With a threat of rain in the air and much cooler air and track temperatures, The Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix evolved into a battle that evicted from most predictions—including my own fantasy GP picks.
Ferrari looked quick on Friday and it seemed like a track—Monaco without the barriers—that the Italian team would excel at. Come Saturday and Sunday with cooler temps, Mercedes pulled a pole position out of their hat and ended up capitalizing on Ferrari’s lack of pace and strategy errors on Sunday.
Perhaps equally surprising—and maybe not so so surprising—Max Verstappen managed to make the most of his team’s brilliant strategy calls to come from 10th place to victory followed by Lewis Hamilton and George Russell’s Mercedes leaving both Ferraris on the doorstep of the shop three steps.
A big win for Red Bull and Max Verstappen. With no help from a struggling Sergio Perez, Max had a lot of work to do given the qualifying position he was relegated to due to an MGU-K issue on his final attempt on Saturday. To recover from 10th via a strategy that put Ferrari, and to some extend Mercedes, on their back foot, Max used the undercut superbly and delivered rapid in and out laps to gain enough lead to cover an unforced error spin on lap 41 and still win.
A win for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. Sure, George Russell did the heavy lifting but he was running a different race and his strategy was defending the lead early on but this left Mercedes to cover Ferrari with Russell and cover Max with Lewis. The strategy they deployed for Lewis—which is what Ferrari should have done by running Charles Leclerc long—worked a treat and allowed Lewis to climb past his teammate and into P2 with a terrific drive. Mercedes has to be pleased with their performance gain and hoping for cool temps in the second half of the season.
A win for Lando Norris who managed to stay ahead of Fernando Alonso and keep the battle between McLaren and Alpine alive finishing P7.
Also a win for Sebastian Vettel who managed to pip his teammate, Lance Stroll, for the final point on the grid.
It’s hard not to view Ferrari’s race as a fail. Red Bull called and early stop for Max on lap 16 and Ferrari answered but they did so by fitting another set of Mediums for both cars—Sainz on lap 17 and Leclerc on lap 21—which meant, clearly, they were on a 2-stopper and everyone knew it. What was odd is that they tried to cover the undercut again on the Hard compound for Leclerc instead of at least running long on the Mediums—like Lewis did—and then change to softs for the last 15 or so laps. It may not have worked for the win but at least it would have given them a shot for the podium and kept them ahead of Mercedes who is now breathing down their neck in the constructor’s championship. Admittedly, Carlos Sainz tried that and it didn’t work out but in the end, they shouldn’t have been in that position to begin with. The late stop for Leclerc was public admission of a failed strategy call and that is not a good look for Ferrari when you are competing at this level. All personalities aside, Ferrari have to make changes to their strategy team.
A fail for Sergio Perez who looked off the boil all weekend long drawing the ire of boss Helmut Marko saying he was already on summer vacation. It’s a drop in form over the last two races and Sergio needs to pick up the pace to be able to at lease give Red Bull more strategy options at the sharp end of the grid.
A fail for Daniel Ricciardo for punting Lance Stroll after doing a great job of passing both Alpine’s on lap 29. Having both McLaren’s ahead of Alpines is what the team needed but not what he delivered.
With regards to Ferrari, I think they believed the Hard would be slower for 10 or so laps but would come into its own and since there were 30 laps left, they felt it was the right call. The reality of it is, Ferrari just lost pace in the cooler temps to Red Bull but regardless, the tire choices were not right. I think Charles Leclerc is still trying to understand the call.
Speaking of Alpine, Esteban Ocon’s focus on beating Fernando Alonso isn’t helping the team. He was very intent on keeping Alonso behind him on lap 29 that he balked the Spaniard allowing Ricciardo to pass them both. Their prime target, McLaren, was allowed by as he blocked Alonso. Not a good look.
What happened to Yuki?
Is George Russell “The type of guy who…get’s the #2 driver strategy?” Asking for a friend. To be fair to Mercedes, George was running and covering a different race from Lewis but I will say that Toto’s actions when Lewis passed George and the words he chooses to use about George’s performance would give me reason for pause if I were George. Let’s just say I would be keeping my options very open with Red Bull, McLaren or even Sauber if Audi buys them.
The Pirelli Tire Story:
- From P10 on the grid, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the Hungarian Grand Prix with a two-stop strategy, starting on the P Zero Red soft tyre and then doing two stints on the P Zero Yellow medium: the strategy we had predicted as fastest.
- The two Mercedes were second and third, each on a different run plan from each other and Verstappen, to make it three different strategies in the top three. There were different strategies all the way down the grid, with half the field starting on the medium and the other half on the soft.
- The weather made the Hungarian Grand Prix extremely complicated: the race was run in cool conditions (around 20 degrees ambient and 25 on track) with rain just before and during the final couple of laps of the race. Some strong winds also affected the aerodynamic balance.
- Pirelli now remains in Hungary for more 2023 prototype slick tyre testing, with Aston Martin and Mercedes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Hungarian GP Results:
|Pos||Name||Car||Laps||Laps Led||Total Time||Fastest Lap||Pitstops||Pts|
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||70||20||1h39m35.912s||1m22.126s||2||25|
|4||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Ferrari||70||8||+14.579s||1m22s||2||12|
|5||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull||70||0||+15.688s||1m21.94s||2||10|
|8||Fernando Alonso||Alpine-Renault||69||0||+1 lap||1m23.979s||1||4|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Alpine-Renault||69||0||+1 lap||1m24.149s||1||2|
|10||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||69||0||+1 lap||1m22.824s||2||1|
|11||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||69||0||+1 lap||1m22.437s||2||0|
|12||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri-Red Bull||69||0||+1 lap||1m23.199s||2||0|
|13||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||69||0||+1 lap||1m22.029s||2||0|
|14||Mick Schumacher||Haas-Ferrari||69||0||+1 lap||1m23.151s||2||0|
|15||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren-Mercedes||69||0||+1 lap||1m23.654s||2||0|
|16||Kevin Magnussen||Haas-Ferrari||69||0||+1 lap||1m23.511s||3||0|
|17||Alex Albon||Williams-Mercedes||69||0||+1 lap||1m23.047s||3||0|
|18||Nicholas Latifi||Williams-Mercedes||69||0||+1 lap||1m22.478s||3||0|
|19||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Red Bull||68||0||+2 laps||1m23.538s||3||0|
|Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||65||0||DNF||1m24.002s||1||0|