BUDAPEST, Hungary – There was a point last weekend when it was so hot in our Hockenheim garage we thought the concrete floor might melt. However, any notion that a week and 900 or so kilometers would make a difference was swiftly dispelled when we arrived in scorching Budapest.
If anything, the Hungaroring is even more of a cauldron, which is apt as this challenging little track is set inside a natural amphitheatre, with the track snaking its way around the bowl in the valley.
OK, the temperatures on track today were a couple of degrees shy of the scorching 58 degrees Celsius we saw in Hockenheim, but only a couple – and when you looked out across the track in Germany, you aren't staring at the fresh, cooling, temptation of one of Europe's biggest aquaparks.
The theme park is clearly visible from the back of the Energy Station here in Hungary, and with the sun beating down at the Hungaroring, you see more than a few people looking out across the track to the flumes and slides. Why are people hanging around at the back on the motorhomes in the first place? Because it gives a brilliant, brilliant view of the circuit. Seriously, one of the best views in Formula One: Turns Two and Three at the pit exit end of the paddock and Turn 13 at the entry – you just have to ignore the whiff coming off the bins.
It's one of the many perks of being at the Hungaroring. Another is staying in the heart of Budapest. Perhaps it's a consequence of always being here in high summer, but it seems like one of the most lively and vibrant cities we visit, with everyone out on the streets and boulevards in the evenings. Fortunately for us quite a few of the Energy Station crew are natives of Budapest, and so we have excellent guides to some of the best places in town that might be a little way off the traditional tourist track.
Not that any of this really sways us from the task at hand. This track hasn't been one of our best in the past, and we've only won here once, in 2010, when Mark drove his socks off to take a great, great victory. It did involve him getting the instruction to drive 20 qualifying-pace laps off the reel – which is the sort of thing Mark lives to hear, so he had a smile as wide as the Danube as he came into parc ferme. Definitely one of our best-ever race memories. We've had a few podium to finishes to complement that but perhaps not as many as we should. That's something we're keen to correct this weekend.
I like the race and atmosphere at the Hungaroring and have good memories of the races there. Even though I have never won in Budapest, it is still on my to do list. It is quite a slow track but also one that can catch you out. It has some tight, twisty corners and is quite a bumpy track, so you cannot underestimate it. It is normally hot in Hungary for the race, which makes it a challenge to drive, but also makes a nice weekend for the fans watching. I really like the setting of the race track, just outside Budapest and near to the Danube. In the evenings, I enjoy going for a walk along the banks or sometimes a jog in the morning. The Hungarian GP is the last race before the summer break, so we will be working hard to keep up the momentum and have a good result to enjoy over the holidays.
I've always enjoyed the Hungaroring, but because it's so tight and twisty, it's maybe not the ideal layout for a grand prix. It's like Monaco without the walls. It's one of those weird situations where the driving is very satisfying but the racing, perhaps, is not. It's a great, great track in qualifying where you're driving on low fuel and fresh tires. There's no let up, and you're completely in the moment. In a race though, overtaking is difficult because the track is quite narrow, and that exciting sequence of corners doesn't give you the opportunity to line up a pass. DRS has improved things, and the first corner and the downhill sequence that follows can be quite exciting.
# # #