Max Verstappen delivered a stunning turnaround for the ages, clawing his way up from starting 10th on the grid to a commanding victory in the Grand Prix of Hungary.
Against all odds, Max Verstappen’s 8th win of the 2022 season was a personal triumph of superb performance, but Red Bull’s shrewd race craft powered it.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner revealed that, due to the cooler than expected race day ambient temperature, both Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez struggled to generate significant heat in the worn soft tyres used to get to the grid.
With both drivers scheduled to start the race on fresh hard tyres, Red Bull realized that the hard compound would leave both cars helpless to keep pace with the leaders.
“So we switched it right on the grid to deal with the ambient conditions and a bit of rain around and so on, and the soft tyres went much further than we’d thought,” stated Horner.
“At that point we then committed to a two-stop and went on to soft-medium-medium,” said Horner.
Red Bull felt that the correct tyre strategy, matched with Verstappen’s touch and judgment in coming through the field, was unquestionable as long as the team’s race management and strategy calls were perfect.
“I think the key moment for the race for us – well, there were several key moments – was obviously as soon as we saw Charles (Leclerc) go onto the hard tyres, I thought ‘okay, we’ve really got a chance now’.”
Leclerc had started on medium tyres, stopped for a second set of mediums and then stunned everyone when Ferrari pitted Leclerc early – his second set of mediums just 18 laps old – and put him onto hard tyres.
So tricky were those tyres to heat that Leclerc had to stop a third time for softs and fell to sixth place.
Verstappen’s searing pace on mediums increased with each lap, despite a 360-degree spin mid‑race that returned a position to Leclerc the Dutchman had just taken.
“I was struggling with the shifts and the clutch and we had to change a few things around that cost a bit of performance and it caught me out at that corner.”
Such was his pace with his tyres; the Dutchman composed himself and repassed the Monégasque.
He finished ahead of the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Russell, who produced their best performance of the year. After their second consecutive double podium, Mercedes are now just 30 points behind Ferrari, despite the W13’s prolonged teething problems.
They were in clear contrast to Ferrari and their tyre strategy that dropped both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc from leading the race to fourth and sixth.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took fifth, splitting the two Scuderia’s squad. Lando Norris pushed to take his McLaren seventh, ahead of Alpine teammates Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon. Sebastian Vettel had great pace from 18th on the grid to take score the final point in tenth ahead of Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll.
Max Verstappen now leads Leclerc by a formidable 80 points in the standings with nine rounds remaining.
George Russell captured the first pole of his F1 career on the final lap just as Red Bull endured two shocking Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying failures. Max Verstappen limped around with a power issue. He would start 10th, with team-mate Sergio Perez 11th.
While Carlos Sainz looked in control of qualifying with Charles Leclerc, unable to match his efforts, Russell delivered a flawless drive on the very last lap of Q3 to rocket Mercedes into euphoria.
Of particular note was Lando Norris, who quietly went faster in each session to qualify fourth to confirm McLaren’s improved pace.
With Leclerc starting third behind team-mate Carlos Sainz and Mercedes’ surprise pole-sitter George Russell, Ferrari looked likely for the win and to eat into Red Bull’s advantage.
Russell had a perfect launch at lights out, but “newly aggressive” Carlos Sainz slipstreamed him into the first corner. The Spaniard drove around the outside of Turn 1, momentarily taking the lead only to have Russell squeeze him to the outside. Sainz backed out, returning Russell to the lead into Turn 3! Hamilton burst up into fifth, making up two spots.
Meanwhile, Stroll had an incident at the rear of the pack. The Virtual Safety Car was deployed to clear debris. Verstappen was up to 8th place from 10th.
The race resumed on Lap 4, with Sainz setting the fastest lap. Alonso was loose on the exit of Turn 3, and Verstappen seized 7th place.
Verstappen claimed sixth on Lap 10, 2.5 seconds behind Hamilton and 10 seconds behind race leader Russell. However, all was not perfect, as the Dutchman’s engineers told him to use the “fail 20” setting on his steering wheel. He momentarily dropped 1.5s further behind Hamilton.
As the first pit stop windows approached, Verstappen ran fifth while Hamilton moved into fourth.
Neither Ferrari could find a way past Russell through the first stint, and he pre-empted the undercut with an early stop on Lap 16. Verstappen stopped two laps later.
Sainz responded, but his slow stop kept him behind Russell. Worse, Leclerc waited until Lap 22 for mediums tyres and overcut his way into second, dropping the Spaniard to third, 2.6s behind Russell.
Leclerc and Sainz would need to stop again. Russell was free as he had used two compounds of tyres, but his mediums would be unmanageable by the end of the race.
At half-distance on Lap 35, Verstappen had closed to just 1.5s behind Leclerc when the script for the race changed.
Verstappen pitted on Lap 38 for mediums and rejoined in sixth. Within moments, the Dutchman punched in the fastest times in sectors two and three to pass Russell for fifth. A lap later, Ferrari pitted Leclerc for hard tyres as Russell stopped for mediums.
By Lap 41, Verstappen was flying. He closed on Leclerc, got DRS on the pit straight and took the inside line, later on the brakes, as the crowd erupted. Leclerc squeezed him right to the outside of the track, but Verstappen was committed and took the place.
The Dutchman spun 360 degrees a lap later, losing the rear end exiting the final corner. He recovered but gave the place to Leclerc.
By Lap 45, Verstappen’s again within DRS range to Leclerc on the pit straight. The Dutchman went deep on the outside at the first corner, then optimised his exit, switching to the inside line for Turn 2. He was back into third.
Sainz stopped first on Lap 48 for softs to cover Hamilton, who stopped for softs on Lap 52. The Brit dropped to net fourth but made quick work of the slower Sainz before beating teammate Russell in an intense duel for second.
Leclerc trailed Verstappen by a full seven seconds on Lap 53.
” These tyres are **,” Leclerc reported soon after. The Monegasque stopped for softs on Lap 56 and rejoined in sixth place, 33.0sec behind the Dutchman.
A sudden increase of rain and a last-minute virtual safety car occurred when Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas power unit made the Finn the race’s only retirement.
Verstappen cruised to the finish line once the green flag returned and ended up winning the race just over ten seconds ahead of Hamilton.