By Vlad Roman, General Manager, Smart Games
Without pretending to be a connoisseur of sports, I admit that since I saw the first live Formula 1 race I fell in love with this sport that attracts more and more fans from all over the world every year.
The story of formula one began in 1950 at Silverstone, 21 drivers lined up at the start and competed in cars supplied by 6 manufacturers. The race was won by Giuseppe Farina who started from pole position in an Alfa Romeo 158. 6 more races followed at Monaco, Indianapolis, Bremgarten, Spa-Francorchamps, Reims-Gueux and Monza. The 1950 championship was won by Giuseppe Farina followed by Juan Manuel Fangio, both Alfa Romeo drivers.
During the 72 years of Formula 1, 1070 races (Grand Prix) were organized, which delivered 34 world champions and 16 titles of different constructors.
The 2021 season was by far the “strongest”, the end of the championship, the promotion of Liberty Media and Netflix increased the audience, which led to the “sold out” phenomenon for all races in the 2022 season.
We hardly managed to find tickets to the Hungaroring, but the trip was worth it from every point of view. The first Hungarian Grand Prix took place in 1936 on a circuit set up in the Népliget Park in Budapest. After a 50-year hiatus due to war and politics, Bernie Ecclestone in 1986 convinced the communist authorities at the time to stage the first Grand Prix in a country behind the Iron Curtain. In the first edition, although the tickets were extremely expensive, there were 200,000 spectators on the race weekend which constituted a record attendance until the year 1995 at the Adelaide – Australian Grand Prix where 210,000 spectators were present. That year the race was won by Nelson Piquet in a Williams-Honda mono-post. The circuit is technical but relatively slow, it was slightly modified in 2003 to allow overtaking and is confirmed as a formula one circuit until 2027. The most successful driver on the Hungarian circuit is Lewis Hamilton with 8 wins, followed by Michael Schumacher with 4 titles and Ayrton Senna with 3.
This year the weather scared us… we arrived at the circuit in a torrential rain that stopped just before qualifying. The 3rd practice session was held in the rain which brought many surprises and events, Vettel stuck into the barrier at turn 10 and Nicholas Latifi achieved the fastest time, which brought him to the top of a classification for the first time in formula 1.
Qualifying – another story, Ferrari looked to be favourites, as did Red Bull, but Hamilton confirmed the Mercedes single-seater overcame technical issues to set the fastest time in Q1. After the elimination of the bottom 5 it was Max Verstappen’s turn to dominate the second qualifying session while colleague Perez failed to make the step in Q3.
The surprise came in the final qualifying session, Max had engine power problems, Hamilton settled for P7, Carlos Sainz managed to overtake teammate Leclerc to ensure his start on the front row, but the surprise was George Russel de at Mercedes who obtained the first pole position of his career.
Sunday… it’s cold but at least it’s not raining!, we arrive at the circuit, there are many, very many people. The record number of spectators from 2019 has been exceeded, more than 230,000 tickets have been sold, the parking lots are full, the stands are empty, with “general admission” it is difficult to find a place from which you can see at least a portion of the circuit.
Most of the fans are the “oranges” of Max and Red Bull, but also the “reds” of Ferrari, fans of Mercedes, McLaren, Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, Alpine, Williams, AlphaTauri or Haas. No one is arguing, the atmosphere is relaxed, everyone wears caps, T-shirts of their favorite teams, the sound of engines and the smell of hot rubber make you immediately integrate into the landscape.
The race starts, I’m not going to do an analysis but I can’t help but say it was superb, Max did a fantastic recovery race, he started from 10th place and managed to win, it’s clearly a credit to him and the car, but he was also helped by Ferrari’s strategies that put Leclerc hard on the last shift. Mercedes got on the podium with both drivers, Ferrari got 4th place with Sainz and 6th with Leclerc, Perez ranked 5th, McLaren with Lando Noris, Alpine with both drivers and Vetel who announced his retirement at the end also scored the 2022 season.
Now the Formula 1 summer break is coming, the next race will be on the weekend of August 26-28 at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, the longest circuit on the 2022 calendar and one of the most technical and fastest circuits… We will come back!