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F1 Review: Max Verstappen Blows by Lewis Hamilton, Blows Away Field at Hungary

Max Verstappen, starting second, took the lead at the start, muscling past pole sitter Lewis Hamilton at turn 1, then took off, dominating the Qatar Airways Hungarian Grand Prix, with Lando Norris a distant second. Verstappen lapped all but eight cars in winning his seventh consecutive race, ninth of the season and 44th of his career. Red Bull also claimed its twelfth consecutive victory, breaking McLaren’s record of 11 from 1988.

Norris took second, while Sergio Perez brilliantly charged from ninth to join his Red Bull teammate on the podium. Hamilton scored a solid, albeit disappointing fourth, followed by Oscar Piastri, who, along with Norris, gave McLaren their second consecutive huge points day. George Russell, who started 18th after a Mercedes team gaffe saddled him with the low starting position, finished sixth, followed by the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll closed out the points positions at ninth and 10th, respectively. 

“We had a really good start,” Verstappen said. “From there onwards, I could do my race, and today my car was really quick.

“I think over one lap this weekend was a bit of a struggle, but it was probably a good thing for today. The car was good on any tire. We could look after the tire wear – that’s why we could create such a big gap.”

“For the team, 12 wins in a row is just incredible. What we’ve been going through the last few years is unbelievable. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going for a long time.”

Red Bull extended their massive leads in both the drivers and constructors standings. 

Verstappen now leads Perez 281 to 171 in the drivers standings, while Alonso holds third with 139, with Hamilton just six points behind and closing with 133 points.

In the constructor standings, Red Bull added 22 points to their lead over Mercedes and are up 451 to 223. Aston Martin sits third with 184.

See also
Max Verstappen Scores Win No. 12 In A Row For Red Bull Racing

The Race

Hamilton got off decently at lights out, but Verstappen launched better and took the lead into turn 1, while Piastri and Norris slipped by a stunned Hamilton, whose pole position was quickly rendered moot. Sainz, on soft tires, picked up five spots.

More action came at the rear when Zhou Guanyou hit Ricciardo, forcing him into Ocon, who then bounced into his teammate Gasly. With that, both Alpines were out, suffering their third double DNF of the season after failing to deliver a lap at race pace. Zhou endured a five-second penalty for causing the crash.

Verstappen opened up a two-second lead by lap 6, and as has so often been the case, it looked like Verstappen was well on his way to the win. Behind him, though, the battle for the other two spots on the podium looked competitive, with Hamilton, in fourth, sandwiched between the two McLarens and the two Ferraris, and Perez looming. The cars appeared fairly equal in speed, meaning tire management would likely be the deciding factor.

The aforementioned Perez, who started on hard tires, got by Alonso on lap 8 for sixth but had work to do if he wanted to even think about a podium.

Verstappen’s lead was over four seconds by lap 12, and it looked like Red Bull’s upgrades for Hungary were paying dividends. 

Zhou pitted for hard tires on lap 12, and immediately set the fastest lap, a clear indication of the importance of fresh tires, no matter what compound, on Hungary’s warm track.

Norris dove in a lap later for hard tires, and achieved his goal of staying ahead of Hamilton. At the other end of the spectrum, a terrible nine-second pit stop for Leclerc dropped him down to 11th and probably uttered what has nearly officially become the Ferrari motto: “Here we go again.” 

Piastri pitted on lap 18, and came out behind Norris, whose undercut worked to perfection.

Up front, Verstappen’s lead was 22 seconds on lap 20, a gap that would certainly ensure he maintained his lead when he did decide to pit, and also opened up his tire selection options considerably. Still yet to pit, Perez was in second, and squeezing every bit of life from his hard tires, making a two-stop strategy a distinct possibility.   

Perez opted for mediums when he pitted on lap 24 and emerged in seventh, and was the lone driver on mediums. He quickly picked off Sainz and Russell, then began his attack on Hamilton, who was well ahead, but on hard tires and managing an engine temperature issue. 

Perez set a series of fastest laps in his pursuit of Hamilton, and trimmed the gap to under four seconds by lap 32. Perez began delivering yet another performance which he had to wonder what might have been had he not had such a subpar qualifying effort.

Verstappen continued to build his lead, and although the race was only at the midway point, the killer instinct of the Dutchman was probably already considering a late pit stop for soft tires and an extra point for the fastest lap.

Perez was on Hamilton’s tail and into DRS range on lap 39. Hamilton was forced to lift and coast to cool his engine, but defended well and held the position until Perez pitted on lap 43 for another set of mediums. A blazing 1.9 second stop brought him out in seventh behind Piastri, who pitted at the same time. A podium for Perez was becoming more and more likely.

 Leclerc earned a five-second penalty for speeding on pit lane, as the Ferrari mistakes continued.

Perez was hot in pursuit of Piastri and got by the McLaren on lap 47 as Piastri put two tires in the grass battling for the position. Perez slotted into fourth and assumed third when Hamilton finally pitted on lap 50. Hamilton returned in fifth, well ahead of Leclerc and Sainz, but a disappointing finish loomed considering he started on pole.

