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The Hungaroring track is situated 20 kilometres north of Budapest, so the Hungarian Grand Prix gives you the perfect opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful cities in central Europe. Known as the ‘Paris of central Europe’ and ‘the Queen of the Danube’, Budapest is adorned with beautiful architecture, most of which was built towards the end of the 19th century when the city enjoyed a boom during the industrial revolution. The four ornate bridges that link Buda and Pest were built at this time. The weather is invariably hot around race time, which only adds to the enjoyment of your visit.
“I really enjoy Budapest,” says Kimi Raikkonen. “It’s a very beautiful city, with lots to do - lots of clubs and outdoor bars. Many Finns come to the race because there are some historical links between Hungary and Finland, so it’s the closest I get to a home grand prix during the year. The track is quite slow, but it’s very physical, so it’s a good challenge over a race distance.”
Did you know?
Zsolt Baumgartner is the only Hungarian to have competed in his home Grand Prix - for Jordan in 2003 and for Minardi in 2004.
Ferihegy International Airport is 24 kilometres south east of Budapest and has links to all the major European cities, as well as some in North America. If you are not hiring a car for the weekend you can catch the airport minibus service into the city or take a taxi. For getting around town, there are three subway lines and an extensive tram network.
Over the race weekend the organisers lay on buses from Budapest to the Hungaroring, though these leave from only a couple of places in the city. An easy alternative is to catch a taxi or drive yourself - a lane of the motorway en route to the circuit is closed off for F1 traffic, which speeds up the journey, and the approach to the track is completed along ‘Bernie Avenue’.
The track is situated in a natural bowl, with the result that more than 50 percent of the track can be seen from most vantage points. There are four types of grandstand seat, split into super gold, gold, silver and bronze, with general admission prices being some of the most inexpensive on the calendar.
It can be extremely hot over the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, so take lots of sun block and - like the drivers - keep hydrated. There is a water park at the track, so if the heat does get too much you can always take the plunge and shoot down one of its numerous water slides.
Where to go?
There are enough sights in Budapest to keep you busy for a week, and they are spread all over the city, so don’t limit yourself to just one area. To name just a few of the highlights: the Hungarian National Gallery, which is situated in the wings of the Royal Palace; the Lukacs Thermal Baths; Heroes Square and Castle Hill, situated on the Buda side of the river Danube.
As far as restaurants are concerned, most of the international cuisine is situated on the Pest side of the river, with gems such as Articsoka, La Bodega and Iguana. For Hungarian specialities, try Bagolyvar or Mori Borozo.
“I need to be careful what I eat over a GP weekend,” says Raikkonen, “so I tend to go to the Italians, such as Articsoka or one of the street restaurants near to my hotel.”
Where to stay?
Accommodation in Budapest ranges from simple hostels in converted flats to some of the most luxurious hotel chains in the world, such as the Kempinski, where Raikkonen stays. Inbetween, there are plenty of mid-range hotels.
As a rough guide, the most expensive hotels are clustered around the Danube and the further from the water you stray, the more inexpensive your options become. Camping is another possibility.
There is plenty to see in Budapest, but if you want to get out of the city there are no end of places to go. To the south west there is the vast expanse of Lake Balaton, where you can take boat rides or do some fishing. The countryside surrounding the lake is also one of Hungary's 22 wine-growing regions and apparently one of the best in the country.
“If I had a few days to kill,” says Raikkonen, “I’d take a trip up the Danube and go outside the confines of the city, just to see what the countryside's like.”
If you fancy trying a lap of the Hungaroring for yourself, the circuit does hold a number of track days throughout the year, for both cars and motorbikes.
2146 Mogyorod Pf. 10
Hungaroring Sport Rt
T: (+36) 28444 444
F: (+36) 28441 860
All images © Hungarian Tourism Ltd.