Nothing beats real life experiences, and for our very own Balazs Szabo, the most recent Hungarian Grand Prix was a special edition, being personally invited to enjoy the weekend from behind the scenes. Here's his unique view to a spectacular Grand Prix weekend.
"I find it very hard to mention any reason why someone would prefer the duo of sofa and television over breathing some racing smells live. Thanks to the novelties of our technology-dominated world you can get live information on track whenever you want.
"My Hungarian GP was a special one. I have attended it since 2006, so this year was not only an anniversary for the Hungarian GP history as it was held for the 30th time, but it was an anniversary for me, as well as I celebrated my 25th birthday with my 10th Hungarian GP visit. To do it in style, I spent the four days of the weekend in the paddock.
"Walking through the paddock lane between the deluxe motorhomes and trucks scared me. When Nelson Piquet bumps into you in one moment and in the next one it is Kimi Räikkönen who fans your cloth with his determined way of walking you can hardly get any breathe. Spending days with the people who you are inspired by and write for years about is something which burns in your memory indelibly forever."
"Formula 1 is said to experience an incurable and irreversible crises. I was desperate to find any signs of it on the whole weekend. I may disappoint many, but I didn’t get any impression that Formula 1 is about to collapse. Even despite the tragic death of the beloved and talented Jules Bianchi, the atmosphere was alright and many of the drivers were kind and rewarding to the fans for their warm welcome, adoration and enthusiasm.
"The whole weekend was marked by scorching and sweltering weather, temperatures only dropped for the race. On Thursday, however, a quick spell of shower cooled down the air, but it wasn’t enough to freeze the immeasurable enthusiasm of the fans. Kimi Räikkönen covered himself with a Ferrari-jacket, but it didn’t stop people to get crazy by the Finn. Sebastian Vettel always enjoyed warm love from the Hungarian people, but having joined Ferrari has even increased his Hungarian fan base. Lewis Hamilton covered with a black cap and golden necklace didn’t hesitate to run along the barrier to share out many signs, let fans take photos with him. Nico Rosberg was keen to give people high-fives. Even my dad was lucky to get one from Nico which made him very happy even he is a loyal Hamilton-fan. People just enjoy meeting their beloved stars. Watching from inside it was a pleasure to see how crazy people got. I personally also collected a few signs, among others I let Alonso, Hamilton, Räikkönen, Vettel, Massa, Button leave their marks in my books. Despite being a die-hard Fernando Alonso-admirer, I have to admit he still appears to be a bit arrogant and doesn’t show the kindness towards the fans as for example Massa, Button or Hamilton always do.
"I also attended the FIA press conference organized for some of the drivers. When Felipe Massa was asked about his sight potency after his horrific incident back in 2009, he let us laugh loudly by stating that he may have already discovered any weaknesses in his eyes in the past five years. After the conference my road led to the Ferrari-motorhome where Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen were due to be interviewed. Sebastian is a real character, someone who makes you laugh. He doesn’t attend fashion shows or concerts, but he is a friendly guy who likes joking and lights up the stage around him. Kimi was in a pretty friendly mood and gave unusually long answers. Hot topic was the uncertainty around his future. He gave an open answer by not ruling out the possibility of carrying on his career by driving for another team. During the own Thursday interviews Ferrari prohibit everyone from using their own cameras, only the Ferrari-owned or accredited ones can be used. There is a man who oversees it from behind and he doesn’t hesitate to warn you if you are about to disturb the press conference.
"On Friday the paddock got more lively. The Hungarian paddock isn’t huge, so every single inch of it is used. There is the pit building, behind that there are the glorious trucks of the teams. These function as offices, storage for team equipment and also the tyres are prepared here. Behind the trucks there is a tight lane where the drivers, teams’ members, media representatives, FIA members, body guards, guests circulate. Behind that there is the magnificent chain of motorhomes. Ferrari has two of them: one exclusively for the team and its special guests and one for both for the team and the media. McLaren-Honda has a scaringly big, gorgeous, silver palace. Red Bull has a very long centre where champagne is drunk ceaselessly. Drivers usually hide themselves, but Max Verstappen is an exception as he spent a big chunk of his free-time sitting on the first floor chatting to his father and other team members and guests. Honda has a special white truck for itself at the end of the paddock. Pirelli’s motorhome is very welcoming as its entrance is prettified by a few plants. In the motorhoe of Lotus you could usually find Jolyon Palmer and his dad. Sauber’s motorhome is white and neat. At the entrance of that you could often find Marcus Ericsson having a chat to his friends. What a friend guy he is!
