Updated: Jul 31
When he woke up on Sunday morning, Max Verstappen had little hope of ending up on the top step of the podium at the Hungaroring. Starting in 10th place after a power unit failure in qualifying, Verstappen and Red Bull showed their Championship prowess, clearing the field and ending the race with an eight second advantage over 2nd place Lewis Hamilton.
Starting on the soft tires, Verstappen got off the starting line well, quickly overtaking Ricciardo and Bottas. He then dispatched with both Alpines and Lando Norris, leaving only the Ferraris and Mercedes remaining on his march to victory.
Out in front, Russell managed to stay ahead of Sainz and Leclerc for the first stint, using the faster soft tires to keep his advantage. On lap 17, Russell came in for his first pit stop of the day. Ferrari reacted by calling in Sainz, trying to avoid falling further behind Russell. This left Sainz hanging out to dry, as the medium tires still had life left and Charles Leclerc was able to use those to his advantage, overcutting Sainz 4 laps later. At the same time Russell was making his first stop, Verstappen came in to change his tires, undercutting Hamilton and moving to 4th place on the road.
Leclerc got in front of Russell and led most of the second stint until another Verstappen pit stop on lap 39 caused Ferrari to react. Instead of leaving Leclerc out to continue his second stint on Mediums, Ferrari chose to bring him in as well. The problem, however, was with 30 laps to go, and Leclerc only having run one tire compound, the only option was to go on the hard tire. With the cool temperature, Leclerc could not get heat into that tire, and Verstappen easily passed him. The Monegasque continued to struggle for grip over the next 15 laps, allowing Hamilton and Russell to overtake him as well. Leclerc eventually made a third stop to put on soft tires, but at that point the damage was done, and Verstappen’s main championship rival was relegated to 6th place.
The only question left to be determined was whether Lewis Hamilton could catch the championship leader with 18 laps left in the Grand Prix. Hamilton made a stop on lap 52 for soft tires, leaving him a couple seconds a lap quicker than the rest of the field. The seven-time world champion chased down Carlos Sainz and George Russell, but with only 5 laps left Verstappen’s 11 second lead was too much to overcome. Rain on the last lap added some intrigue, but Verstappen coasted around on the final lap to complete the comeback.
Lando Norris took advantage of the Alpine’s decision to run hard tires, staying ahead of the French team to secure 7th place, with Sebastian Vettel placing 10th and scoring the final point of the race.
It's geting late early for Charles Leclerc and Ferrari. Despite have an extremely competitive car, questionable strategy calls have hampered their fight for both championships. Max Verstappen increased his lead over Leclerc to 80 points, with Red Bull taking a 97 point lead in the Constructors Championship. With only 9 races remaining, it will be a tall order to overcome this deficit.
Full Race Results:
Valteri Bottas (DNF)