AUGUST 5, 1996

Where are we going this week?

THIS could be the last Hungarian Grand Prix - although F1 people have been saying that for a long time.

THIS could be the last Hungarian Grand Prix - although F1 people have been saying that for a long time. The race is the only event to be held in the old Eastern bloc, and back in 1986 - when the circus first visited - F1 was making history. With the old divides now gone, Hungary is something of an anachronism and with Austria now campaigning for a race in 1997 it seems inevitable that the mid-August visits to Budapest will soon be a thing of the past.

The Hungaroring facilities are very basic in comparison to more modern F1 tracks and the circuit design virtually ensures that overtaking is impossible. With the modern cars struggling to pass one another at Hockenheim, there is no chance in Hungary.

At the start of the 1980s Ecclestone wanted a Grand Prix in Moscow - the center of the Communist world. He had meetings with the top level Russians - including, so rumor has it, Russian president - Leonid Brezhnev. In 1983 he gave up on the Russians and started looking at other Eastern European cities.

Tamas Rohonyi, a Budapest-born advertising man, who was involved in the Brazilian GP, suggested that Ecclestone should look at Budapest. Bernie visited the city in the summer of 1983 and found support from the head of the national sporting authority Magyar Autoklub Tibor Balogh.

A Hungarian government study looked at possible street circuits - previous events had been held in the city center as early as 1936 when Tazio Nuvolari won in an Alfa Romeo - but finally decided that it was better to build a new track in Three Springs Valley, 12 miles outside Budapest close to the new motorway which linked the capital with Miskolc in the north-east of the county.

The valley was perfect, allowing architect Istvan Papp to design a track with marvelous spectating.

In February 1985, a consortium - Forma 1-GT - was formed to build the track, involving a number of Hungarian state-owned companies which each paid $250,000. The construction was completed in seven months with 500 workers busy 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The track opened in June 1986 and the first race took place in August. The first F1 World Championship event to be held behind the Iron Curtain drew an enormous crowd of almost 200,000 people. It was won by Nelson Piquet in a Williams with Ayrton Senna second. The following year the result was exactly the same, but in 1988 Senna led from start to finish.

The 1989 event was extraordinary as Nigel Mansell came through from 12th on the grid to win a race in which overtaking is virtually impossible. This was proved in 1990 when Thierry Boutsen kept a string of cars bottled up behind him to beat Senna by 0.3s.

Senna won the next two Hungarian GPs, but in August 1993 it was the turn of Damon Hill - scoring his first F1 race win. Michael Schumacher won in 1994 in his Benetton-Ford but Hill triumphed again last year. Damon thus heads to Budapest looking for a third victory - which will equal Senna's total of Hungarian GP wins...