The apron in front of Terminal 1 and the GAT, the terminal handling private and business jets, was unusually busy at Budapest Airport today. Nearly all of the Formula 1 drivers, crews and team members have already arrived, in advance of the free practice sessions tomorrow. Whilst the racing cars and most of the pit lane equipment is transported to Mogyoród by truck, the drivers, their family members and team leaders arrive by private jets. With real Italian grandezza, the Ferrari team rented an Airbus A 321 with nearly 200 seats for the occasion.
Nearly every year the Formula1 weekend is the busiest Saturday and Sunday for Budapest Airport, not only because of the large number of foreign fans arriving for the race, but also because of the private jets of the teams, their escorts, sponsors and rich Formula 1 fanatics. Budapest Airport’s airside operations specialists established no less than five separate parking areas for general aviation traffic on the concrete this week, to make sure that there is sufficient space for all the aircraft to park and then depart seamlessly. Some of the drivers do not even leave the airport, but, upon arrival, transfer from their business jets straight into rented helicopters, which depart from the helicopter landing area near runway I for Mogyoród. A temporary heliport able to accommodate three helicopters at a time has been established for this weekend.
“Over the past three decades, we have had the opportunity to establish the best and most efficient ways of handling the Formula 1-related air traffic, offering solutions which satisfy the often very diverse needs of participants. Still, every year brings a few surprises and unexpected situations, which we have to handle with flexibility,” said Péter Huszka, chief operations officer for Budapest Airport. “The busiest period for us is Sunday afternoon, when the helicopters bring the drivers, team leaders and VIP fans back to the airport from Mogyoród immediately after the race, and approximately thirty aircraft depart in the space of two hours, whilst the airport must handle the regular summer peak traffic as well,” he added.
McLaren-Mercedes driver Jenson Button arrived in Budapest this morning, and quickly signed a few autographs for his fans, who had been waiting since the early hours. Finnish Ferrari driver Kimi Raikönnen stepped out of the team’s private jet wearing dark-colored clothes and sunglasses. He waived to his supporters gathered in front of the GAT, and immediately disappeared inside an SUV with tinted windows. All of the drivers arrived in Budapest using the General Aviation Terminal.