"I usually spend Fridays on different parts of the circuit. I also walked out of the paddock to turn 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12 to get a closer look at how the different cars behave on various parts of the circuit. My first impression was that the engine sounds are significantly louder as in the previous year and that is very gratifying as it is considered as a very important factor by the majority of fans. Mercedes seem to be the loudest closed followed by Ferrari, Renault is a bit quieter, the Manor-Ferrari is a good reference how much the Ferrari sound has changed over the winter as the smallest team still use the Ferrari power unit of the previous season. Honda has a very unique sound, it sounds amazingly “dirty” in lower gears, both in the pit lane and in slower turns. Red Bull may lack of outright power, but it is very smooth coming out of slower corners, therefore the severe traction problems of the early season pertain to the past. Some cars are so nervous under braking: Sauber, Force India and Manor seemed to really suffer coming into turn two.
"I had experienced a difference between Kimi and Sebastian in terms of how they take turn two. The Finnish champion usually got it very tight, the German let the car travel longer distance, but he then had a smoother exit. McLaren-Honda is not hopeless in terms of driveability, Button and Alonso could rely on it at the middle and exit of turn two. The real problem for them is, though, that it is very inconsistent. There aren’t two consecutive laps when the two world champions could take turn two in the very same way. It could be software issue, but it could also be down to the inconsistent way of working of ERS. Ferrari and Mercedes looked very nice to drive, it must be a pleasure to drive those cars. The difference which could be recognized by the naked eyes that Mercedes could carry much more speed, they can be more aggressive into and out of the corners and the Mercedes guys, especially Rosberg could use the kerbs of turn two very aggressively and it didn’t unsettle the car at all. They seemed to have more grip, especially on the harder compound. It also undermines the suspicion that the ultra conservative, hard tyres of Pirelli cement their advantage. At the chicane Williams and Toro Rosso seemed to have ominous issues, those cars were pretty nervous through the chicane, they seemed to have good grip in high-speed turns, but the circuit parts which demand good mechanical grip seem to be their Achilles’ heel. Red Bull were amazingly strong, glued to the track through turn 8 which is a medium-speed corner, the car had a very nice balance and their cars seem to build up very good aerodynamic downforce in medium-speed turns.
"Hot summers aren’t anything new in Hungary, but the weather at this weekend was particularly challenging with air temperatures reaching 36 degrees Celsius in shadow. Even the trucks demanded special care: I stood next to the Williams trucks when their guys had to cool some systems down as they had reached critical values.
"Press conferences for the best three drives after qualifying and race are a bit more complicated then someone would suggest. The Saturday’s conference was divided into three parts. In the first part the interviews were recorded which you could see on TV. That was followed by the interview in the own language. After that the long press conference started when we journalists could ask the drivers. It is usually a pretty long session depending how many questions journos prepared. In the first two parts mobile phones have to be switched off and no photos or videos can be recorded, only the cameras of the FOM can work. Sebastian Vettel let us laugh in both the Saturday’s and Sunday’s conference. I can still remember how witty he answered the question why he hasn’t won the Hungarian GP yet. He outsmarted the journalist by claiming that the reason is that he hasn’t managed to cross the start-finish line as first driver. After the press conference the drivers have to go to a special area where they meet the international broadcasters which can not only interview the drivers, but they can also record footage. Drivers have to wander from one television channel to another. They are observed by one of their team's press officers who also records the driver's answers. After the race Mauizio Arrivabene arrived at this area just to embrace Sebastian Vettel in a theatrical fashion which could be recorded by the different TV-companies.
"Before I left the paddock late on Saturday, I met Ferrari’s charismatic team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. He is a guy who you would want to play with, he is someone who only need his scaring visage to hold a group, a team together. When I wished him a successful race, he said a determined thank you with a tiny grin on his face.
"Sunday was a special day, especially in the paddock. Jules Bianchi’s family arrived in the morning and visited more teams and then headed to Ferrari where they remained almost until the touching minutes before the start. Formula 1 lost a nice, friendly, talented, beloved, heavily supported driver, a potential Ferrari-driver and a potential champion.
"I watched the race from the media centre and from above the podium where you have a good look at the grid and the whole pit lane. That is a very special place to be. The Hamilton-dominated weekend was shaked up when he was mentally distracted in the race and made mistake after mistake. Ferrari’s bombastic start caused a huge rejoicement among the fans and the whole race panned out to be a masterpiece of art. If someone is about to write a new sensation movie, he can orientate at the script written by the destiny. However Sebastian Vettel was very happy after the chequered flag, at the press conference you could smell a bit of odd breeze which may have been propelled by the tragic loss of our Jules.
"I strongly believe in a bright future for Formula 1. It doesn’t need to be revolutionized, only the volume of the on-track spectacle needs to be lifted. If the sharp end of the field gets tighter and fierce battles shape up between different teams for leading position on a regular basis Formula 1 will be as appealing as it was in 2007 or 2008 just to pick up two tight and heavily contested seasons. If, on top of that, the tyre supplier can spice things up with more pit stops and more interesting tyre strategies the success of the pinnacle of motorsport will be set in stone.