Verstappen And Red Bull Make History In Hungary
This weekend Formula 1 bounced back into life at the Hungaroring circuit just 12 miles outside the beautiful city of Budapest and following this afternoon’s Hungarian Grand Prix history was made as Max Verstappen made it seven wins in a row and his Red Bull team established a new record of 12 consecutive victories.
When 34 year old Daniel Ricciardo turned up in the Hungarian paddock he had a real spring in his step and understandably so after having been suddenly loaned from Red Bull to sister team AlphaTauri to replace the underperforming Nyck de Vries for the remainder of this season. Prior to Hungary we’ve had just ten Grands Prix and two Sprint races so far this year, but this was deemed sufficient to decide that enough was enough and the Dutch racer experienced just how brutal the F1 Piranha Club can be as the rookie suffered the public humiliation of being dropped before the summer break had even arrived.
2023 Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix
1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1hr38m8.634s
2 Lando Norris (McLaren) +33.731s
3 Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) +37.603s
4 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +39.134s
5 Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +1m2.572s
6 George Russell (Mercedes) +1m5.825s
7 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +1m10.317s
8 Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +1m11.073s
9 Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +1m15.709s
10 Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) Lapped
11 Alex Albon (Williams) Lapped
12 Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) Lapped
13 Daniel Ricciardo (AlphaTauri) Lapped
14 Nico Hülkenberg (Haas) Lapped
15 Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) Lapped
16 Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) Lapped
17 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) Lapped
18 Logan Sargeant (Williams) Retired
19 Esteban Ocon (Alpine) Retired
20 Pierre Gasly (Alpine) Retired
The Australian Ricciardo, long nicknamed the Honey Badger, is a likeable character and is relishing the opportunity, but he well knows that he will have to deliver the goods to remain on the grid for next year and that will be far from easy in this year’s uncompetitive AlphaTauri car.
His first challenge will be to prove that he can consistently outpace his Japanese team-mate Yuki Tsunoda, something de Vries had clearly been unable to do. Let’s hope Ricciardo doesn’t end up regretting the haste with which he accepted the drive just for the sake of getting himself racing in F1 again so soon after being dropped by McLaren at the end of the last campaign. As a somewhat amusing aside, AlphaTauri was so keen to publish an image of its new driver in one of its race suits that it did so using one of de Vries but with Ricciardo’s head added. However, this was quickly spotted and ridiculed and the embarrassed team had to withdraw it and arrange a proper one.
Let’s hope Ricciardo doesn’t end up regretting the haste with which he accepted the drive just for the sake of getting himself racing in F1 again so soon after being dropped by McLaren ...
Rumours about which drivers may be going where are never far from the surface of Formula 1 and, at the opposite end of the Constructors’ Championship to AlphaTauri’s current lowly position, speculation has gone into overdrive since Lando Norris’ manager Mark Berryman was seen deep in discussion with Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the Silverstone paddock recently.
Norris’ McLaren contract runs until the end of the 2025 season and so it would be an expensive exercise for Red Bull to prise him away earlier even if McLaren were willing to let him leave. However, it’s interesting that Marko, who, together with team principal Christian Horner, is Red Bull’s key decision maker about who joins the team and who leaves, has recently and very publicly heaped praise on Norris, describing him as the best young driver around and a perfect fit for the outfit’s youthful and fun loving style. The 23 year old British driver also just happens to be a close friend of Verstappen and so we can but await potential developments at some stage in the future.
... it’s unlikely that the team will be able to catch the dominant Red Bull outfit during the remainder of this season...
After the British Grand Prix a fortnight ago Mercedes team principal and part owner Toto Wolff admitted that development work on this year’s W14 would soon have to stop, with the focus shifting to a significant redesign for next season’s car. All had not been lost at Silverstone though as Sir Lewis Hamilton had benefited from the timing of a safety car intervention to finish third, whilst George Russell suffered from the same intervention having already pitted under normal racing conditions but he still reached the chequered flag in fifth position.
However, it’s unlikely that the team will be able to catch the dominant Red Bull outfit during the remainder of this season and thus the decisions being made about starting to concentrate resources on 2024 seem appropriate.
