16/04/2024

Max Verstappen flexes his first place trophy in Hungary. (Image: Oracle Red Bull Racing/Twitter)

For the final race weekend before the mid-season break, the grid headed to Hungary to race 70 laps of the Hungaroring.

Max Verstappen climbed from P10 on the grid to win his 28th Grand Prix, while the remainder of the podium reflected the French Grand Prix.

A weekend including farewells and old traditions, the Hungarian Grand Prix did not disappoint. Here is what happened in Hungary:

P10 to the top step of the podium

Verstappen undoubtedly had work to do if he wanted to extend his lead in the championship. His closest rival – Charles Leclerc – started the race in P3.

The reigning champion continued to quietly make inroads on the leaders, making his way past the midfield with relative ease.

From here, Verstappen found himself battling Leclerc just after the halfway mark, after outsmarting Ferrari on their pit-stop strategy.

He took the lead into turn one and led for whole lap, almost. On the penultimate corner of lap 41, Verstappen suffered from oversteer, spinning him into a 360, into the clutches of Leclerc.

Leclerc got back past and hurried on his way, hoping to create a quick gap to Verstappen. This only lasted as long as four laps, as Verstappen re-took the provisional lead on lap 45.

Verstappen calmly found his way to the chequered flag, even after a rain scare within the final laps.

His lead in the championship is now 80 points to Leclerc in second. Sergio Perez is close behind in third – five points shy of Leclerc.

Mr. Saturday returns

George Russell made a huge statement in Saturday qualifying, topping the charts to claim his maiden pole position.

Qualifying at the Hungaroring was anything but normal. Russell’s consistency topped both Ferrari drivers by just under two tenths, posting a time of 1:17.377.

“I came across the line and saw we went P1 and that was an incredible feeling,” Russell said post-qualifying.

Russell now leads his teammate Lewis Hamilton 7-6 in qualifying performances, including sprint qualifying.

Lando Norris displayed the new-found pace of his McLaren, going P4. Alpine pair Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso will occupy the third row.

Daniel Ricciardo improved from his woes, making Q3 and eventually posting a time good enough for P9.

Championship leader Max Verstappen and his teammate Sergio Perez will start in P10 and P11 respectively. Perez was held up in traffic in Q2, forcing an early exit, while Verstappen struggled with another power issue during Q3.

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Calamity of errors within Ferrari strategy, again

The Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Leclerc had hopes of a big points haul, as they started P2 and P3 respectively.

Recent history has witnessed Ferrari make eventual errors within its strategy calls, bottling a big amount of points in the meantime.

This time around, Ferrari decided to pit Leclerc onto the hard compound tyres, which were proving to be difficult to adjust to the track.

Seen at Haas and Alpine, both teams used the hards and struggled immediately.

No doubt, Leclerc struggled too, which saw Verstappen pass him twice after an error and Russell jump him soon after.

After he was overtaken, Ferrari then decided to pit him again, this time onto the soft compound tyre. Hamilton was enjoying good pace on his softs, however, Leclerc didn’t have the same luck.

Leclerc ended the race in P6, behind all driver and constructor championship rivals. Sainz finished in P4 – his strategy was also outsmarted, yet had more luck that Leclerc.

The Monegasque is now 80 points behind Verstappen, rather, closer in the championship to Hamilton in sixth – 32 points behind Leclerc.

Auf Wiedersehen, Sebastian

Prior to the race weekend, Sebastian Vettel surprised fans when finally deciding to create an Instagram account. Although, his first post was to announce the dreaded news of his retirement.

The four-time World Drivers’ Champion will ultimately go down as one of the greats, specifically for his tenure with Red Bull in the early 2010’s, where he won four consecutive championships from 2010-2013.

Although his recent past hasn’t been as glorified, Vettel will be viewed as one of the most respected drivers in history.

“I hereby announce my retirement from Formula One by the end of the 2022 season,” Vettel announced.

“As much as there is life on track, there is my life off track too. My goals have shifted, from winning races and fighting for championships to seeing my children grow.

“The marks I left on track will stay until time and rain will wash them away.”

Daniel Ricciardo enduring ups and downs

Beginning his race in P9, Ricciardo had some work to do if he wanted to finish anywhere near teammate Lando Norris – starting P4.

Ricciardo made a sensational double overtake on lap 25, leaving both Alpine drivers in the dust. He expressed his excitement over the team radio, as he began to climb towards the top quartet.

Although it wasn’t all highs unfortunately for the Australian, who got entangled with Lance Stroll after the second DRS zone.

Ricciardo locked up into the corner, edging into Stroll’s front wing. The Australian received a five-second time penalty for causing the incident, ruining his hopes of points.

McLaren opted to take another pit-stop onto hard compound tyres. When doing so, inducing the time penalty. Following the 70 laps, Ricciardo finished in P15.

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