Joy, fear, excitement, disappointment are all emotions that can be linked to the Hungarian Grand Prix. It has become something of a high-summer classic on the Formula 1 World Championship calendar and the scene of a range of emotions with contrasting fortunes for Scuderia Ferrari and its fans.
For example, how could one forget that it was at the Hungaroring in 2001 that the Scuderia and Michael Schumacher would claim both championships at the end of a race that finished in a great one-two for the team? Another double top finish three years later brought the Maranello team its sixth consecutive Constructors’ title along with the guarantee that one of its drivers would win the Drivers’ crown, given that the maths indicated that only Schumacher or Barrichello could finish first.
Going further back in time, there are two great victories that stand out: in 1989, Nigel Mansell came from twelfth on the grid to win and then in 1998, Ross Brawn came up with a three stop strategy, considered a very risky choice at the time, with Schumacher playing his part, knocking out a couple of stints at qualifying pace, to take an unexpected win in the F300.
There was disappointment too, such as in 2000, when Hakkinen won from Michael, thus putting the McLaren driver ahead in the classification, after a fightback that a few races earlier seemed impossible. That year, after a win in Canada, Michael had built up a substantial lead, but he then saw it frittered away with three consecutive retirements, in Magny-Cours, Zeltweg and Hockenheim: so when Hakkinen won at the Hungaroring, he led the championship, consolidating his lead a fortnight later in Spa. However, the destiny of this championship would be turned on its head again, as Michael strung together a series of four consecutive wins, which delivered him his first world title with Ferrari, who also won the Constructors’ championship. The disappointment of the 2008 race was very hard to take, especially as there was to be no reversal of fortune. Felipe Massa produced a sensational start to pass both the McLarens right at the first corner to go into the lead. The Brazilian was comfortably in the lead until, with three laps remaining, the engine on his F2008 let him down on the main straight: the ten points that literally went up in smoke that day would cost him and Ferrari dear, given that the title went to Hamilton, only fifth that day, by a single point.
Fear, real fear, the sort that hits you hard was felt by all Ferraristi the following year when a bizarre incident made one fear for Felipe’s life. What are the chances of an incident of this sort taking place, when a damper off fellow-countryman Barrichello’s Brawn GP car hit Felipe on the helmet during Q2? For many of us and of you, there followed anxious days, but fortunately it all ended well, but from then on, it was hard not to think about it on every subsequent visit to Budapest.
Of the 27 Hungarian Grands Prix held to date, Scuderia Ferrari has only won five: apart from those mentioned already (1989, 1998 and 2001,) the roll of honour also features Rubens Barrichello’s 2002 victory and another one for Michael Schumacher in 2004. The Prancing Horse has been on pole seven times, six of them down to the multiple world champion and one courtesy of his team-mate, Rubens Barrichello. There have also been eight fastest race laps, the last from Massa in 2011.
Fernando Alonso’s best memory of the Hungaroring dates back ten years, when the man from Oviedo took his maiden Formula 1 win, the first of 32 to date. In eleven attempts, Fernando has finished a further three times on the podium once in second place and twice in third. He has the same number of other points finishes (two fourths and a fifth.) His team-mate has a more meager tally: Felipe’s best result is a fourth place from nine starts and he has set the race fastest lap in the aforementioned 2011 as well as in 2006.