Hungarian Polka

Hungarian Polka

Maranello, 21 July –Sunday sees the 29th edition of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The race has always been held at the Hungaroring, on the outskirts of Budapest and the track has gone through various modifications, but nothing significant. Scuderia Ferrari has won here five times, making an 18% hit rate.

Behind the Iron Curtain. The race first appeared on the calendar in 1986 and it caused considerable fuss as it was the first time Formula 1 had gone behind the Iron Curtain, at a time when the Cold War was still real and the sports world had only recently dealt with the political boycotting of the Olympics in Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984. However, it proved to be a good choice, as the race still draws one of the biggest crowds of the year, even if the circuit itself is narrow, short, slow, always dirty and provides very few overtaking opportunities. Nevertheless, some of the greatest exploits in Formula 1 have taken place here.

The achievement of 1989. One of those exploits was down to Nigel Mansell and Ferrari. The Englishman had nothing to smile about after qualifying down in 12th place. However, he made a good start and immediately made up four places. Out in front, Riccardo Patrese led from Ayrton Senna. Mansell staged an incredible climb up the order, lapping a second faster than anyone else. Once Patrese went out, the battle for the win came down to Senna and Mansell, but it seemed impossible that the Ferrari man would manage to get past. But then came a remarkable piece of driving, as Mansell swept past Senna, when the Brazilian hesitated for a moment coming up to lap Stefan Johansson in the Onyx. Incredibly, Nigel won by 25 seconds from Ayrton.

The Schumacher era. The world had to wait until 1998 to see Ferrari on top again in Hungary and this time it was down to Michael Schumacher. The German produced another of his bravura performances. He had more pace than the McLarens ahead of him, so Ross Brawn decided to switch him from a two stop to a three stop strategy. In order for it to succeed, the German would have to run at qualifying pace and he managed it, thus beating both Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard. 2001 was a particularly enjoyable time in Hungary for Schumacher and Ferrari, as Michael won from team-mate Rubens Barrichello to become World Champion with four races in hand. The following year the two men crossed the line in formation, with the win going to the Brazilian. 2004 was the last time a Ferrari won and Michael Schumacher mopped up the records, as he equaled Hakkinen’s record of 9 fastest race laps in a season and Ascari’s seven consecutive victories.

Fernando’s First. The Hungaroring was the venue for Fernando Alonso’s first ever Formula 1 win, which came in 2003, as the Spaniard brought Renault back to the winner’s circle for the first time in 20 years. It rounded off a perfect weekend, which began with Alonso taking pole and, at 22 years and 26 days, he became the youngest Grand Prix winner in history.

The big scare. The Hungaroring is also the venue of one the Scuderia’s most worrying moments. In 2009, during qualifying, Felipe Massa was hit by damper, which had come off Ruben’s Barrichello’s Brawn. The Brazilian was knocked unconscious and crashed into the barriers. He was taken to hospital and eventually made a complete recovery, returning, as normal, to the cockpit the following year.

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