Max Verstappen produced a stunning comeback drive from 10th on the grid to win the Hungarian Grand Prix and extend his title lead over Charles Leclerc, following another miserable Sunday for the Ferrari driver.
In a captivating race where three teams were in contention for the win, Verstappen fought back from his reliability-hampered qualifying with stonking pace and superior Red Bull strategy, and won by seven seconds from Lewis Hamilton and pole-sitter George Russell as Mercedes celebrated another double podium in Ferrari’s avoidable absence.
Leclerc was the victim of more questionable pit-stop calls from Ferrari and he would eventually finish a meagre sixth, meaning Verstappen has an 80-point title lead heading into F1’s summer break.
It was another win that slipped through Leclerc’s fingers.
The Monegasque started third and after overcutting team-mate Carlos Sainz, ended Russell’s creditable resistance for the lead on Lap 31, at which stage he appeared primed to bounce back from his Paul Ricard crash to take a championship-boosting win.
But trying to respond to Verstappen’s pace, Ferrari pitted Leclerc onto the hard tyre and left him a sitting duck to the Red Bull and indeed other rivals. Verstappen would pass Leclerc twice – before and after a nervy spin in slippery conditions – to essentially seal his victory with 25 laps remaining.
Leclerc called the strategy a “disaster” and would stop again to finish behind Sergio Perez, who was the only Red Bull, Mercedes or Ferrari driver not to hold the lead at some stage.
Sainz was fourth as, like Russell, he was overtaken by Hamilton in the closing stages as the seven-time world champion flew on the soft tyres.
Lando Norris couldn’t hold his starting position of fourth but did well to hold off the Alpines for seventh, with McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo a disappointing 15th and picking up a penalty for a Lance Stroll clash.
Hungarian GP Race Result: Top 10
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3) George Russell, Mercedes
4) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
6) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
7) Lando Norris, McLaren
8) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
9) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
10) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
How Verstappen ripped through the field to win in Hungary
Three places lost for Leclerc, nine places gained for Verstappen… and an 80-point title lead. The Hungarian GP delivered another huge swing in championship momentum, and potentially a defining one.
Despite drizzle just before lights out, Verstappen made a strong start from 10th, up to seventh on the first lap, and once it clear air he was matching the pace of the leading cars, Russell, Sainz and Leclerc.
He easily dispatched the Alpines, and undercut Hamilton.
But Leclerc, too, had storming pace once getting ahead of Sainz and produced the overtake of the day to edge around the outside of Russell’s Mercedes at Turn One just before the halfway stage. He then opened up a five-second lead.
Verstappen’s second stop, however, appeared to frighten Ferrari and rather respond with their second car of Sainz, they stopped Leclerc.
Having only used medium tyres so far and with over 20 laps remaining, the hard tyres – which were by far the slowest available on Sunday – were put on, and Verstappen, on the mediums, was quickly in firing range.
The world champion passed Leclerc with DRS on Lap 41, before giving that place back the following lap with a spin at Turn 13, which nearly opened the door back to Russell.
Instead, Verstappen regained composure and got back ahead of Leclerc on Lap 45.
That put him into a net lead and, once Hamilton had his final stop, all Verstappen had to do was manage the pace and even a light shower in the closing stages couldn’t rain on his parade.
As for Ferrari and Leclerc, the team said they were surprised by the lack of pace of the hards, while Leclerc called the strategy a “disaster”. Either way, he would pit again for softs, to drop back to sixth.
“We’ll speak about it inside the team,” said Leclerc, with Ferrari facing yet another inquest in this title battle.
Just as Red Bull benefited from Ferrari’s struggles, so did Mercedes, who once again impressed on race day.
Russell started on softs and battled well from pole, with Mercedes constantly responding to Ferrari and Verstappen’s strategy, while Hamilton played the long game, ending his stint with a furious stint on the softs.
That saw him expertly pass both Sainz and his team-mate late on.
What’s next in F1 2022?
The sport now embarks on a four-week summer break before the Belgian GP on August 28. The race at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps kickstarts a European triple header with Zandvoort and Monza.
Every race is live and exclusive on Sky Sports F1.