Lando Norris drove superbly to finish second for McLaren, if 33 seconds behind the winner
Meanwhile, the Hamilton “will he, won’t he agree to stay with Mercedes for next year and beyond” saga rumbles on despite his boss Wolff having declared many weeks ago that a deal was set to be concluded within days. The 38 year old multiple champion no doubt has his own reasons for not being willing to sign a new contract yet, but the longevity of this ongoing issue is starting to rival Coronation Street and Emmerdale!
...a five year contract extension has been agreed for the Hungarian Grand Prix, meaning it will remain on the calendar until at least the 2032 season after having been held every year since back in 1986...
In other news, Formula 1’s President and CEO Stefano Domenicali has given an indication about where engine technology might head in due course. In 2026 the new regulations will still involve turbo hybrid power units, with the hybrid element more significant than now, and the sport is also committed to the introduction of fully sustainable fuels at the same time.
But, looking further into the future, the Italian hopes that the use of these fuels might enable F1 to end up with lighter, simpler and noisier cars as the current ones feature heavy battery cells. Whilst obviously not wanting to lose any of the safety measures which have also added extra weight to the cars, the drivers, teams and fans seem aligned behind the prospect of lighter, smaller but still very powerful non-hybrid normally aspirated cars using sustainable fuels, making a noise more evocative of the period before the current power units were introduced back in 2014. Domenicali also announced that a five year contract extension has been agreed for the Hungarian Grand Prix, meaning it will remain on the calendar until at least the 2032 season after having been held every year since back in 1986. It’s always a popular destination for the teams, drivers and fans alike and a new pit complex and main grandstand are due to be ready before the 2026 race.
This weekend the alternative tyre allocation regulations initially intended for the cancelled Imola weekend earlier in the season were trialled. The aim is to reduce the number of tyre sets Pirelli has to take to each F1 round, reducing costs, improving sustainability and also possibly helping race day strategy variations. The amended rules will be experimented with again at Monza’s Italian Grand Prix in September before the results are reviewed with regard to potential further use. The standard regulations allow each driver to use upto 13 sets of dry tyres for a weekend, whereas the alternative ones reduce this figure to 11, with hard specification tyres having to be used in the first part of qualifying, medium ones in the second part and soft ones in the top ten shootout. Anything which helps reduce the vast number of tyres transported around the world to each race is to be welcomed, but one negative consequence was that drivers felt the need to complete fewer laps on Friday, impacting negatively on the fan experience.
Anything which helps reduce the vast number of tyres transported around the world to each race is to be welcomed, but one negative consequence was that drivers felt the need to complete fewer laps ...
Sergio Pérez’s recent troubles continued just minutes into Friday’s opening free practice session when the under pressure Mexican crashed his Red Bull RB19 on his initial timed lap after losing control at the Turn 5 righthander. This triggered red flags to enable recovery of the damaged car and when the action resumed rain had begun to fall, limiting opportunities for further meaningful running. Further red flags followed a later spin for Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and come the chequered flag it was Russell who had set the fastest time for Mercedes, with seven drivers failing to set a time - Sainz, Verstappen, Pérez, Hamilton, Ricciardo and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly.
Conditions were much improved and mainly dry for Friday’s second practice period, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc topping the timesheets ahead of Norris’ McLaren, Gasly and Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri, whilst the latter’s new team-mate Ricciardo was only 14th quickest. Verstappen was down in 11th and Hamilton and Russell were 16th and last respectively, with Mercedes explaining that the team had been concentrating on race pace and not focussing on qualifying simulations. In yesterday’s final practice session the varying results continued, with Hamilton leading the way from the two Red Bulls and Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg (now nicknamed Ken as in the Barbie film after bleaching his hair blond!). Meanwhile both Ferraris were only seventh and eighth quickest.
Lewis Hamilton started from pole position, but had to settle for a fourth place finish
As the subsequent qualifying session started to unfold, the track was still constantly improving in terms of grip levels and the teams had to gamble on how late they dared to leave fast lap attempts, balancing the circuit conditions versus the real risk of traffic issues. The latter led to an angry and disappointed Russell, who was last year’s polesitter here in Hungary, being eliminated in Q1 and Mercedes’ Wolff responded by slamming his fist on his desk, knowing one of his drivers was now set to start near the back of the grid today on a track notoriously difficult for overtaking. In Q2 track limits infringements again were an issue due to driver transgressions and another big name, Sainz, fell by the wayside. Come the top ten shootout it proved to be Hamilton who claimed his first pole position since December 2021 after outpacing Verstappen by a mere 0.003s, with the Norris/Oscar Piastri McLaren duo the best of the rest. Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu put in a superb effort to post the fifth quickest time, with his team-mate Valtteri Bottas seventh too, as Leclerc helped himself to the other third row slot. The struggling Pérez at least got himself into Q3 for the first time in six races, but was only ninth fastest, a mighty 0.433s slower than his team-mate.
