The Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix kicks off today at 11:00 local time with the first free practice, though the atmosphere – with only around 1,800 people at the Hungaroring – will be a far cry from the usual frenzy that comes with some 200,000 spectators any other year.
“We [the organizers] and every team has their very strict safety measures in place,” Zsolt Gyulai, president-CEO of the Hungaroring race track told national station Kossuth Rádió on Friday. “The drivers and the teams will essentially be confined to their own bubbles, only commuting between their accommodations and the race.”
Even under these pandemic conditions, having the Hungarian race at all this year is considered a major achievement, as it is one of only eight confirmed races so far, though more may be announced at a later time. Gyulai said he still hopes that 17 races may be held this year.
Hungary held its first Formula 1 race back in 1986 when it was still under communist rule and the Hungarian Grand Prix was the first one in which the race was conducted behind the Iron Curtain. It has been a permanent fixture in the F1 calendar ever since and Gyulai said that although a public announcement has not yet been made, he just signed the contract for the extension of Hungary’s license by one year until 2027, as due to the lack of spectators this year “does not count” in terms of race revenues. The Formula 1 Group holds the broadcasting rights for the races, while the local organizers rely on ticket sales, of which this year there will be none.
With the teams already in Hungary, Williams has somewhat surprisingly announced that next year it will stick with its current line up of drivers, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, but the rumor mill is still going strong whether Sebastian Vettel will remain with Ferrari. Mercedes, whose drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton won the previous two races in Austria greeted F1 fans with the Hungarian “Sziasztok” (meaning hello) on its Facebook page.
The next stop of the F1 roving circus is Great Britain with two races. As F1 regulations only allow for one national Grand Prix per season, the second race on the Silverstone Circuit will be named “Emirates Formula 1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix”.
Title image: Ferrari driver Giuliano Alesi, right inspects the track with his team at the Hungaroring racetrack in Mogyorod, Hungary, Thursday, July 16, 2020. The Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix race will take place on Sunday. (AP photo/Darko Bandic)