Verstappen rallies on his eighth win of the F1 season
BUDAPEST – Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen overcame a spin and his worst starting spot of the season to win the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday. His eighth win of the season pushed Verstappen’s lead to 80 points over Charles Leclerc as F1 enters its mid-season break.
Even if his advantage continues to increase, Verstappen does not anticipate.
“It’s of course a great track,” he said. “But if you want to fight for championships, you can’t afford a lot of mistakes.”
Mercedes placed both cars on the podium for the second race in a row; Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton fought his way from seventh to second, his teammate and poleman George Russell finished third.
Carlos Sainz Jr. finished fourth in another disastrous day for Ferrari. Leclerc finished sixth, one place behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
Verstappen’s eighth win of the season was the 28th of the Dutchman’s career.
“Who would have thought when we woke up today that we would get this result? Unbelievable,” Verstappen told his team, letting out a laugh. “I was fighting a lot of guys and it was a lot of fun there. It was a crazy race but (we) stayed calm and we won.
He qualified in the worst 10th of the season due to a loss of power on Saturday, then in Sunday’s race Verstappen made a 360 degree turn.
“Amazing Max, that’s up there with your best,” replied Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “Fantastic.”
Russell, who started from pole for the first time in his career, led 30 laps until Leclerc passed him on the outside as dark clouds rolled over the Hungaroring circuit and a light rain began to fall.
With Leclerc in the lead, Verstappen undermined for faster tyres. Ferrari made a mistake choosing the more durable hard tires for Leclerc.
“These tires are (expletive),” said Leclerc.
He later explained that he thought it was the wrong call.
“I made it clear that I wanted to keep (the medium tyre) as long as possible, but we pitted very early for the hard, and we have to understand why. I think stopping for the hard was the turning point,” Leclerc said. “Before thinking about the championship, to be honest, as a team we have to understand what we need to do to improve. Because otherwise it’s going to be really difficult.”
Moments later, Verstappen lost his grip and spun down the track, allowing Sainz to take the lead from Hamilton. Leclerc passed Verstappen, only to lose position soon after as Verstappen had faster tyres.
“It was very difficult conditions, but we had a very good strategy,” said Verstappen. “We were very responsive, always at the right time. Even with the 360, we still won.”
Recalling the spin, Verstappen said: “I went on the throttle and lost the rear completely, it caught up with me.”
Ferrari’s strategy problems just won’t go away. Leclerc saw two nailed wins disappear – at the Monaco GP and the British GP – after team calls dropped him from a commanding position to fourth.
Ferrari missed Sainz’s next tire stop on lap 47, taking too long to mount their left rear tyre.
“It always feels like there’s always something going on, reliability, mistakes, whatever,” said a clearly frustrated Leclerc.
Hamilton stayed away but was losing time to Verstappen as the rain increased.
Leclerc, who crashed while leading the French Grand Prix last week, suffered a third tire change on lap 55.
Ferrari’s strategy even calls Verstappen confused.
“I think Ferrari picked the wrong tires on their last stint before pitting,” Verstappen said. “Ferrari was very quick, they just made the wrong choice with the hard tire (for Leclerc).”
Lando Norris was seventh for McLaren, Fernando Alonso was eighth and his Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon was ninth. Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel finished 10th.
Vettel, who won his four F1 titles with Red Bull from 2010 to 2013, is retiring at the end of the season, by which time Verstappen may well have broken his F1 record of 13 wins in a season from 2013 .
F1 said 290,000 people attended the three days of racing in Hungary. On Saturday, F1 released a video condemning any form of abusive behavior.
Abusive spectator behavior overshadowed the Austrian Grand Prix three weeks ago, where fans – especially women – raised awareness in F1 of rampant harassment, sexism, racism and homophobia.
Verstappen was asked to comment after winning Sunday’s race on a video posted to social media over the weekend, showing a fan dressed in burning orange burning what appeared to be Mercedes merchandise.
“That’s of course not acceptable,” said Verstappen, who called for increased security in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday. “I definitely disagree with that, because it’s just disgusting.”
After a one-month break, the season resumes with a hat-trick in Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.
“To have both cars on the podium is really special for us. The other guys have an advantage, but we’re clearly closing the gap,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully we bring more in the second half of the season and start fighting with the guys up front.”
Russell pointed out that not so long ago Mercedes was far behind Red Bull.
“We were finishing a minute behind, and now we’re 10 seconds behind,” he said.
Verstappen also has good reason to welcome Mercedes’ resurgence.
“It’s good that they’re competitive,” he joked. “That means they can steal more points from Ferrari.”
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly started from the pit lane after being penalized for several engine parts changes and finished 12th.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo showed some of his old form with a super double overtake on Ocon and Alonso nearing the halfway point, celebrating with an exuberant expletive.
But Ricciardo wasn’t laughing later as the Australian driver was handed a five-second penalty for clipping Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and running it off the track. Ricciardo placed 15th.
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