How unusual was Verstappen’s victory? Consider that in the 36 previous Hungarian Grands Prix, just three had been won by drivers starting from fifth or lower on the grid. It was the third victory at the Hungaroring for Red Bull and the first in eight years since Daniel Ricciardo’s triumph in 2014. And Verstappen, it was a Budapest triumph that was worth the wait.
Before Sunday, the Hungaroring was just one of three circuits on the current calendar that have been on the schedule for the entirety of the 24-year-old’s eight-season career where he’d never won, along with Sakhir, Bahrain, and Monza, Italy.
The win, Verstappen’s 28th in F1, was earned beneath a leaden sky that threatened to dump rain on the circuit all race long – and finally poured down just after the podium ceremony finished. It was a podium that featured the same trio of drivers who sprayed the champagne in France seven days previously. Verstappen was joined by Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, the latter finishing third after taking his first F1 pole position on Saturday.
“It was a lot of fun out there … a crazy race, and I’m really glad we won it”
The first step to turn a Saturday stumble into a Sunday save for the world champion came with the decision to fit a new engine for the race, and the road to recovery looked plausible off the start when he gained two spots on the opening lap.
After reporting some clutch slip issues in the opening laps, Verstappen began to move forwards, and the team played a strategic masterstroke on Lap 16 when Verstappen pitted to discard his soft tyres for medium-compound rubber, leap-frogging Hamilton.
Sunday’s win was Verstappen’s eighth this season and his 10th podium finish in 13 races; a troubled race for Leclerc saw the Ferrari driver finish sixth and saw Verstappen’s drivers’ championship lead swell to 80 points.
“I was, of course, hoping I could get close to a podium,” Verstappen said of his pre-race aim.
“Very tricky conditions out there, but I think we had a good strategy. We were really reactive and always pitting at the right time. We had some good out laps. At the end, even with the 360 [spin] we won the race.
“I was struggling a bit with the shifts and the clutch, and we had to change a few things around to not burn the clutch, that cost a bit of performance, and I think it caught me out [with the spin]. Luckily I could do a 360 and only lost one spot.
“It was a lot of fun out there … a crazy race, and I’m really glad we won it.”
Arguably, the biggest story of the Hungary weekend came before a wheel had been turned in anger, with news that four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel would retire at the end of the 2022 campaign with Aston Martin.
Charles Leclerc (FRA), Scuderia Ferrari and George Russell (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1 31.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, Race Day. – www.xpbimages.com
Vettel, now 35, isn’t the title-winning force he was in his F1 prime, most of which came with Red Bull from 2009-14, where he won 38 Grands Prix and four titles in a row from 2010.
At his best, his 53 wins rank him third all-time behind Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher. He holds a host of records that may never be touched, among them the most wins in succession (nine in 2013) and becoming the youngest world champion in the sport’s history in 2010 at 23 years and 134 days, when he won a dramatic four-way showdown for the crown in Abu Dhabi.
Vettel’s Budapest weekend was modest – he qualified 18th and finished 10th in the race to enter the mid-season break in 14th place in the world championship. But his news, and the resultant outpouring of respectful comments from F1 friends and foes alike, show how revered he is now and how he’ll be remembered after taking his last lap in November.
Source Red Bull Magazine