At the Hungaroring, you don’t overtake. Which is a bit like saying that in London it rains all the time, and that there aren’t any seasons anymore. But if we just stick to raw numbers, this statement is actually not too far from the truth in the case of the Hungarian Grand Prix venue.
Of the 33 races that have taken place there up until 2018, the person starting from pole position has won 15 times. On six other occasions the person who has started from second on the grid went on to win. That’s not a complete validation of our theory but it does go to show how much the people who start at the front in Hungary have a good possibility of keeping their rivals behind them. However, as is the case for most rules, there are some notable exceptions – and these are often the ones that stand out and write history.
Let’s start with 1986: the year that Budapest made its first appearance on the Formula 1 World Championship. Just by existing, the race was a landmark in itself: Formula 1 had finally penetrated what was known back then as the Iron Curtain. Only a few hundred kilometres away was the Berlin Wall and communism was still in full force throughout countries such as Romania and Bulgaria, which were very much separated from the rest of Western Europe.
The journalists who landed in Hungary’s capital for the first time found shop windows that were empty and bare, albeit a bit more well-stocked than those in some of the other countries we have mentioned.
A short stroll from the Chain Bridge – a Hungarian icon that crosses the Danube – were ancient buildings still bearing bullet holes from the artillery fired in the Second World War. But to the northeast of Budapest, in the gently rolling countryside around the village of Mogyorod, the Hungaroring had emerged: a notable concession to capitalist values and the western lifestyle, even though the grand prix press officer was a military person. She was called Erika Laszlo, running a small army of colleagues who were yet to discover what even a fax was. Personal computers, on which articles would be written and sent, were still science fiction at the time.