When Max Verstappen began the Hungarian Grand Prix in tenth place, many assumed that he wouldn’t finish the race as the winner. But, after a fantastic drive from the defending world champion, he crossed the finish line ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who finished second, with more questions to answer for Ferrari.
The aim from the get-go for Verstappen and Red Bull was to make up as much ground as possible in the opening exchanges of the race, and they did so with soft tyres fitted. By the time the first round of pit stops had taken place, Verstappen had found himself in fourth, behind George Russell, who started on pole, and the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
What was unfolding in front of Verstappen was the two Ferraris chasing after their prey in the form of Russell in his Mercedes. And it was Leclerc who broke the Brit’s resolve on lap thirty-one, but with that, Verstappen decided to pit and change for a second set of mediums. A lap later, both Leclerc and Russell were called into the pits, but disaster struck as Leclerc’s Ferrari was fitted with hard tyres, and the Monegasque had no grip.
Verstappen immediately pounced but spun out, and Leclerc was back in front. However, this lead only lasted another four laps before Verstappen passed Leclerc and never looked back, controlling the race from there on in. Ferrari were left to rue their mistakes, and not for the first time, as the Hungarian Grand Prix was another opportunity for Leclerc to make up ground on Verstappen in the title race.
All seemed to be going well for Ferrari in terms of their strategy, but things quickly fell apart when hard tyres were installed during Leclerc’s second pit stop of the race. There was no grip at all, which then led to another stop with seventeen laps to go to switch to softs. But by then, it was too little too late, and Leclerc had to settle for a sixth-place finish when many thought he had the race in the bag as he approached the pits for the second time.
Leclerc’s teammate Sainz had been in and around the podium places for the most part in Hungary, with the tactic being for him to run a long middle part of the race akin to Hamilton. But, with ten laps to go, Hamilton made it past Sainz, who ended up missing out on a podium place completely after finishing in fourth.
The day, however, belonged to Red Bull and Verstappen. It’s a race they didn’t expect to win themselves, but the Dutchman’s victory now sees him extend his lead in the driver standings to eighty points as he moves closer and closer to defending his Formula 1 crown. Ferrari upsetting the apple cart now looks like a thing of the past, but much down to their own shortcomings.