On this day… 1st January
The 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix was notable in hindsight because it was the maiden victory of a certain Fernando Alonso who at the time was the youngest ever F1 race winner at the tender age of 22. This record was beaten by Sebastian Vettel and at the 2016 Spanish GP well and truly smashed by Max Verstappen!.
Probably more important for Hungarians, their home GP that year saw a 22 year old called Zsolt Baumgartner – born on this day – became the first Hungarian to enter a Formula One World Championship Grand Prix.
Zsolt had spent some time in F3000 without ever troubling the podium, then almost out of the blue arrived the opportunity came to drive the Jordan car at his home Grand Prix. Jordan regular driver, Ralph Firman, had suffered a big off in practice from a failed front wing, which handed Baumgartner his chance for qualifying on Saturday.
The short notice of the promotion appeared to phase Baumgartner, who was a shocking 3 seconds slower in qualy than team mate Giancarlo Fisichella. Suffering an engine failure in the race, Baumgartner’s big day ended as a damp squib but next time out in Italy he finished a respectable P11. Firman returned to Jordan for the final two events of the season.
Baumgartner’s outings with the Jordan team proved not to be without merit as the Hungarian found himself driving for Minardi the following year. He even managed to score a world championship point for the perennial back marker outfit, bringing the car home 8th – from 8 finishers – although 3 laps down. Zsolt lost his drive with Minardi the following year, and disappeared off the Formula One radar, like so many drivers before him.
Yet Zsolt Baumgartner’s followed in the footsteps of countryman Ferenc Szisz, who driving for Renault won the first French Grand Prix in 1906 for Renault (a race considered to be the first Grand Prix!).
There is little news of what happened to Zsolt after he went testing in Indycar in 2007 and drove for Totenham Hotspur in the 2008 Superleague Formula.