BUDAPEST, Hungary—Max Verstappen might have had a bad qualifying due to a power unit failure on Saturday, but on Sunday, starting from 10th on the grid, the Dutchman took the lead on lap 52 of the Hungarian Grand Prix and held on to win over the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. He extends his championship lead by 80 points over his Ferrari rival, Charles Leclerc, who finished in sixth.
The victory also extended Red Bull Racing’s lead by 97 points over Ferrari, with a three-week break before the season resumes at the famous Spa-Franchorchamps circuit in Belgium on August 28th.
There were many lead changes right from the start of the race with Russell, then the two Ferraris as many came into the pits for medium tyres. But even with one spin midway through the race which temporarily cost him the lead, Verstappen was able to keep his momentum going and found himself leading with 20 laps to go in the race.
"I was of course hoping I would get close to the podium,” Verstappen replied afterwards. “But it was very tricky conditions out there, but we had a really good strategy, we were really reactive, always pitting at the right time. I think we had some good out laps but even with the 360 [spin] we still won the race.
"I was struggling with the shifts and the clutch, and we had to change a few things around that to basically not burn the clutch and that cost a bit of performance. And so that caught me out a bit on that corner.”
Leclerc and Ferrari lost a good opportunity to stay up front, but like the Alpine team, who finished the race with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon taking eighth and ninth places respectively, Leclerc chose hard tyres, which were not ideal for the race, which had a very spongy track, due to rain the previous day.
Mercedes ran a very strong car all race long, and Hamilton found plenty of speed, enough to give the Briton fastest lap of the race, which resulted in Hamilton passing teammate Russell with seven laps to go in the race to take second.
A sudden increase of rain and a last-minute virtual safety car occurred when Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas power unit made the Finn the only retirement of the race. Verstappen cruised to the finish line once the green flag returned and ended up winning the race by just over ten seconds ahead of Hamilton.
Carlos Sainz Jr finished the second Ferrari in fourth, while the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez took fifth. Lando Norris gave McLaren a good result in seventh, while Sebastian Vettel earned the last point for Aston Martin with tenth.
Verstappen certainly did not expect the outcome of the race but was fortunate that it ended up the way it did.
"I was battling a lot of guys and it was a lot of fun out there," Verstappen continued. “It was a crazy race but of course very happy we won it."