Winning doesn’t get louder than 10th on the grid in Hungering.
Max Verstappen’s odds-by-odds victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix was only the fourth time in Budapest that someone started further than the front two lines. Not only was it a clear underline on Red Bull Racing’s superiority in the 2022 championship race, it was also a neat encapsulation of the entire season, as the sport dominated the mid-season break.
It featured a wildly slow then unexpectedly and inexplicably fast Mercedes that threatened to win the race but ultimately could not manage it.
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It showed Ferrari somehow faltering what should have been an unmatched pace advantage at the start of the weekend to finish the podium and denying it lacked operational acumen.
And with Red Bull Racing as its centerpiece most effectively, Verstappen seized his chances and both finished Sunday with high points.
You don’t need to look at any other races this year to understand where the championship stands and predict where it will go when racing resumes in late August after a mid-season break.
Reminder: Ferrari target one-two
There is no team that needs a mid-season break more urgently than Ferrari, which has created another way to send Red Bull Racing and Verstappen more points in an already bleak title campaign.
All this despite clearly targeting a couple of finishes a few days ago.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the team’s embarrassing defeat came mainly from the pit wall.
The slow pit stop meant that Leclerc took longer than he should have to pass pole-getter Russell, and it gave Sainz the opportunity to cross Britain.
This was followed by the fatal error of swapping Leclerc on an unsuspecting hard tire for his final stint in a haste to cover the undercutting Verstappen – despite the fact that every other car that used the tire was miserably for grip. was struggling.
Not only did it cost them the lead, but they were forced to make a third stop which left them an almost unbelievable sixth on the flag.
Ferrari protested after the race that the problem was not its strategy, but the car, which was not showing a leading edge during Friday’s practice in the cold conditions of Sunday.
“Certainly we didn’t have the performance we were hoping for,” said team boss Mattia Binotto sky game, “Whatever the tyres, somehow our cars did not perform as expected.
“The car was not behaving well today, I guess that’s the point.”
Binotto’s argument is not wrong, but he is exaggerating. The Ferrari was slower than Friday, but it was still the fastest car on the track.
We can make a similar comparison between Leclerc and Verstappen on the middle tire in the middle of the race, even accounting for the Dutchman’s old rubber, Monegasque was still faster, or at least to take him straight. was fast enough.
But the team scared itself away with Verstappen’s second undercut attempt with 32 laps to go. Instead of running at his own pace, run deep and switch to softs—which he did with Sainz—it immediately brought Leclerc to the hard tire and suffered the consequences.
“I felt very strong on the medium. Everything was under control,” Leclerc told sky game, “I don’t know why we needed to work harder.
“I said on the radio that I was very comfortable on the medium and I wanted to go on those tires as much as possible because the feeling was good. I don’t know why we took a different decision.”
So there are really two major mistakes here. One race reading is freezing under pressure, and the other mistaking the hard tyre, which the team thought would warm up after 10 laps but which was never really going to take effect. This is not the first time he has committed a foul this season.
Leclerc left Budapest a whopping 80 points short of Verstappen and Ferrari are now 97 points behind Red Bull Racing. Even more worrying is that the team is just 30 points ahead of Mercedes.
And with that kind of performance, would you be ready to put Ferrari in second place?
Max Verstappen hands over the trophy
If Charles Leclerc’s singles crash at the French Grand Prix effectively decided the title’s destination, Verstappen’s slow win in Budapest gave him a chance to get a hand on the trophy.
An 80-point advantage exceeds three clear race victories. He can now risk finishing second behind Leclerc in every race, including the sprint in Brazil, and ship the point for the fastest lap and he still won’t lose the title lead before the end of the season.
Before the mid-season break he was able to put the fate of the Drivers’ Championship entirely in his own hands. no mean feat.
After last season’s down-to-the-wire blockbuster finale, you might be intrigued to know that we can start counting down the points needed to win the championship.
With nine rounds remaining, Verstappen could go on to win the championship with just five more wins, even though Leclerc is second only to him in all of them. This keeps him on track to claim the crown at the Japanese Grand Prix.
And perhaps Verstappen is unlikely to win the next five races – he has yet to win more than three in a row this season – but with Mercedes potentially in the mix, he could have a team to take points from Ferrari and Leclerc. In which case simply finishing with one or two cars between him and Monegasque regardless of their finishing status would probably be enough to get the job done.
The weekend was not perfect. A power unit problem was part of the reason for his poor qualifying, and a clutch issue turned him around in the race, temporarily costing him the lead. After installing its third and final motor later this week, it will also need to penalize for a new power unit at some point in the second half of the year.
But the gap is easily enough to absorb that pressure, and with Leclerc needing at least one more round of power unit penalties, it is extremely difficult to imagine a scenario in which Verstappen would not have the title with at least two rounds left. wins
Mercedes unexpectedly fast but unsure of durability
Mercedes reached brace position in Budapest, seemingly justified by its weak performance on Friday, but by the end of the weekend it had collected its first pole of the year with George Russell and a second straight double podium.
Lewis Hamilton was also late on an unexpected relegation for the win, with team boss Toto Wolff saying that could have ended in success had he qualified higher up the grid instead of suffering a DRS failure in Q3.
What’s more, the Hungaroring layout should have been a struggle circuit for the car, which prefers fast tracks – Hamilton almost won at Silverstone, both drivers showed good speed in Austria before crashing out of qualifying, and the team had both. Cars found. Podium in France.
However, Wolff said that it was less a matter of not understanding the reasons for its motion in Budapest, but rather to find out whether those reasons apply universally or only to specific features of the Hungaroring.
“It’s not like we have a clue why the car is fast,” said Wolff, Pero. race,
“We had guidelines during the season where we believed it would unlock the potential of the car, and it didn’t.
“So here we have another direction, and she was very quick on the stopwatch.
“But I don’t want another false morning and we realized yesterday and the spa that it didn’t reap the benefits we were hoping for.
“In this regard, let’s wait and see where this is headed.”
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In that regard Mercedes should be disappointed to have to wait three weeks to validate its progress, although a triple-header with three different track types will be the ultimate test of its solution.
The team has long been out of championship competition, but the fate of W13 is still relevant to the title result.
Possibly now regularly worthy enough to contend for podiums and perhaps some track victories, three things will determine how well Mercedes plays out in any given weekend: how quickly Verstappen wins the title – or, if you’re extremely are optimistic, either he wins the title; where Ferrari will end up in the constructors’ standings; And will Leclerc finish second in the driver standings.
George Russell is now just 20 points behind Leclerc in the fight for second, with Hamilton 12 points ahead, and the team is now only 30 points short of Ferrari in the team title fight.
Too late for major awards, but minor placements still abound.
McLaren still in touch for fourth despite Ricciardo penalty
The fight for the best of midfield is still very much alive, with McLaren maintaining a four-point deficit to fourth-place Alpine on the constructors’ title table.
It was a better weekend for Woking, a week after introducing its major upgrade package at the French Grand Prix. Not only did Lando Norris again overtake both French cars, but this week he retained his spot despite a slow first pit stop, ensuring maximum midfield points with seventh place.
He had Alpine’s unexpected one-stop strategy to thank partly. The Alpine did not have a second set of medium tires for either driver, which burned through them during practice, and therefore had no choice but to run longer, meaning neither could challenge the leading Briton. could have given
Daniel Ricciardo was the only weak point for McLaren. The Australian was marginally off Norris’ pace through the race, but was quick enough to run behind him before the first stop, evenHe Excellent double pass around two alpine drivers battling to hold place.
But his struggle really began during his final stint on the hard tire and intensified once he was lapped, costing him precious tire temperatures every time a blue flag was waved.
The lack of grip on the white-walled tyres was also running wide behind him and in Lance Stroll on Turn 2, when he was trying to let the Canadian go, he received a five-second penalty.
This took him out of the points, allowing a brilliant drive by Sebastian Vettel to be rewarded with a point, the German escaping from that troublesome hard tyre, taking 18th place.