BUDAPEST, Hungary – Formula One Champion Max Verstappen went through a spin and his worst starting position of the season to beat Hungary grand opening on Sunday. His eighth win of the season pushed Verstappen to an 80-point lead over Charles Leclerc as F1 its mid-season vacation.
Although his advantage is constantly growing, Verstappen doesn’t think ahead.
“Of course it was a great prospect,” he said. “But if you want to fight for the championship, you can’t make many mistakes.”
Mercedes put both his cars on the podium for the second straight race; seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton moved up from seventh on his own to finish in second, with teammate and track athlete George Russell in third.
Verstappen’s eighth win of the season is the 28th win of the Dutchman’s career.
“Who would have thought that waking up to this result today? It’s amazing,” Verstappen told his group, bursting into laughter. “I’ve fought a lot of guys and it’s fun to be out there. It was a crazy race but (we) stayed calm and we won.”
He made it past the 10th-worst qualifying round of the season because of a power outage on Saturday, then in Sunday’s race Verstappen made a 360-degree spin.
“Max can’t believe it, it’s right there to the best of you,” replied Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “Wonderful.”
Russell, who started from pole for the first time in his career, led 30 laps until Leclerc overtook him outside as dark clouds rolled over the Hungaroring track and a light rain began to fall.
With Leclerc’s lead, Verstappen will cut to make the tire faster. Ferrari made the mistake of choosing more durable hard tires for Leclerc.
“These tires are still (out of date),” says Leclerc.
He then explained that he thought it was a wrong call.
“I made it clear that I wanted to keep (medium tyres) as long as possible, but we were pitted very early on for hardware, which we needed to understand why. I think stopping in difficulty is the turning point,” Leclerc said. Honestly, before we think about the championship, as a team, we need to understand what we need to do to be better. Because otherwise it would be really difficult. “
Moments later, Verstappen lost his grip and turned on the track, allowing Sainz to take the lead over Hamilton. Leclerc overtook Verstappen, only to lose position shortly after due to Verstappen’s faster tyres.
“It was very difficult conditions but we had a really good strategy,” Verstappen said.
Recalling the turn, Verstappen said: “I accelerated the throttle and lost control completely behind, it swept me out.”
Ferrari’s strategic woes are not going away. Leclerc has seen two crucifixion victories disappear – at the Monaco GP and British GP – after team calls sent him falling from dominance to fourth.
Ferrari blocked Sainz’s next tire on Lap 47, taking too long to fit his left rear tire.
“It always felt like there was always something going on, reliability, mistakes, whatever,” Leclerc said exasperatedly.
Hamilton remained on the sidelines but was losing time against Verstappen when it rained.
Leclerc, who had an accident leading the French Grand Prix last week, arrived for a third tire change on the Lap 55.
Ferrari’s strategic appeals even confused Verstappen.
Verstappen said: “I think Ferrari picked their tires wrong in the final period before they pitted again. “Ferrari was so fast, they just called the wrong tire (for Leclerc).”
Vettel, who won four F1 titles with Red Bull from 2010-13, is retired at the end of the seasonVerstappen may have beaten a record 13 F1 championships in a single season since 2013.
After a month-long break, the season resumed with a triple header against Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.
“To have both cars on the podium is really special for us. Others have the advantage but we are clearly closing the gap,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully we’ll bring more in the second half of the season and start fighting the guys up front.”
Russell pointed out not too long ago how Mercedes fell behind Red Bull.
“We finished a minute late, and now we’re 10 seconds back,” he said.
Verstappen also has good reason to welcome the Mercedes revival.
“It’s good that they compete,” he quips. “It means they can rob more points from Ferrari.”
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly started from the pit after being penalized for multiple engine changes and finished 12th overall.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo showed some of his old form with a superb brace past Ocon and Alonso heading into the middle of the race, celebrating with utter excitement.
But Ricciardo then didn’t laugh when the Australian was penalized for the fifth time for cutting across Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and sending him off course. Ricciardo ranked 15th poorly.