It took eight months to build the track outside of Budapest, at a cost of $7.6 million at the time. The track was owned by a consortium of government-owned companies, including Malev, the national airline, and Hungarocamion, a freight company. Hungary wanted to use the race to show the world that it was open for business and to earn money from tourism from foreign spectators. Formula 1 and Bernie Ecclestone wanted the race to serve as a foothold in Eastern Europe, so that it might send the same message to Russia - which is finally scheduled to have a Formula 1 race in 2014.
Tanks at First Budapest Race
The 1986 race was attended by 200,000 people from Eastern and Western Europe. Soviet tanks were parked on the hills around the circuit and soldiers armed with semi-automatic rifles walked the streets, where Soviet-era Trabant cars were the norm. But in the following two decades, Hungary has been transformed from a Soviet satellite into a European Union nation with a market economy, its streets now filled with the Mercedes, Renaults and Ferraris represented by Formula One teams.
The Budapest race was part of a new model for Formula 1: The races were brought into or very near large cities - Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Valencia - so fans could combine tourism with race attendance.
''Everyone always enjoys visiting Budapest, which is a great city,'' said Ross Brawn, the director of the Mercedes team. ''And the Hungaroring track is a real technical challenge for both the drivers and engineers.''
The track was built on a plate-shaped landscape, where spectators have a view of practically the entire track. As a track, it turned out to be similar to the Monaco circuit, in that it is extremely difficult to overtake. Adjustments to the track in 2003 - lengthening the main straight and creating a wider first corner to facilitate passing - had little effect. Most of the races have been, like those in Monaco, processions.
''The race in Budapest is very popular, and the city and the Danube offer many opportunities for fans off the track,'' said the Red Bull driver a href="http://formula1.about.com/od/profiles/p/vettel.htm">Sebastian Vettel. ''The track itself is one of the slowest on the calendar, but as a driver you shouldn't underestimate it, as there are a lot of opportunities to make mistakes. It can be very hot and that means the track can be very demanding physically. In addition, the surface has many bumps, which shake you around a lot.''
The track has been the site of many historic races, sometimes as a result of its tight nature. In 1990, Thierry Boutsen managed to keep Ayrton Senna behind him to win the race, even though Boutsen was driving a Williams car that was much slower than Senna's world-championship-winning McLaren. In 1997, Damon Hill, then the reigning world champion, had moved to the small Arrows team. He led the race until the final lap, when his car lost power and he coasted across the line to finish in second place.
The race has also had a number of unexpected winners. In 2006, Jenson Button won his first Formula 1 race in a great drive in the wet in a Honda. And in 2008, Heikki Kovalainen took the only victory of his career, driving at McLaren Mercedes in the season when his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, won the world title.
In 1992, Nigel Mansell secured the drivers' title in Budapest by finishing second in the race. It was five races before the end of the season, a record at the time for wrapping up the title so early in the 16-race season.
The Hungary race, interestingly, has always attracted a large number of fans from Finland, a country whose language is related to Hungarian.
''I have some pretty good memories from here and I always have great support from the Finnish fans in Hungary,'' Kovalainen said. ''There's always a lot of Finns in the crowd as I think it's a bit easier for them to get to Hungary, and whenever there's Finnish fans around there's always a great atmosphere.''