Max Verstappen and Red Bull extended their Word Championship leads on a day when a recovery drive was the focus, not the win. Verstappen and Red Bull’s performance was a masterclass in success through being effective: from installing new engine components to starting both drivers on soft tires, or perfect strategy and pit stops, Red Bull was effective in every aspect of the race. Perez finished P5 after starting the race in P11.
Mercedes scored another double podium with Lewis Hamilton finishing P2, while first-time pole sitter George Russell finished third. The Mercedes team seems to have found a successful pattern in recent weekends by approaching the weekend with optimism, struggling through practice, and landing a car on the podium. Mercedes are getting incrementally closer to the front of the grid and closer to Ferrari in the constructor’s championship.
As for Ferrari, they get a section unto themselves.
Shining a Light on the Soon-to-be Departed
Nicholas Latifi will leave the Formula 1 grid at the end of the 2022 season. Latifi may find a seat as a reserve driver for 2023, but if he doesn’t, we will always have the Hungarian Grand Prix. At the 2021 installment of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Latifi took advantage of first lap chaos and landed his first career points and likely highest grid finishing spot of 7th. Latifi finished free practice three of the 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix with an entirely unexpected fastest lap of the session! Then, Latifi set the fastest first sector time in qualifying 1, despite qualifying last.
Mercedes George Russell was the fastest qualifier by being the fastest driver over one lap, while not being the fastest driver at any particular point in the lap. Russell’s incredible performance pushed the Ferrari duo down to second and third. Lando Norris landed his McLaren in P4.
Red Bull’s Perez seemed off the pace all weekend and was eliminated from qualifying in Q2, Phil engine problems left Verstappen in P10. Both Red Bulls used new engine components to great success in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Hungarian Grand Prix: How the Race Was Won
Simply put, the race was won when Red Bull started the race on the soft compound of tire and decided to be aggressive in strategy, with new power components in the back of both RB-18s. The race was truly won when Verstappen passed Ferrari’s Leclerc for a second time, after another Ferrari strategy blunder and a Verstappen spin. The Undercut worked wonders for Red Bull working to give Verstappen track position over Leclerc, Sainz, and Russell.
The entire race was run with a constant eye to the sky, as rain threatened to throw a potential curveball into the strategy. The rain never really fell in earnest. Regardless, race strategy ended up being as significant a factor in determining the final finishing order. So we’re inter-team squabbles.
Mercedes Hamilton and Russell and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll were among teammates who went wheel to wheel fighting for positions. Hamilton passed Russell in an on-track fright for P2. On a track not known for overtaking Verstappen, Leclerc, Hamilton, and Russell were all involved in race-defining and incredible overtakes. Yet, the most impressive overtake of the race belongs to McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo who passed both Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon for P10 on lap 24, at the same time.
What do you do with a problem like Ferrari?
Carlos Sainz spoke about Ferrari’s strategy problems in 2022 being overly and unjustly focused on. After Ferrari’s strategy decision in Hungary, one has to question whether this statement is deflection or denial.
From the outset of the Hungarian Grand Prix, it was clear that the conditions were not favorable for the hard tire. Throughout the early portion of the race, the majority of the cars on hard tires struggled for grip. Commentators addressed the struggles openly on air.
When Ferrari pit Leclerc for his first pit stop and opted for the second set of medium tires, they told the entire grid they were committing to (at least) a two-stop strategy. The rest of the grid adjusted its strategy accordingly. When Leclerc pitted for a second time and Ferrari opted for the hard tire, everyone paying attention was perplexed. Even more so when Leclerc was sliding and twitching across the track, while a Red Bull quickly chased down and overtook the Ferrari for the lead.
Ferrari eventually conceded defeat, punting on lap 55 after Russell passed Leclerc for second on the track. Leclerc left the pits after his third stop in the spot where he finished: P6.
Ferrari’s reliability, driver errors, and strategy have lost Ferrari both World Championships in 2022. At least, that’s the story so far.
Up Next: Summer Break Then Spa
Up next is the annual Formula 1 summer break. There will be news, driver moves, and incoming technical directives when we reconvene in Belgium at one of the gems on the Formula 1 calendar, Spa. The Belgian Grand Prix takes place from August 26-28th, 2022.