BUDAPEST, Hungary – Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen overcame a spin and his worst starting point of the season by winning the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday. His eighth win of the season put Verstappen’s lead to 80 points over Charles Leclerc as F1 approaches its mid-season break.
Even as his lead continues to increase, Verstappen is not thinking about the future.
“Obviously that’s a big plus,” he said. “But if you want to fight for the championships, you can’t afford many mistakes.”
Mercedes placed both of its cars on the podium for the second consecutive race; Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton worked his way from seventh to second, teammate and poleman George Russell was third.
Carlos Sainz Jr. finished fourth on another disastrous day for Ferrari. Leclerc was sixth, one place behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
Verstappen’s eighth win of the season was the 28th of the Dutchman’s career.
“Who would have thought that when we woke up today we would get this result? Incredible, “Verstappen told his team, making himself laugh.” I was fighting with a lot of guys and it was a lot of fun out there. It was a crazy race but (we) stayed calm and we won. “
He qualified in tenth worst place of the season due to a loss of power on Saturday, then in Sunday’s race Verstappen did a 360-degree lap.
“Incredible Max, he’s right up there with your best,” replied Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal. “Fantastic.”
Russell, who started from pole for the first time in his career, drove 30 laps until Leclerc overtook him on the outside as dark clouds rolled over the Hungaroring circuit and a light rain began to fall.
With Leclerc in the lead, Verstappen cut back for faster tires. Ferrari made a mistake in choosing the toughest hard tires for Leclerc.
“These tires are (expletive),” Leclerc said.
He later explained that he thought it was the wrong call.
“I made it clear that I wanted to keep (the medium tire) as long as possible, but we stopped very early for the hard, which we need to understand why. I think stopping for the tough was the turning point, “Leclerc said.” Before thinking about the championship, to be honest, as a team we need to understand what we need to do to improve. Because otherwise it will be really difficult. “
Moments later, Verstappen lost grip and spun, allowing Sainz to take the lead from Hamilton. Leclerc overtook Verstappen, only to lose position soon after because Verstappen had faster tires.
“The conditions were very difficult out there, but we had a really good strategy,” Verstappen said. “We were really reactive, always coming back to the pits at the right time. Even with the 360 we still won.”
Recalling the spin, Verstappen said: “I accelerated and lost the rear completely, it surprised me.”
Ferrari’s strategy problems will not go away. Leclerc saw two pinned wins disappear – at the Monaco GP and the British GP – after team calls sent him down from dominant position to fourth.
Ferrari missed Sainz’s next tire stop on lap 47, taking too long to mount its left rear tire.
“There always seems to be something going on, reliability, mistakes, whatever,” said Leclerc clearly frustrated.
Hamilton stayed out but was wasting time against Verstappen due to increased rain.
Leclerc, who crashed at the head of the French Grand Prix last week, arrived for a third tire change on lap 55.
Ferrari’s strategy also calls Verstappen confused.
“I think Ferrari chose the wrong tires in the last stint before returning to the pits,” said Verstappen. “Ferrari was very fast, they just made the wrong call with the hard tire (for Leclerc).”
Lando Norris finished seventh with McLaren, Fernando Alonso was eighth and his Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon was ninth. Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel was 10th.
Vettel, who won his four F1 titles with Red Bull from 2010 to 2013, will retire at the end of the season, at which point Verstappen may have broken his record of 13 F1 wins in a season since 2013.
After a month’s break, the season resumes with a triple header in Belgium, Holland and Italy.
“For both cars, getting on the podium is really special for us. The other guys have an advantage but we are clearly closing the gap, ”Hamilton said. “We hope to bring more in the second half of the season and start fighting with the guys in the lead.”
Russell pointed out how, not long ago, Mercedes was far behind Red Bull.
“We were finishing a minute behind, and now we’re 10 seconds behind,” he said.
Verstappen also has good reasons to welcome Mercedes’ resurgence.
“It’s good that they are competitive,” he joked. “It means they can steal more points from Ferrari.”
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly started from the pit lane after being penalized for multiple engine parts changes and finished 12th.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo showed some of his old form with a big double overtaking on Ocon and Alonso approaching mid-race, celebrating with an exuberant curse.
But Ricciardo didn’t laugh later when the Australian received a five-second penalty for cutting Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and sending him off the track. Ricciardo placed a modest 15th.