After his maiden victory in the Puszta during the Formula 1 holidays, Max Verstappen can already dream of his second World Championship triumph. On another day to forget for his closest rival Charles Leclerc and Ferrari, the Dutch world champion raced in his Red Bull from tenth on the grid to his 28th Grand Prix victory.
In what was an unusually eventful and exciting race for the Hungaroring, Leclerc, who was in the lead at times and seemed to be driving towards victory, did not even manage to finish second. There, record world champion Lewis Hamilton landed in front of his Mercedes teammate George Russell, who had started from pole.
Lerclerc, who was devastated a week ago after his retirement in France after a driving error, was unable to get past sixth place after a Scuderia tire posse. The gap of 80 points to Verstappen will also haunt him in the four-week summer break. “What a race, who would have thought it?” Said the Dutchman over the radio. His team boss Christian Horner said: “There is no better way to start a summer break.”
Sebastian Vettel was able to experience a mood lift from the German duo: After announcing his retirement at the end of the season, he finished tenth in the Aston Martin and scored a point. Mick Schumacher was 14th in the Haas.
What he had hoped for did not happen. A few drops here and there, but no rain at the start of the race. Russell defended the first pole of his career. The 24-year-old Brit immediately got pressure from behind, Leclerc first grabbed his team-mate Sainz, then the Monegasque attacked Russell. But without success. Hamilton quickly made up two places and moved up to fifth place in the second Silver Arrow, Verstappen was in seventh place after the messed up qualification with a drive defect and tenth place after the first laps – and the trend is rising, and how!
Vettel was unlucky again. After the four-time world champion announced his retirement after this season on Thursday, he was directly involved in a minor collision. After a virtual safety car phase, the 35-year-old made an honest effort to get into the points. Mick Schumacher, who had started from 15th place, also approached the top ten at first, ultimately in vain.
In the meantime, Sainz had overtaken Leclerc again and started chasing Russell. “The Ferrari strategy is always good for surprises,” said Red Bull’s motorsport director Helmut Marko before the start of the race. After the Leclerc disaster in France with his departure in the lead after a driver error, the World Cup pursuer could have used every point.
Russell would have to come in earlier with the soft cars to change tires than the two Ferraris, he couldn’t really get a lead. “I have no idea,” Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff said before the race about the possible course of events. The slippage with the softest tires also increased for Russell, behind which Leclerc gave his box to understand that he thought he was faster than teammate Sainz.
Ferrari managed it in their own way: Sainz came in right after Russell to change tires, but at 3.7 seconds it takes quite a long time. Leclerc immediately got a clear lead at the front before he also turned into the pits. Back on the track, however, Leclerc had Russell in front again, but Sainz was behind him. Then Verstappen followed. The excitement after a radio message like the day before about a defect subsided, the Dutchman was getting closer and closer to the podium. And even a win.
On lap 32, Leclerc sped past the Brit after several unsuccessful attempts. It seemed to be over. But then Red Bull tacted, brought in Verstappen for the second tire change, Ferrari followed suit, but let Leclerc use the hardest mixture in the rather cool temperatures.
Not a good idea, Verstappen passed with a class attack, but turned shortly afterwards and was behind Leclerc again. The Dutchman caught the Monegasque again a short time later without any problems. And Russell stopped by later, too. “God, that’s humiliating,” commented ex-pilot Ralf Schumacher as an expert on Sky.