World champion Max Verstappen fully exploited another Ferrari flop to pull 80 points clear of Charles Leclerc in this year’s title race with an emphatic Red Bull triumph in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Just a week after his crushing win at the French Grand Prix, where Leclerc crashed out of the lead, the 24-year-old Dutchman scored his first win at the Hungaroring, his eighth this year and the 28th of his career.
Starting from 10th on the grid, after engine problems in qualifying on Saturday required a new power unit, he sliced through the field to finish 7.8 seconds ahead of Mercedes’ seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who had started from his maiden pole position.
That was despite a 360 degree spin on lap 40 from which he managed to recover from.
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“When we woke up this morning who would have thought we would win this race?” said the Dutchman.
With Russell on pole and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Leclerc second and third on the grid, pre-race forecasts made the Italian team favorites to control and win with some ease as the Red Bulls were 10th and 11th.
But a combination of poor tire management, slow pit-stops and questionable strategy saw them finish fifth and sixth, behind Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, who started 11th, after looking likely winners.
“I was hoping I could get close to a podium, but it was very tricky out there,” said Verstappen.
“But we had a really good strategy, we were really reactive, always pitting at the right time.” Hamilton, who started seventh was seeking to increase his record haul of eight Hungarian wins, registered his fifth consecutive podium and a successive second position.
“I was definitely struggling at the beginning, but bit by bit I got more comfortable with the balance,” he said.
“I had a really good start so I want to acknowledge my team. We’ve had a tough year and for both cars to be on the podium is an amazing way to go into the summer break.
“The other guys have an edge, but we are clearly closing the gap. Hopefully, we can bring some more into the second half of the season and start fighting with them.”
It was an up-and-down race for Daniel Ricciardo who executed a stunning double overtake on both Alpines and yelled “let’s f***ing go”, but had his race ruined after an incident with Lance Stroll.
Ricciardo made contact with the Aston Martin and was handed a five-second penalty for causing the collision. He also struggled with the harder tire and continued to slip down the field, eventually finishing in a lowly 15th position.
His teammate Lando Norris finished seventh.
– ‘I was confused’ –
Russell, who led for 30 laps, said he had a strong first stint, but that he struggled on the medium compound tires and lost temperature in the closing laps.
“But it’s been an amazing job by the team to have pole position and a double podium – we are definitely making progress. I am really proud of the work everyone has done.”
Both Sainz and Leclerc were disappointed by their results.
“I felt very strong and very comfortable on the mediums,” said Leclerc who led the race and looked likely to win before a pit-stop to switch unexpectedly to hard tyres.
“I wanted to stay out and I don’t know why I was called in. I was confused by that.
“I lost the race on the hard tires and I don’t know why. We need to speak about this inside the team.”
He added: “Honestly, the pace on my side, I was pretty happy, the only thing is that everybody will remember the last part of the race where it was a disaster for me, especially the hard – that’s why I lost the race basically .”
Sainz said he felt he was slower than expected.
“It is what it is,” he said. “We struggled as a team and in the lower temperatures the track changed and the car and the tires did not perform.
“We need to analyze this to see what we did wrong and, after the summer break, come back with a better package. We have to speak about it inside the team to get to do this better.” Ferrari team chief Mattia Binotto defended the team’s decisions.
“We didn’t have the performance we expected and the car was not performing well in the cooler conditions,” he said. “It’s the first time this season.
“We did not have the edge today. We believed we could do it, but it did not work out as we were expecting. Sometimes, we can make mistakes, but I fully support the team.”
HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX RESULTS
1. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) 1hr 39min 35.912sec
2. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) at 7.834sec
3. George Russell (GBR/Mercedes) 12,337
4. Carlos Sainz (ESP/Ferrari) 14,579
5. Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull) 15,688
6. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 16,047
7. Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:18.300
8. Fernando Alonso (ESP/Alpine-Renault) 1 lap
9. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine-Renault) 1 lap
10. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1 lap
11. Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1 lap
12. Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri-Red Bull) 1 lap
13. Zhou Guanyu (CHN/Alfa Romeo) 1 lap
14. Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari) 1 lap
15. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes) 1 lap
16. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas-Ferrari) 1 lap
17. Alexander Albon (THA/Williams-Mercedes) 1 lap
18. Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams-Mercedes) 1 lap
19. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri-Red Bull) 2 laps
20. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Alfa Romeo) 5 laps
Fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:21.386 on 57th lap (average speed: 260.580 km/h)
Did not finish: Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Alfa Romeo)
World championship standings (after 13 races)
1. Max Verstappen (NED) 258pts
2. Charles Leclerc (MON) 178
3. Sergio Perez (MEX) 173
4. George Russell (GBR) 158
5. Carlos Sainz (ESP) 156
6. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 146
7. Lando Norris (GBR) 76
8. Esteban Ocon (FRA) 58
9. Valtteri Bottas (END) 46
10. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 41
11. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) 22
12. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 19
13. Pierre Gasly (FRA) 16
14. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 16
15. Mick Schumacher (GER) 12
16. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) 11
17. Zhou Guanyu (CHN) 5
18. Lance Stroll (CAN) 4
19. Alexander Albon (THA) 3
20. Nicholas Latifi (CAN) 0
21. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) 0
1. Red Bull 431pts
5. McLaren-Mercedes 95
6.Alfa Romeo 51
7. Haas-Ferrari 34
8. AlphaTauri-Red Bull 27
9. Aston Martin-Mercedes 20
10. Williams-Mercedes 3