I went to the 2022 Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix! That’s the coolest phrase I’ve ever said at least this year, if not my entire life! The following post is my complete experience, starting with booking my tickets, getting to Budapest, how I got to the track, the race and everything else. If you want the summarised version of this lengthy post, the race was incredible! It was by far the best thing I’ve ever done for fun and for one of my first passions, Formula 1 racing.
Buying the tickets
It all started 25 years ago when I was about 5. Well no, I’m not going to bother you with my lifelong love for Formula 1. Just know that yes, I’m a true fan. The story of this Grand Prix started somewhere in February when, through some luck and fast typing, I somehow got a General Admission ticket to the Hungarian Grand Prix. I simply went on the website when the media reported on the tickets being put out for sale and snatched one for myself.
I paid $100 for a weekend ticket without a seat. When you buy a General Admission ticket, you can sit on the grass on one of the hills around the circuit. The views vary, with many veterans stating you can get better views from the GA grounds than from the Super Gold seats. Yeah, sure! But for 100 euros you can’t really beat the price, given that you get to see everything, starting with the practice, the qualifying, and then the race on Sunday.
My trip to Budapest
After spending the night at the local Ibis in Timisoara, and having some delicious Taco Bell for the first time in my life, I got up at 5 in the morning on the Sunday of the race for my train. My plan was to go to Budapest for the whole race weekend but plans don’t usually work out. My train left at exactly 5:50 as it said on the ticket. I paid 25 bucks per train ride to Budapest and back, 50 in total, and the train got me to central Budapest in about 6 hours. Trains in Romania are not much but the carriage was air-conditioned and the ride was quite relaxing.
Accommodation for the night
I opted for a small studio in the middle of the city, just next to a metro station that would get me to the last stop on the M2 line. The studio had a small kitchen, a bathroom, a large bed and a sofa, as well as a table for dinner. The only downside was the noise, as the toilet kept flushing itself every 5 minutes. It made it really difficult for me to fall asleep even after a day at the circuit and more than 20.000 steps. The price per night was 105 euros, decent considering the alternatives, which started at 300 euros per night. PER NIGHT! Race weekend prices for you F1 fanatics…
Getting to the circuit
After dropping my bags I immediately got to the metro station and started my journey towards Hungaroring. I first got on the M2 metro line towards the last stop. The journey took around 15 minutes and soon enough, I started following the mass of people heading towards the commuter train station that would get us to the circuit.
Budapest to Kerepes by train
The train ride from Budapest to Kerepes took around 30 minutes. It stopped a lot, I really have no idea why organisers weren’t able to change the trains to be non-stop for the event. 99,99% of people stopped at Kerepes or the next station, where the footpath towards the circuit would start. Yet they decided to just do their thing and keep the trains as they were on a regular day, who cares there are 100.000 people trying to get to the circuit, right? Thanks, Hungary!
Kerepes to Hungaroring by bus
The real fun started with the bus from the train station to the track. It took about 15 minutes but it was CRAMMED. No safety protocols were in place, it was like being packed into a can of sardines. The luck of the passengers was in the weather. If it were hotter, we would probably faint one by one while being transported to the race. It was an adventure but for the price of the 24-hour ticket that would include everything, metro, train and bus, you can’t really complain. You can but it stays the same.
After more than an hour spent on busses and trains, you finally arrive at the entrance of the Hungaroring circuit. It does not matter where you go in, as there are many gates where you can scan your ticket. There is a path that circles the circuit, so you won’t have any issues getting pretty much anywhere. General Admission ticket holders are best to go in through gates 2 or 3, as those are just by the entrances to the areas where you can sit.
We were left right at Gate 3 by our bus driver, easily passable as an actual F1 driver. Mad skills on that guy considering the weight of the vehicle. I’ve never levitated on a bus before. The lines were literally just like at Disneyland, so there’s not much to do while waiting than, well, wait. There is no internet, or barely, so you can’t really scroll through Instagram while at the track. After about 15 minutes I was finally let in. They do accept e-tickets on your phone, so the myth about having to print your tickets otherwise you’re not let in is just that, a myth.
Seating and toilets
Based on the type of ticket you’ve purchased, you will be seating either on the grass on one of the many little hills around the track or somewhere on an actual seat. The seats are in the tribunes, culminating with the Extra Mega Super Gold something-something, meaning the very expensive tickets right above the garages. Then there are the tickets right on the straight line, which are half the price of the previous ones but still painfully expensive. One day. And then there’s the rest of the seats which are more manageable, as well as General Admission. GA means you can sit ANYWHERE on the hills around the track. If you can find a good spot, like at the back of the pit straight, that’s just like if you’d buy an expensive seat.
