The 1.7-kilometre stretch between Deák tér (square) and Parliament was set up as an improvised Formula 1 racetrack on Tuesday afternoon to give Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Jenson Button the chance to show off his skills in the Budapest city centre, rather than at the Hungaroring as on several occasions in the past. “I’m always happy to come to Budapest because I won my first Grand Prix at Hungaroring and finished first last year as well,” Button said, noting that it was amazing so many braved the heat to watch.
Despite very limited opportunities compared to normal circuits, he managed a maximum speed of 260 km/h at some points. He thrilled the audience, standing just a few metres away and with tyre-smoking performances (pictured) at either end of the circuit.
The roar of the race car, amplified by the buildings on either side of the street to ear-splitting levels, could be felt by all of the roughly 100,000 people watching.
To make the construction of the racetrack worthwhile and to give the audience something to see between Button’s displays, the organisers also invited several Hungarian racers to perform, including the country’s two entrants in the touring car championship, Norbert Michelisz and Gábor Wéber, motorbike racer and world champion Gábor Talmácsi and Dakar Rally competitors Balázs Szalay and György Aschenbrenner.
The grand prix afternoon opened by Vodafone Hungary CEO Diego Massidda was part of a complete Vodafone long weekend campaign under the slogan “Start something new!”. For four days the telcoms firm offered a wide range of entertainment, mainly on Erzsébet tér in front of the Kempinski, from games of skill for children to concerts.
“The programmes are designed to celebrate the successful completion of our network modernisation together with Hungary,” Massidda said. “The excellent quality and speed of the new network is perfectly symbolised by today’s star guest.”
Racing this weekend
Besides Formula-1 driver Jenson Button, the two Hungarian World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) stars – Norbert Michelisz and Gábor Wéber – showed up at the makeshift track to promote this Sunday’s race at Hungaroring. Tickets to the two-day event cost HUF 3,000 (EUR 10.50) and are valid for both Saturday (practice) and Sunday (races). Seats are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis. WTCC events have two races of the same number of laps, the first with a rolling start, the second with a standing start.