he got to start at the front of the pack for the race the next day.
Good atmosphere at the track, and for those who didn't bring a picnic lunch (like me), there are lots of food options. While more expensive than similar food options in Budapest, it was certainly reasonably priced as compared to some of the other sporting venues I have been to, including other F1 tracks.
Sunday was race day. There were a few early races for the Porsche, GP2 and GP3 cars (including one of the cars coming sliding across the line scrapping the barriers after a last second crash), and then the F1 started.
After an initial restart due to one of the drivers lining up in the wrong position, the race was underway. Lewis Hamilton was first pressed by Romain Grosjean and then by Kimi Raikkonen, but in the end was able to take the checkered flag.
I've put together a video of my view of the race. About 8 minutes, if you are so interested.
Headed back into Budapest by catching the bus. It was the same walk to get to the track in reverse, and after a full day in the sun, the 15 minute walk was making me a little faint. One of the girls who holds the flags of the drivers at the start of the race had fainted already in the heat, and arriving at the bus stop and seeing thousands of people waiting and slowly crushing together, I was concerned I might faint as well.
Luckily, I kept on my feet, though I did see another fan faint. His friends decided that they would grab a taxi instead of a waiting for a bus, and wandered off.
Trying to catch the bus was a nightmare. The crowds were thronged out onto the streets, and the buses kept having to stop well from the front of the line, where people would pile on. I eventually squeezed by way onto a bus, and made it back to Budapest.
Sweaty, hot, rammed on public transit for 45 minutes after spending the day in the sun on hard plastic seats I was beat. "There has to be a better way to see these races," I said to myself.
That evening, as I headed out to dinner after a lie down and a shower back at my hotel, I saw Bernie Eccelstone and Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner coming out of the fancy lounge bar of my hotel, and getting into the back of a black, tinted windowed Mercedes. They pulled closed the door, and the car roared off into the rainy Budapest night with a low throaty growl.
That's got to be a better way to travel to and from the race. Maybe next year...