Hungarian Grand Prix – After getting ahead at T1, Max Verstappen was unchallenged as he brought Red Bull to a new record of 12 consecutive wins for a team
There was nothing in it between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen for pole yesterday in the first trial of the Alternate Tyre Allocation qualifying session – where hard tyres must be used for Q1, mediums for Q2, and softs for Q3 – and it ended with the Mercedes driver taking P1 by 0.003 seconds to take his first pole, and first front row, since the end of 2021.
The medium compound were the most popular choice, nine of the top ten starting on them, Sergio Perez P9 and George Russell P18 took the hards while Carlos Sainz P11, Lance Stroll P14, Pierre Gasly P15, Yuki Tsunoda P17 opted for the softs.
At the start Verstappen went side-by-side with Hamilton on the run to T1 but it was the Dutch driver who emerged in front while the Mercedes racer fell back to P4 behind the two McLarens, Oscar Piastri having gotten the better of Lando Norris to jump up to P2.
It was a disastrous start for Alpine though, both Esteban Ocon and Gasly retiring in the first couple of laps. Zhou Guanyu, who’d had a terrible get away from P5, went into the back of Daniel Ricciardo on the run to T1, that pushed the AlphaTauri into the rear of Ocon which threw him out of shape and into Gasly, who had moved up alongside him.
Gasly pitted and retired at the end of the opening lap while Ocon managed another lap before having to throw in the towel. Zhou was given a five second penalty for the incident. Ferrari meanwhile had a better time of it, Charles Leclerc moving up to P5 as Zhou fell back while the soft tyres helped Sainz get into P6 in the first few corners.
At the front, Verstappen had opened the gap to Piastri to three seconds by lap 10. While Sainz initially had the pace on his teammate, the softs couldn’t hang on as long as the mediums and on lap 15 the Spaniard telling his team that if Perez, who’d caught up to him, looked like he was about to overtake then the Ferrari driver would pit. He did so at the end of the lap and rejoined in P11 on hards
The following lap Hamilton made his own move to fresh tyres, the Brit also putting on hards and emerging in P8 just ahead of Ricciardo. That move meant McLaren had to respond to avoid being undercut so Norris put in a quick in lap before he headed to the pits and got out two spots ahead of Hamilton in P5.
While McLaren had a very nice 2.3 second stop, things went wrong with Ferrari for Leclerc when a wheel gun failed which meant the car was stationary for 9.4 seconds meaning he rejoined the race a couple of places, about four seconds, behind Sainz.
After a quick in lap, Norris kept pushing on his out lap and was able to undercut his teammate. Despite a 2 second stop for Piastri, the Brit just made it to T1 before the Australian and took P4, behind the Red Bulls and Fernando Alonso who were still to pit.
The end of lap 23 saw Verstappen head to the pits for hards, and he remained in P1 after the stop, coming out still over two seconds ahead of Perez. The Mexican took his own stop at the next opportunity and he was able to split the Ferraris in P7 after switching his hards out for mediums.
As Perez pitted, Russell allowed Hamilton through to P4, the younger Mercedes driver still on the hards he’d started with after starting well back in P18 after getting caught in traffic at the end of Q1.
Lap 27 saw Perez put the other Ferrari behind him too, the Red Bull driver muscling past Sainz at T1 and, with Russell just ahead, it only took the Mexican just over a lap to slip down the inside and demote the Mercedes, despite his best efforts.
Russell pitted at the end of that lap, putting on mediums and making his way back into the race in P14, just behind the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg. The Brit was one of the fastest drivers on track after that and by the halfway point of the race he was back in the points in P9.
While Verstappen was once again in a league of his own out front, the main focus was the fight for P3. Hamilton was closing in on Piastri while Perez was closing in on the Mercedes driver. The Red Bull racer made it into DRS range on lap 40 just after Hamilton had been told to lift and coast in order to manage his engine temperature.
The next few laps saw lap 43 had both Piastri and Perez pit to put on mediums and rejoin in P6 and P7, the Mexican just a second and a half behind the Australian driver after a slightly slower stop for the McLaren driver, a 2.8, while Red Bull pulled out a 1.9 one for Perez.
Norris made his final stop the next lap, also putting on mediums, and he emerged in P3, eight seconds behind Hamilton. At the same time Ferrari brought Leclerc in and that allowed him to undercut Sainz after they’d both stopped for the final time. However Leclerc was investigated for speeding in the pit lane and then handed a five second time penalty.
Hamilton was told to pick up the pace before his stop but the eight time champion had to disappoint them and let them know that there was nothing else he could give. Norris had closed right up to him but was saved the effort of passing when Mercedes called him in to go back to the medium compound.
Perez got ahead of Piastri on lap 48, the McLaren driver tried to fight back but ended up on the grass and the Red Bull racer kept the place. The stewards did look into it but decided that there was no reason for them to get involved and it was just a racing incident.
Verstappen was once again untroubled when he made his stop, also switching back to the mediums and making it back out on track with a twelve second gap to Norris in P2. Behind the McLaren racer though, Perez was lapping quicker and closing the gap between them. He wasn’t the only McLaren under pressure though, Hamilton had closed up to and also managed to get the better of Piastri for P4 on lap 57.
Perez was helped to slash the gap by traffic, Norris losing a good bit of time behind Tsunoda but by the time they both got through the group of backmarkers, the Mexican had lost his earlier pace and there was just less than four seconds between them with six laps left.
Around the same time Russell had managed to get into P7, ahead of Sainz and was closing on Leclerc but all he’d need would be to get within five seconds as the Monegasque did have a time penalty to be added at the chequered flag.
Verstappen took the win 33 seconds ahead of Norris to take the record of most consecutive victories from 11 races, which McLaren had been on since 1988 and Red Bull joined them on last time out at Silverstone, to a new high of 12 and counting for Red Bull alone. The Dutch driver also took the fastest lap point with a 1:20.504.
While Perez’ run on Norris was derailed by the backmarkers, he was the one in the target for the last few laps as Hamilton tried to make it back to the podium but in the end it remained as a double Red Bull podium to celebrate their achievement.
Piastri took P5, 23 seconds behind Hamilton. While Russell got very close to Leclerc, he didn’t make the pass on track but the Ferrari driver’s time penalty dropped him behind the Brit in the classification. Sainz ended P8 while the Aston Martins took the final points places with Alonso in P9 the last driver on the lead lap.