In regards to toilets, there is plenty to do your business in at the track. There were lines everywhere but once the race starts, everybody is focusing on the competition so you can go and do your business in peace. You also get drinking water at different points inside the grounds, so don’t be stupid like I was and buy airport-priced water. It’s free and really good once you find the spots where to get it.
Food and beverages
As with any major event, expect major lines when you want to have some food or drinks at the Hungaroring. I’d say there are at least 10 food areas close to the main straight line, yet the lines were crazy at all times until right before the start. The only line I was able to manage, mentally, was for pizza.
I paid around 4 bucks for a slice of frozen-half-cooked pizza but you know what? It was fine. It kept me going and I really didn’t need much more as the adrenaline was enough to keep me up and alert. Beverages, I saw a cocktail bucket-type stall with drinks but didn’t bother with it. Maybe you are into drinking at F1 races, so yes, they are ready for you.
Formula 1 stores
There are many ways in which Formula 1 makes money off the sport. It’s not just televised races that broadcasters pay for so that they can show them to their audiences. A huge part of the revenue comes from the merchandise. There were a few gigantic Formula 1 stores in and around the track at the Hungaroring, and they are at every race as they travel with the Grand Circus.
I wanted to explore and so after waiting for 10 minutes in yet another line, I got to enter the Red Bull store. Prices started at around 80 bucks for a hat, culminating at 200 dollars US for a thrifty-looking vest. It was extremely overpriced, as you can get the same merch from an online store at almost half the price. Sure, if you have the money, you can go for it and get a nice souvenir but for the rest of us… No, we’re good with just window shopping.
Safety and organisation
I want to talk about safety and the overall organising of the Grand Prix from my perspective, as I know people are sensitive to these factors. Not for one second have I felt unsafe while participating in the event. There was plenty of police and staff around the circuit, covering all areas of the track. No incidents were reported and nobody even required medical care, which the Hungarians were ready to offer through plenty of ambulances and even medical helicopters. The overall organising of the event, besides the departure of the fans, was on point.
The Formula 1 race experience
The minutes before the start of the race were the most intense for me. Right in front of the main straight, getting to my seat was a surreal experience. I got to pick through the stands and admire the drivers while on their parade. There they were, my heroes from when I was 5 up until my full adulthood today. I could not believe it. I was there, minutes away from my first ever live Formula 1 race.
There is a 10, 5 and 3-minute alarm, or gong, or BAAAAAANG you can hear along with the teams before the start of the formation lap. At 10 minutes, the straight starts to clear up from the VIPs and the media. At 5 minutes out the crews start to pack up and get on the sides of the asphalt. At 3 minutes, the drivers are all with their visors down and the only people left on the pavement are the crew dealing with keeping the tires warm.
At exactly 15:00 as pointed by the huge Rolex watch in the middle of the straight, the cars depart for the formation lap. That’s when you hear the cars raving up. Imagine being on a plane right now and the pilot prepares to take off. Hearing the noises the engines make, multiply that by 20. And then you will get somewhat of a sense of how it feels being there for the actual thing.
The race start is without a doubt the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced. No movie, video game, sport, book, you name it, nothing beats that moment when the entire grid departs in the race. 20.000 horsepower raving up to their maximum point and streaming down the line towards the first corner. And then braking from 280 to around 100 km/h in 3 seconds. Trying not to collide with one another. Fans raving all around.
The first few laps
Without a doubt, the most adrenaline-rushing laps of any race are the first few laps. Up until lap 10 or so the cars are sort of still grouped, although a few of them, usually the ones in the front, are gaining pace and distance from the others in the back. In Budapest, that’s when most of the things that happened during the race happened, a little collision, some back and forth from a few drivers and so on. Sure, there were drivers abandoning through the race, or making it to the front or back, like Verstappen or Leclerc but the first few laps… I held my breath the whole time.
The first round of pit stops
Another exciting part of the race is the first round of pit stops. Around the end of the first 15 laps or so, the crews are asking for the drivers to enter the pit lane to change tires. This is a crucial moment in the race, as it can lead to major flaws in strategy, completely upping or destroying chances for most drivers to win or get any points from the race. Another cool thing is you can hear the tyres being changed, which resonates throughout the circuit. Incredible!
