F1 – Hungarian GP – Race
Szia, MiniFans! Saturday’s experiment of a new qualifying process involving compulsory tyre compounds depending on the part of the session resulted in a very close result among many different drivers and teams. The front row made everyone involved in the sport take a stroll in memory lane back to 2021, when they were the main characters, while wondering how it would end up right after lights out.
Unlike yesterday, teams were allowed to choose their tyres for the race, and mediums were the majority’s choice. A decent start by Verstappen helped him get past Hamilton in the first corner, and the position the Mercedes had to acquire in order to stay on track meant that both McLarens overtook him as well, with Piastri’s meteoric start pushing him up to second. Further back, Sainz took advantage of his soft tyre to go up five places, while the Alpines left a familiar sight, with a collision between themselves that saw Ricciardo involved as well, but the Australian seemed to come out relatively unscathed, while both French drivers were forced to retire due to damage. However, it all came from a small collision from Zhou into Ricciardo’s rear wing, as the Alfa Romeo had gotten stuck at the beginning and his attempt not to lose too much time ended in a late braking that ended up in a sweep.
Once this chaos from the start settled, Verstappen started to slowly pull away from Piastri as they all started to manage their tyres, and Pérez finally managed to get past a way slower Alonso who had created a small train behind him. In parallel, an investigation on Zhou’s manoeuvre had come to an end and the Chinese driver was handed a five-second penalty for causing a collision.
The first stops started very soon into the race, coming from those who had chosen to start on softs, but also a few mediums. The first from the podium contenders was Hamilton, who changed his mediums for hards, trying to push the hand of his opponents. Mercedes got what they wanted, as they pitted Norris in the following lap. Leclerc did as well, but in one of Ferrari’s way too common mistakes while boxing, they had trouble with the right rear tyre, losing precious seconds. In contrast, Piastri’s stop was yet another great stop by McLaren, but he lost the position to Norris in a wonderful show of how to make an undercut.
Almost a third of the race had gone by before Red Bull finally called Verstappen into the pits, being the only car with his starting mediums still on by this point. The usual quick stop by Red Bull allowed him to keep the lead in front of his teammate, who had also yet to pit, but whose tyres had been hards since the beginning. After everyone was finally done with their first stops, the race settled, save for a couple outliers.
Those who had started on hards, like Russell and Pérez, were now on mediums against a sea of hards, which posed an advantage for them. The Mercedes driver was trying to get close to Alonso, while Pérez had closed the distance to Hamilton, whose defence could help McLaren to score a double podium. However, the seven-time world champion started complaining about losing the rear when Pérez surprised everyone by pitting after a couple attempts, as did Piastri. Two sets of mediums later, they left the pitlane together right behind the Ferraris as the wave for the second stops kicked off.
Copying McLaren’s first stops, Ferrari pushed Leclerc in front of Sainz via calling him first into the pits despite being behind. The play didn’t turn out too well, though, as the Monegasque received a five-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane, and their hard tyres weren’t performing as well as the mediums fitted on most of their rivals. It took half the remaining laps for them to start being balanced, but it was already too late to even thing about anything higher than sixth, specially taking Leclerc’s penalty into account.
The last ten laps followed most of the race’s pace: the gaps between most drivers weren’t small enough for them to realistically contemplate and plan an overtake, which added to the degradation of the tyres left very few with chances to try and gain positions. Russell was following a different storyline, as he caught up to Sainz in what looked like a mix of hards not working and the Spaniard maybe having made a mistake and overtook him without any hitches. Back at the front, Verstappen and Red Bull’s superiority was crystal clear once again, as he crossed the finish line a full half minute in front of Norris, who managed to also build a gap to Pérez, albeit quite smaller, and the three of them pushing the poleman, Hamilton, out of the podium.
In a similar fashion to what we are used to seeing in Monaco, yesterday’s qualifying mayhem and surprises didn’t translate to Sunday in Hungary, except for a couple laps at the beginning where everyone was close and a few instances regarding pitting and leaving the pitlane. Hamilton didn’t see his pole position translated into a win, partly thanks to his bad start and partly thanks to Red Bull showing their pace once again and scoring yet another victory for the team in this season.