Hungary’s Balaton Park has a fair claim to be the first new top level purpose-built motorsport track in Europe for 15 years. Sky Sports News reporter Craig Slater explains why it has little prospect of hosting Formula 1 any time soon.
By Craig Slater – Reporter, Sky Sports News
Last Updated: 20/05/23 6:55pm
Over the last few years I’ve reported on a number of circuits racing to be ready in time with a Grand Prix only weeks away. It was rather “man bites dog” in news terms to see a big, fully complete, spanking new circuit open without any prospect of hosting a Formula 1 race.
That’s Balaton Park in Hungary which has a fair claim to be the first new top level purpose-built track in Europe for 15 years.
It cost €200m, is designed to accommodate 130,000 spectators and even had a former Grand Prix winner, Giancarlo Fisichella, on hand to drive its first laps.
But let’s be clear, F1 is not in Balaton Park’s sights, nor does F1 plan to go there.
Hungary’s F1 slot at the Hungaroring is secure for years to come – as I understand it – for at least the next decade. It has a long-term deal and there’s an appetite on both sides to extend it significantly further.
Big renovations are planned for the slightly ageing facilities. Most importantly relations between its promoter and F1 are excellent and its proximity to Budapest is seen as a major plus.
Balaton Park, situated next to the nation’s biggest lake, has a different kind of vibe. That part of Hungary is not so well known in Britain but for central Europeans it’s a major summer destination. Lake Balaton has a 200km shoreline and average summer water temperatures of 25 degrees. There are elegant late Habsburg era resort towns which – getting back to motorsport – seemed to have charmed the individual ultimately responsible for a building a racing circuit there.
Step forward Chanoch Nissany, a remarkable person by any standards. A property developer working in Hungary at the turn of the millennium he visited the Hungaroring’s F1 race in 2001 and at the age of 38 decided he would become an F1 driver.
That he drove the Minardi in an official free practice session at the very same circuit four years later is a testament to his own driven nature. That episode is a story in itself.
NIssany heads up this fully privately funded venture. His son Roy, an F2 driver, still on the Williams development roster, is also heavily involved. Nissany senior has overseen major hotel and resort developments in the area. Balaton Park then appears something that can be built gradually as part of the leisure infrastructure without the short-term need to host major one off events.
A host of Budapest bigwigs tried out in Porsches on launch day. The circuit’s first major event will be Porsche’s ‘Festival of Dreams’ next month. Might MotoGP be an option?
The series looked at a Hungarian leg two years ago. There was the proposal to build a track for it in the Balaton region in 2010.
As for F1… “We are not looking to challenge the Hungaroring. F1 in Hungary is there,” Balaton director Gianpaolo Matteucci (and Fisichella’s long-time manager) told me.
That’s right, but might Nissany’s long-time desire to be part of F1, be instructive in that regard?
Sky Sports F1’s live Monaco GP schedule
Thursday May 25
11.25am: F3 Practice
12.55pm: F2 Practice
2pm: Drivers’ Press Conference
Friday May 26
10.05am: F3 Qualifying
12pm: Monaco GP Practice One (session starts 12.30pm)
2.05pm: F2 Qualifying
3.45pm: Monaco GP Practice Two (session starts 4pm)
5.30pm: The F1 Show: Monaco
Saturday May 27
9.55am: F3 Sprint
11.15am: Monaco GP Practice Three (session starts 11.30am)
1.30pm: F2 Sprint
2:30pm: Monaco GP Qualifying build-up
3pm: Monaco GP Qualifying
4.45pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
Sunday May 28
7.15am: F3 Feature Race
8.45am: F2 Feature Race
12.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday Monaco GP build-up
2pm: THE MONACO GRAND PRIX
4pm: Chequered Flag Monaco GP reaction
5pm: Ted’s Notebook
5.30pm: The 107th Indy 500
Formula 1 now heads to the streets of Monaco for the sixth Grand Prix of the 2023 season – watch all the action on Sky Sports F1 from May 26-28. Get Sky Sports