... the longevity of this ongoing issue is starting to rival Coronation Street and Emmerdale!
The formation lap for this afternoon’s Grand Prix began at precisely three pm local time and, after Verstappen seemed to have struggled for decent one lap pace in qualifying, the big question was how Hamilton would fare in race conditions versus the reigning champion and the two much improved McLarens just to his rear. Also, Mercedes had apologised to Russell for how the team had mishandled his Q1 running and was looking to put him on a different strategy to Hamilton in the hope of making progress from 18th on the grid using some of the tyres he never got a chance to use in the qualifying session.
Soon the top four comprised of Verstappen, Norris, Piastri and Hamilton
Come the all-important start poleman Hamilton was on the clean racing line side of the grid, whereas Verstappen was diagonally behind him on the dirty righthand side of the track which offered much less grip. However, after a great getaway the Dutch driver beat Hamilton into the first corner and worse was to follow for the latter as both Piastri and Norris quickly dropped him to fourth position. Sainz though sprinted from 11th on the grid to sixth, benefiting from his new soft specification tyres. A Turn 1 multi-car shunt to their rear caused by the slow-starting Guanyu sadly left both Alpines damaged and out of the race within seconds of the start.
As the Grand Prix settled into an early pattern Verstappen started to extend his lead before on lap 16 the opening round of pitstops began, with Sainz switching to hard rubber. In the subsequent flurry of other stops Norris used the undercut very effectively to jump his team-mate after a flying out lap and on the 23rd tour Verstappen pitted for hard tyres before rejoining the track still out front. Soon the top four comprised of Verstappen, Norris, Piastri and Hamilton. A second round of pitstops followed for some of the leading contenders, during which Leclerc earned himself a five second penalty for speeding in the pitlane, and, after Verstappen and Hamilton had also stopped again, the running order was Verstappen ahead of Norris, a recovering Pérez and Piastri.
Daniel Ricciardo in his new AlphaTauri race suit
The leader quickly used his fresh rubber to set what was to be the fastest lap of the Grand Prix and earn himself the related additional point, whilst Hamilton took fourth position from Piastri at Turn 1 on the 57th tour. As the end of the Grand Prix neared Russell claimed seventh place from Sainz and was to finish sixth after the application of Leclerc’s time penalty dropped him behind the Mercedes driver. Not a bad result for the young pedaller from King’s Lynn after starting 18th! By the time the chequered flag flew Verstappen was over half a minute clear of second placed Norris as Pérez, Hamilton, Piastri and Russell completed the leading sextet. It was another disappointing day for Ferrari as its drivers were only seventh and eighth, whilst in the AlphaTauri camp Ricciardo finished 13th, two places ahead of Tsunoda.
Next up in just one week’s time comes the Belgian Grand Prix at the iconic Spa Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes, which will involve an 800 mile drive north west across Europe for the fleets of team and FIA transporters once packed and made ready for departure. The Belgian round will be the final one before the summer break and a third Sprint race of the season will also be held there next Saturday. The event has traditionally been the first one following the mid-season pause to enable all to recharge their batteries, but the organisers have had to accept the earlier timing to remain on the F1 calendar for now at least.
Spa is a real drivers’ track, which I have been fortunate enough to experience personally, but it does suffer from major logistical issues related to the massed fans (including Verstappen’s large travelling army from the nearby Netherlands) accessing and leaving the venue. This factor puts it at risk as Formula 1 seeks to increase its overall sustainability and progress towards its 2030 Net Zero target, helped by circuits located close to or within major cities with excellent public transport systems. Montreal, Singapore and Monaco are prime examples of the latter, but F1 also needs to be careful not to jettison key parts of its history represented by the likes of Spa and Silverstone.
2023 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship
1 Max Verstappen 281
2 Sergio Pérez 171
3 Fernando Alonso 139
2023 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship
1 Red Bull 452
2 Mercedes 223
3 Aston Martin 184