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F1 race in Budapest, Hungary at Hungaroring track.

F1 race in Budapest, Hungary at Hungaroring track.

A million or so bees once swarmed into our yard in a giant ball–but they only made about 1/100 of the noise of the F1 cars taking off on the Hungaroring track outside Budapest. It was a ginormous hum of fine-tuned engines accelerating up to 200 mph or more!

I pulled on my Kangaroo tv headphones, stretched out on the grassy hillside, and settled in to watch my first-ever Formula 1 car race.

FAQ about F1 Car Racing:
  • Formula 1 is named “formula” for the set of rules that cars and drivers must follow.
  • F1 or Formula 1 or Formula One racing is the top level of professional automobile racing.
  • F1 traces its origins back to a race between Paris and Rouen in 1894. (according to the Complete Encyclopedia of Formula One)
  • Grand Prix racing started in 1906 with the first French Grand Prix closed circuit 65-mile race at LeMans on public roads. Hungarian driver, Ferenc Szisz, won with a Renault and an average speed of 62.887 mph.
  • The Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) defined Formula One as as the premier single seater racing category in worldwide motorsport, effective in 1948.
  • Various countries held Grand Prix races between 1906 and 1949, with the first World Championship in 1950 linking the grands prix of six countries (there were 20 or so grands prix that year, but not all counted). Giuseppe Farina won the first Drivers’ World Championship driving an Alfa Romeo.
  • During the 1950s, 13 drivers were killed racing.
  • Jochen Rindt won the drivers’ championship posthumously (the only driver to ever do so) in 1970 for Lotus, after crashing at Monza.
  • Bernie Ecclestone rearranged the management of Formula One’s commercial rights, turning the sport into a billion-dollar global business in the early 1970s.
  • Technology developments in F1 racing have been used to improve cars we drive on the road.

Today, there are F1 races around the world, with 20 races scheduled for 2012. However, in 2009 when we attended the F1 race in Hungary, there weren’t any Formula One races in North America and none had been confirmed for coming years.

David Aksomitis at the 2009 F1 race in Hungary.

David Aksomitis at the 2009 F1 race in Hungary.

Montreal, Quebec, home of the Canadian Grand Prix, had been held annually from 1961, but not included in 2009 when the government support replacing banned tobacco advertising was withdrawn. It did, however, return to its permanent place in the calendar for 2010.

The first F1 race in the United States was held in 1908, but it has had a five-year lapse from the last Formula One event at the Indianapolis speedway in 2007, until F1 returns to the U.S. November 18, 2012 at Austin, Texas.

So, when my husband, David, and I, decided in 2009 to finally make our dream of attending an F1 race come true, it was look around at the countries available and pick one! Hungary easily won out, as I wanted to explore the Hungarian side of my family tree and do research for some planned writing.

 

Planning to attend an F1 race

Planning to attend an F1 race is easy–Formula One takes care of it all with their Internet service!

To start with, I just logged into the F1 site and went through my air travel options. Luckily for me, I had a slow Internet connection at the time, so the first set of tickets I’d selected that would have routed me through the U.S. timed out before I actually got them bought. My second search brought up much better Air Canada seats flying out of Toronto.

When it came to hotels I had a very long list to choose from–almost too many! However, after doing a great deal of research on my writing project I did narrow down the options and selected the Hotel Izabella in Budapest. Since English is the language of Formula 1, we knew we didn’t have to worry about having hotel staff who’d be able to answer our questions in English.

F1 vendor area and food tents at the Hungaroring track.in Budapest.

F1 vendor area and food tents at the Hungaroring track in Budapest.

We also booked our airport transportation and of course, our track tickets, through the site. We were able to print the tickets and then take them to a tent at the track side that simply scanned the barcode and handed us our full set of passes. Couldn’t have been easier!

There isn’t any public transportation from Budapest to the Hungaroring track, which is about 25 km out of the city. So, we took taxis there and back–the cost each way was around $60 Canadian. Our hotel called for one each morning for us, and line-ups at the track only took 15-20 minutes to work through, so the transportation went smoothly.

 

At Hungaroring F1 race track in Budapest

It had been difficult to decide what kind of tickets to buy even though the F1 site provided a map of the track. The thing is that until you’ve been, you’re not really sure what you want. So, I bought mid-priced tickets that gave us access to 80% of the track. That 80%, however, was pretty much all grassy hillside, which at first seemed problematic. However, we could get a good view of the whole 2.7 mile long track, which is a distinct advantage over the closer stands, as they’re limited to seeing what’s right in front of them.

Food at the Hungaroring track.in Budapest.

Food at the Hungaroring track.in Budapest.

We also made the decision to rent the little Kangaroo tv set and headphones for both of us. This gave us access to televised race coverage as well as the ability to tune in to any of the drivers’ communications with their team. Very cool! It really added to our enjoyment of the day–we’ll certainly rent them again the next time we attend an F1 event.

Track facilities were great. Like many U.S. events, beer was readily available and not restricted to beer gardens, which is the norm in much of Canada. We’d already discovered that Heineken was the international beer of choice and since the day was hot sitting out under the sun–about 80–it sure tasted good!

Dining fare, however, was quite different. No hot dogs or hamburgers, that’s for sure. We did enjoy the large french fries, although salt was at a premium. The girls in the canteen had to look in a number of places to find us a small shaker. We guessed that salty fries must be a North American habit.

In addition to fries we also ordered a chicken dish that turned out to be mostly fried onions. Tasty, if not quite what we were expecting.

And the race itself? It delivered all the speed and noise and excitement we were hoping for, which is of course why I’ve slotted my trip with David, to the F1 race in Budapest, into #14 on my 2012 Staycation review of great trips I’ve taken in previous years. We attend all kinds of motorsport events, from snowmobiles to motorbikes to cars, and Formula One racing provides the ultimate experience for speed lovers. Now that retirement nears, we plan to attend the North American races to see how they compare to Budapest.

Check out this YouTube video from 2009 as Nico Rosberg and Christian Danner explain all the tricky points of the Hungarian circuit:

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