Barring a safety car or unexpected retirement, the podium seemed set, with Norris and Perez holding huge leads in second and third, respectively.  

Hamilton overtook Piastri for fourth on lap 57, which was surely little consolation for the Mercedes icon.  

Christian Horner checked in with Verstappen on lap 61, presumably to make sure Max was still awake. He was, entertaining himself by continuing to lap cars. 

Russell added some late drama by overtaking Sainz for seventh and was likely in line for sixth once Leclerc’s five-second penalty was enforced. Hamilton closed to within two seconds on Perez and was charging, but ran out of laps.

Verstappen crossed the finish line over 32 seconds ahead of Norris and left only eight other cars on the lead lap. Verstappen also managed to score the fastest lap. 

The Good

Maybe this is the Sergio Perez we should expect and appreciate more: the driver who falters in qualifying, starts back in the field, and with the pressure to keep up with Verstappen off, offers up a masterful drive to score a podium or near-podium finish. 

Perez started on hard tires, and managed them well, then picked off his rivals while deftly utilizing two sets of medium tires. If Perez could qualify where he should – first or second – he would likely be the only driver that poses any sort of threat to Verstappen.  

McLaren has established itself as currently the biggest threat to Red Bull, and by “biggest,” I mean the “biggest” of several small things, with two consecutive strong race results. Norris and Piastri look like threats to finish top 6 at every race now. 

Honorable mention: Max Verstappen. It seems ludicrous to list Verstappen, who’s won nine races this year and effectively clinched the world championship, under “Honorable Mention,” but I’m just trying to keep Verstappen humble. Someone’s gotta do it because none of the other 19 drivers on the grid have taken any interest in doing so.

I don’t think anyone doubted that Verstappen would win at Hungary. But many thought he might have to spend a few laps behind Hamilton before he inevitably passed his rival and nemesis and pulled away. But Verstappen took care of business early, charging by Hamilton at the start, and took all the drama out of the race. Verstappen consistently removes drama from races.  He is on the precipice of removing drama from the 2023 season, with 2024 in his sights.

See also
Slipstream Saturdays: Playing With Some Silly Season Dominoes

The Bad

Zhou Guanyou hit Daniel Ricciardo and sent him careening into Esteban Ocon, who then ran into Pierre Gasly. Zhou is in the “Bad” column partly for causing the crash but mostly for putting himself in the position to cause that accident. Zhou qualified fifth, a career-best, but got off to a horrendous start at lights out, practically stalling on the grid. By the time he was up to speed, he was in the back of the pack. If you qualify fifth, which is at the front, and then trigger an accident at the back, seconds into the race, you screwed up big time. 

Zhou was given a five-second penalty for causing an accident, which, to me, sounds like he got off pretty easy.

Ferrari: Sainz and Leclerc finished seventh and eighth, respectively. Not terrible, but both were over a minute behind Verstappen. That should be unacceptable to a team with such a storied team with a name synonymous with “speed.”

It seems Ferrari has now become synonymous with “drivers who are never happy with their strategy,” “a team that never seems to know what the right strategy is,” “contentious radio communications between driver and team,” and “9.5 second pit stops.”

The trophy for the race winner: Is that a vase, or a very large urn, possibly used to literally hold the remains of a very large person, or figuratively hold the ashes of any driver who dared think he’d challenge Verstappen this year? Anyway, records are made to be broken, and so are trophies like that.

 The Disappointing

Hamilton’s start: Hamilton’s hesitancy at the start left fans deprived of something they haven’t seen in a while: a Hamilton-Verstappen battle. It would have been nice to see Verstappen behind Hamilton for change, even for just a few moments. That would have at least given us 2-4 laps of compelling action. Instead, we were treated to a race with virtually no action, save for Perez making a few passes against inferior cars.

The Driver

Let’s give this to Verstappen and Perez. That way, Perez can again hear something that’s become all too common: “Sergio Perez is half ‘The Driver’ Max Verstappen is.”

Once he cleared Hamilton at the start, Verstappen was gone and didn’t look back, except when he was challenging himself by driving without looking. 

While Verstappen handled his business, Perez was handling his business, which seems to be making a case as to Red Bull should keep him, just a day after making a case as to why they shouldn’t.

The Results, Qatar Airways Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring Circuit

11Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT701:38:08.63426
24Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES70+33.731s18
311Sergio PerezRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT70+37.603s15
444Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES70+39.134s12
581Oscar PiastriMCLAREN MERCEDES70+62.572s10
663George RussellMERCEDES70+65.825s8
716Charles LeclercFERRARI70+70.317s6
855Carlos SainzFERRARI70+71.073s4
914Fernando AlonsoASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES70+75.709s2
1123Alexander AlbonWILLIAMS MERCEDES69+1 lap0
1277Valtteri BottasALFA ROMEO FERRARI69+1 lap0
133Daniel RicciardoALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT69+1 lap0
1427Nico HulkenbergHAAS FERRARI69+1 lap0
1522Yuki TsunodaALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT69+1 lap0
1624Zhou GuanyuALFA ROMEO FERRARI69+1 lap0
1720Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI69+1 lap0

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Joshua Farmer

You knew who was going to win immediately. Not much of a reason to watch.

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