Max Verstappen won the Hungarian Grand Prix, with an immense run from 10th on the grid. He and his Red Bull team pulled off an absolute coup at the Hungaroring as Ferrari were found wanting again. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell battled brilliantly in a resurgent, pacy Mercedes to claim second and third but the Scuderia’s strategy calls left drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz floundering in sixth and fourth after what had been an excellent chance to claim victory and claw back points to the Dutchman. Sergio Pérez was fifth for Red Bull.
After an afternoon that began with damage limitation the attempt, Red Bull and Verstappen delivered a remarkable run, including repeated overtakes. Verstappen won despite a major mid-race spin charging to victory over a Ferrari that had been very quick here all weekend, illustrating how badly wrong they had got their strategy, especially for Leclerc. Hamilton and Russell delivered their best race of the season to take second and third for the second race in succession as Mercedes too managed them superbly in a race that was defined by the calls from the pit wall.
Verstappen’s 28th win is his first in Hungary and his eighth this season from 13 races, a formidable return with nine still to go and a body blow to the Scuderia and particularly Leclerc’s championship hopes. His lead from him over Leclerc in the championship which was already formidable is now a chasm. He leads by 80 points, a seemingly insurmountable advantage.
Russell on pole had to defend against a charging Sainz off the start but stoutly held his place as they exited turn one, while Hamilton made a superb start jumping from seventh to fifth. Verstappen was also already on the move, up from tenth to eighth behind the two Alpines, which he swiftly dealt with, taking sixth on lap seven.
Verstappen caught Hamilton on lap 11, with the British driver being held up behind Lando Norris. Both Hamilton and Verstappen passed Norris at turn one on lap 12.
Russell’s lead remained at two seconds with both Ferraris nose to tail behind him. Sainz closed but could not bridge the gap as Russell pitted on lap 17. Ferrari then pitted Sainz, while Leclerc and Hamilton stayed out, with Leclerc needing some quick laps to pass his teammate through the stops. Hamilton stopped on lap 20 and Leclerc two laps later. As the pit stops worked through, Russell had held his lead and Leclerc had indeed jumped Sainz to claim second, while Verstappen had moved up to fourth with Hamilton in fifth.
So far so good for Ferrari. Russell had held Leclerc at just under two seconds back but on fresher rubber the Monegasque driver was within DRS range by lap 28. Leclerc attacked and Russell had to mount a determined defence, which he managed superbly. Russell was faultless as Leclerc climbed all over the back of the Mercedes until he made it stick, brilliantly late-braking on lap 31 round the outside of turn one for the lead.
The second stops were pivotal however. Verstappen stopped again on lap 39 and Leclerc and Russell pitted to cover off his stop a lap later. Ferrari opting to give the Leclerc the slowest, hard rubber. Russell emerged behind the Dutchman. Verstappen was on a charge on quicker medium rubber and as Leclerc’s tires came up to temperature he pounced to take the place a lap later but only for the briefest time. He then overcooked it into turn 13 and spun, Leclerc shooting past and Russell very nearly also doing so.
This was fast and furious stuff and the Dutchman recovered to once more take the place through turn one on lap 45. Ferrari had committed to Leclerc’s hard rubber and it proved disastrous. Verstappen threw in some relentlessly quick laps opening an eight-second lead on Leclerc, while Russell on softer tires fought back to catch the Ferrari driver and made the pass on lap 54.
Ferrari’s gamble had not paid off, the team pitted Leclerc again on lap 55, a third stop to take the soft tires but their plan was in pieces as Leclerc emerged in sixth behind Pérez against whom he could make no progress, his race in tatters.
Verstappen led from Russell, Sainz and Hamilton but Ferrari’s day only got worse with Hamilton passing Sainz for third on the straight on lap 63. Hamilton had great pace on his soft rubber, then taking Russell for second on lap 65.
Verstappen closed out for the win and Mercedes had a mighty double podium finish, while Ferrari squandered another chance.
Lando Norris was sixth for McLaren, Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon eighth and ninth for Alpine and Sebastian Vettel tenth for Aston Martin.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism