Max Verstappen has exited the Hungarian grand prix with an unexpected victory from the P10 ahead of two Mercedes, extending his championship lead to 80 points to give Ferrari a podium chance after another critical pit stop error.
George Russell started in his first pole position and two Ferrari early hunts hunted him as Russell stopped Carlos Sainz at Turn 1 to maintain his lead.
After an initial virtual safety car was called to wreck on the track, Russell pulled forward on the softer tyres in front of two Ferraris, with Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton following behind.
Russell pitched on lap 15, which put Sainz and Leclerc in a further two, while Verstappen is still in eighth place.
When Leclerc took the lead from Sainz pitting, the Monegasque driver moved to the middle tyres behind Russell, but soon took Russell’s Silver Arrows to lap 40, when Ferrari struck Leclerc again with a hard set. Made a significant error of erecting for. Compound tyres, a move that would backfire entirely.
Verstappen then went for an undercut, on lap 39 for his second pit stop and pitted on a new set of medium tyres, which pushed Leclerc to the hard tyres.
Verstappen fell behind on lap 41 at Leclerc as the latter moved to sixth, providing this season’s championship push in what seems like another costly error on the part of the Ferrari crew.
Under Hamilton’s leadership, Verstappen’s new set of mediums saw him pick his way through the field with Sainz, who again stood for Soft, but re-emerged in fifth place after a slow exchange.
Hamilton’s lap 52 pit stop saw Verstappen take the lead with Leclerc, Russell and Sainz running behind him, but when Hamilton resurfaced he continued to rack up fast lap times on the soft tyre.
The struggle for position behind Verstappen came to a head with Silver Arrow’s momentum as Russell and Hamilton froze in second and third respectively after an endless game of tire strategy, finally seeing a settled field.
Hamilton then reeled in Russell to finish second, as another yellow flag on lap 68 was caused by a Bettas power failure in his Alfa Romeo, his third DNF of the season.
The Virtual Safety Car finished on lap 69, and saw that with Verstappen having a 7.834 advantage over Hamilton.
“I was definitely hoping I could get closer to the podium, but there are very difficult conditions. But we had a really good strategy, we were really reactive and always stood at the right time, I think. It’s like we had some good out-laps and in the end even with the 360, we won the race!” Verstappen said of his victory.
“It was great, I was battling a lot of people, so there was a lot of fun… a crazy race and of course very happy that we won it.”
Ricciardo struggled with his tires all day, taking a five-second penalty after an earlier incident, dropping him to 15th despite crossing the line in 13th place.
Retiring superstar Sebastian Vettel will be happy to score top ten points after starting in 18th after a tough qualifying that saw him drop out in Q1.
Teams and drivers will have a lot to think about with the month-long mid-season break. It is clear that Ferrari needs to clean up its race strategies and reduce its pit stop times, while Mercedes is building up good momentum as the year develops.
F1 action will resume on 26-28 August with the Spa Grand Prix, a track Verstappen loves.
- Verstappen 1:39:35.912
- hamilton +7.834
- Russell +12.337
- Sainz. +14.579
- Perez. +15.688
- Leclerc. +16.047
- Norris. + 78.3
- Alonso. +1 lap
- Ocon. +1 lap
- Vettel. +1 lap