's team in the F1 paddock brings you a more irreverent view of the sport and the stories bubbling away during the Hungarian Grand Prix

Is old Hungary F1's new recipe for success?

Tight, twisty, dusty and difficult to overtake on, the Hungaroring was met with a rather lukewarm response when it made its F1 debut in 1986, a stark contrast to the scorching weather it would become synonymous with nearly every year thereafter.

The first grand prix to be held behind the Iron Curtain, whilst communism and the Trabants may have been long expunged from the country, the event has quietly racked up 30 races to become one of the series' longest-serving consecutive events.

On face value, it's perhaps surprising Hungary - once regularly described as Monaco without the walls - has avoided the axe when others have dropped off the calendar. The facilities are dated, the grandstands could use a lick of paint and the layout itself has undergone only one upgrade in those three decades. Next to the Yas Marinas, COTAs and Marina Bays of this world, the Hungaroring brings the retro chic to the F1 calendar... not that it is particularly crying out for it.

However, though age hasn't necessarily been kind to the venue itself, its reputation in the paddock has arguably matured favourably over time.

Bizarrely, as a circuit that became infamous for 'beating' Ayrton Senna when not even he could hustle his McLaren past the considerably slower Thierry Boutsen in the 1990 edition of the race, it has since played host to some classics of recent times, not least this year's event.

So how has the Hungaroring evolved from much maligned exponent for processional races to the scene of memorable moments with barely any intervention?

Part of it is down to the drivers themselves. They still refer to its twisting nature, but it is now more in the context of its physical challenge, while Budapest has won many fans since evolving from Eastern European oddity to tourism hotspot to the point that few will bother denying they won't be celebrating the start of the summer break with a few bevvies come Sunday evening (well, apart from Max Verstappen of course...).

The growing fondness for the Hungaroring is also partially explained by F1's transition to pristine, spacious and purpose-built arenas in recent years. The introduction of DRS means overtaking is now possible at the Hungaroring, yet it remains small enough to make passing more of a challenge than at the larger venues... you only need to look at the myriad of turn one out-brakes and clashes to see that DRS doesn't always have to take the challenge out of passing.

Indeed, it seems F1 has actually grown into the Hungaroring to the point that new venues could perhaps take a tip or two from it... few would have expected anyone to say that a decade ago.

So, while the cracks and ageing relics aren't hard to find here (there are still booths for the journalists to phone their stories to the news desk!), in the face of some soulless new additions, the Hungaroring has inherited a nostalgic status, albeit mostly via a process of elimination as others fall by the wayside.

That said, change is seemingly on the horizon. Its current deal ends in 2016, but a 10 year extension is on the table with the caveat of state funding that will be used to revamp the circuit. Yet, such maturing fondness has prompted teams to urge bosses not to tamper too much with the formula, the once frustrating high kerbs, winding bends and dustbowl, now regarded as 'characterful'.

"Leave it alone, it's great," says Christian Horner. "It's a fun circuit, it's a different type of circuit and I think it always produces, for whatever reason, good races here. So, I think all the drivers enjoy racing here, it's a great city, a fun city to come to and visit."

"It's got a lot of character, the fans seem to love it, you can get in and out, which is a bonus," added Pirelli's Paul Hembery. "The city itself is very welcoming - so there isn't a lot really wrong. I think if it's carrying on, most people are going to be very happy."

Granted, praise isn't unanimous and it's admittedly strange that Hungary never seems in doubt despite its foibles and lack of a history or motor racing culture (Bernie has complained about less in other countries), but as time goes by and more bits fall off, the love for the Hungaroring only continues to grow.

The politics of politics

Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost didn't exactly endear himself to the media in the paddock this week when he declared his distinct lack of concern for both the prospect of more iconic races being axed from the schedule in favour of those able to wave a bigger carrot in front of the commercial rights holder and worries over press freedom when F1 visits Azerbaijan in 2016.

Indeed, whilst no-one is (yet) holding up placards in the paddock to argue against the decision to take F1 to Azerbaijan, there is certainly a simmering discontent behind the scenes about the event now it has been formally included on the provisional schedule and it will only continue to bubble up as the date nears.

Whilst its human rights record has already raised questions, the refusal to give visas to a selection of journalists - working for publications critical of Azerbaijan's regime - during the recent European Games has inevitably piqued the interest of the media as it prepares to present itself on its most international platform yet.

However, Tost's blunt assessment of the situation garnered some furrowed brows when he declared to assembled media 'I don't care about this. We go there, we race there and that's it. It's your problem how you get the visa'.

F1 and politics have often been uneasy bedfellows as disputes in Bahrain, China and Russia have shown in the past, but whilst the show does generally go on, taking F1 to Azerbaijan once again begs the question of whether the sport needs to start showing a greater social conscience.

Naturally, the media will always be the first to ask this question, but it's only really when the teams begin asking such a question that the powers will listen to it. However, Tost's blinkered dismissal that it is 'our' problem revealed that not only are we not on the same page, we aren't even in the same library.

"If we will be put into a corner to say, OK, we should not go into a country where maybe the press freedom is not at a certain level or any other issues, then I don't know where we go racing."

With F1 increasingly erring to the highest bidder, the sport has veered more towards those with a desire to use it as a platform for promotion first and foremost. Whereas Monza, Hockenheim and Silverstone have earned their place in history, the likes of Bahrain, Russia and now Azerbaijan purchased theirs as a means of promoting itself to the wider world, so for Tost to suggest F1 is not a political tool shows a startling lack of understanding of F1's evolution from a sport to a business.

Granted, teams must have confidence in the commercial rights holders to ensure it has its best interests at heart and it's unlikely we will see F1 visiting North Korea or Syria for the sake of it - as someone asked only part-jokingly last year. However, even Azerbaijan will probably be the first to admit that this is the ultimate vanity project, the rights of which can be bought relatively easily at a high price and be used to beam across millions around the world on an annual basis. Only the more spaciously scheduled World Cup and the Olympic Games offer greater sporting exposure globally, and Azerbaijan has audaciously applied for the latter three times without any luck (yet).

Naturally, the media will always find the contrary angle if it is out there - because that is what we are paid to do - and not pander to the party line, but though teams have a right to inevitably put their trust in the commercial rights holder, Tost's 'uncaring' attitude willing to wholly delegate its social conscience leaves an uneasy feeling...

Ciao Jules Bianchi

What did we learn at the Hungarian Grand Prix this week? We learned that in face of tragedy, Formula 1 is first and foremost a community. Whatever team shirt you are wearing, whomever you work for, F1 is family.

Jules Bianchi was never far from the minds of anyone here in Hungary this week, his death striking F1 at its heart. In a sport that is riddled with division, either by rivalries or politics, as the drivers embraced one another during a poignant minute's silence, the moment of pure unity left lumps in many a throat.

Celebrating his memory with a modern classic of a race unexpectedly won by the team he was being primed to join couldn't have been more fitting, and evoked memories of Ferrari's shock 1-2 result in the 1988 Italian Grand Prix against the might of McLaren in the days after Enzo Ferrari's death.

As F1 heads into the summer break to mourn, reflect and look ahead, F1 may have said 'Ciao Jules' this weekend, but his memory will forever live on as a uniting force.



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