Race diary: things we learned from Thursday at the Hungaroring

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The final piece of the jigsaw is being put in place at the Hungaroring before the action ramps up with practice day at the Hungarian Grand Prix. F1Technical’s senior writer Balázs Szabó reports from the busy Hungaroring paddock.

Following a week off after the British Grand Prix, Formula One is approaching the final leg of races ahead of the summer shutdown. After having visited several Grands Prix so far this year, the Hungarian Grand Prix is on my agenda this weekend. I arrived at the sunny and hot Hungaroring at around 2.p.m. The first thing is always to rush to the reception desk to check in and find a spot in the media centre.

The Hungaroring attracts fans from all over Europe. It was not different today as I walked down to the pit lane and found it full of international fans. Pit lane walks have been a favourite among fans in Hungary and organizers have decided to pack it into this year’s schedule again.

However, it was not open to every ticker holder, but only for those with a weekend admission who purchased a special ticket. Fans were able to watch the High Speed Track Test of the FIA Safety and Medical Cars from the Super Gold Grandstand before walking through the pit lane.

There is an exciting new team in the Hungaroring F1 paddock. Following the filming of the F1-inspired Brad Pitt’s movie, production of Apple’s F1 film will continue at this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, despite the impact of a Hollywood actors’ strike. Just as two weeks ago in Silverstone, the garage of the fictional Apex team that Pitt drives for in the movie has been set up in the Hungaroring’s pit lane.

After rushing down the pit lane and having a look at various aerodynamic panels of the F1 cars, I decided to go for a track walk. While it was still very hot out there, several drivers also opted to hit the track following their media activities. I walked at a slow pace, stopping at various points of the circuit and analysing Hungaroring’s relatively high, wide and aggressive kerbs.

During the slow stroll, I was passed by Valtteri Bottas four times as the Finn was seemingly eager to circle around the track on a bicycle multiple times, doing it on his own. Charles Leclerc passed me right after the chicane, in between Turns 7 and 8 as he completed his track inspection on a bicycle with the attendance of Ferrari’s driver coach Jock Clear. Aston Martin racer Fernando Alonso, who took his first F1 victory at the Hungaroring back in 2003, was conducting a filming session with F2 drivers when we crossed each other’s way at the fast, flowing Turn 11.

Returning to the pit lane, Hungaroring’s marshals were conducting an FIA's mandatory extraction test with the governing body supervising the procedure and measuring the time required to get the driver out and stabilize him.

Incidents where a driver suffered long term injury due to inadequate medical attention were all too common in the 1970s and 1980s. That is why the FIA takes it very seriously and requires tracks to have marshals who can carry the vital extraction procedure out to the highest standards.

While fans are eager to meet their favourite drivers, they usually avoid pit lane walk as they concentrate on their media activities and briefing with their engineers, Alpine driver Esteban Ocon headed out in front of his team’s garage and was willing to meet his fans. George Russell also popped up in the Mercedes garage while his team conducted pit stop practices, and waved towards the visitors.

Towards the pit lane visit, I heard people shout Lewis Hamilton’s name. The eight-time Hungarian Grand Prix winner walked down to the Mercedes garage for a special shooting. This weekend sees F1 produce the first-ever broadcast specifically designed for children. Filmed by SkySports F1, the Briton explained various parts of his Mercedes W14 F1 car to a young boy with the clip set to be broadcast during the weekend.

Although the pit lane walk ended during Hamilton’s filming, fans were reluctant to leave the area as they were eager to meet the Briton. In the meantime, as the pit lane was slowly getting empty, paint job was carried out under the podium area. It also shows how much work is needed to set up a track for an F1 race weekend even if it is a permanent race circuit.

This also explains why it was not possible to move the cancelled Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to Ferrari’s Mugello circuit despite the wish of many fans.

Interestingly, at around 8.p.m the media center, the pit lane and the paddock were all quite empty which is not always the case on the opening day of a grand prix weekend. While the weather could hold surprises for Friday’s sessions, one thing is sure: the track, drivers and teams are ready to get the action underway.