With a huge area of miles upon miles of walking that I could do with my General Admission ticket, I changed my views a couple of times during the race, especially after the end of the first half. This move was brilliant because one, I could finally get some warmth in me after spending the first half of the race on the cold soil, winds blowing at me like crazy. And two, I could see more of the cars and the circuit, the straight and the corners, from the different vistas around the track.
I got extremely close at one time and could actually see the helmets of the drivers, as well as the incredible steering wheels. Fun fact, the Formula 1 cars are simply immaculate. I don’t know what they use as a soap to wash these cars but… they are simply spotless, shining even though there was barely any sun. I would like some of that soap for my Opel Astra hatchback, thank you very much Formula 1!
Naturally, the race finish should be as exciting as the race start, right? Well, no. With very few exceptions, like Abu Dhabi in 2021, Formula 1 races end with little fuss. You know who the winner is at least 5 laps before the end. Again, recently the battle for the podium has been a tad more intense but in general, you just know. This is why I caught the race finish, which nearly happened under a Safety Car, from the bus waiting line at the back of Gate 3.
I watched the race from the start once back at my apartment rental in Budapest, where Crofty was as usual very good at explaining it to me like I’m 5. I was amazed at how Verstappen simply did every single thing right and got from P10 to P1 by the end of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Which was surprising considering I had no idea what the final grid looked like thanks to the poor internet connection around the track.
I left the track before any podium festivities, as did tens of thousands of people. I was really glad my favourite won but also extremely delighted to see both Mercedes drivers on the podium, especially Lewis on P2. Say what you want about Hamilton but he really is a tough son of a gun! I felt sorry for the Ferrari drivers, as well as for Checo, who had no measurable rhythm the entire weekend, yet still managed fifth place.
Both Alpine drivers finished in the points, which is also nice. I don’t know what’s up with Alpha Tauri but they seem to be on a downstream that’s neverending. The same with Alfa Romeo, starting the year in a promising way just to be absent from the points over the last couple of races. Haas was also nowhere to be seen in Hungary. Maybe they just don’t like the circuit, most of the drivers? I don’t know, the points have the same value here as anywhere else, right?
Getting back to Budapest…
Well, as with any large event, there has been quite a dramatic end to this one. I’m not talking about Verstappen winning the race starting from P10, no. I’m talking about tens of thousands of people trying to get onto 4 buses and about as many trains in 60 minutes or so right after the race. Although I got in line even before the race ended, I could not get into one of the very few busses that were waiting outside to drive us to the train station. After a 30-minute wait, I decided to just head to the train station on foot, a mile and a bit of a walk through the village.
With that sorted, another line awaits on the platform. Thousands of people waiting to be boarded on trains that left every half an hour, clearly just not enough considering the number of passengers. After another 45 minutes on the platform, I managed to squeeze into the back of a fourth train, barely making it along with my platform friends from London (hi guys!) and even getting some seats. We took the very last carriage, as the crowd flocked for the middle ones.
I understand that there is no way to avoid lines at the end of such an event, with 100.000 people trying to get back to Budapest at the same time. But on the other hand, the organisers were not really giving it their 100%. For example, on a Sunday afternoon, there was no reason why the trains had to stop 10 times before reaching Budapest at every single station on the commuter train. There is no commute on a Sunday. Instead of taking action, and supplying the number of trains per hour from 2 to 4 at least, they just left everything as it was, like on a normal day.
A Formula 1 Grand Prix is not a normal day in any city. Adjusting to it is key, not avoiding the issue and letting people kill each other on train platforms just because you can’t deal with adding a train or two to your itinerary, for one afternoon…
My conclusion about my first live Formula 1 race
Despite that little drama at the end, the experience at my very first Formula 1 Grand Prix was exactly how I’ve pictured it. There are movies that come out, TV shows, music videos, games, products, and places you visit, and you dream about them and how they will be. Anxiously hoping they won’t disappoint. And then you go ahead and see the movie, or go on the trip, and it’s great but yes, it could’ve been better.
My first live Formula 1 race was as spectacular as I’d hoped, and then some. It was a day and experience I will never forget, a bunch of emotions I will always carry with me and cherish up until the day of my departure from this planet. I feel extremely grateful to have been able to take part in this exhibit of sport, motor power, and adrenaline. And surely, I cannot wait for the return of the season in about two weeks, as well as my next Formula 1 race in 2023.
I already know where it’s going to be!
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