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Formula 1: Max Verstappen crowns crazy catch-up race in Hungary

Max Verstappen took another step towards the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship at the Hungarian Grand Prix on the Hungaroring near Budapest.

The Red Bull driver won the race thanks to an outstanding performance from tenth place on the grid and relegated Lewis Hamilton and George Russell (both Mercedes) to second place.

Fourth was Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), ahead of Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), who looked like the possible winner at times, but then had no chance on the white tires and therefore had to make an additional pit stop.

Behind them, Lando Norris (McLaren), Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon (both Alpine) and Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) rounded out the top 10. Mick Schumacher (Haas) was 14th.

Who started with which tires?

Russell drove off in the red soft, the two Ferraris behind him on medium. Norris in P4 had the soft again, as did the two Red Bulls, who plowed through the field from behind. And that extremely fast: after just ten laps, Verstappen was already in sixth position. Behind Russell: 14.1 seconds.

How did the fight for victory develop?

Russell had to make some effort to do this, but was able to defend his pole position. Behind him, Sainz settled in second and Leclerc in third. At the first pit stop, where Sainz came in earlier than Leclerc, the Ferraris swapped positions (lap 22).

Leclerc was then the faster Ferrari in the second stint and put Russell under heavy pressure from lap 27. Sainz was four seconds behind at the time – and in his rear-view mirror Verstappen was getting bigger and bigger, whose race to catch up in the first half of the race could hardly be stopped. After 30 laps he was only five seconds behind Russell.

Then on lap 31 the lead change: Leclerc had the excess speed before turn 1, sat on the outside of the Mercedes and passed Russell. Just one lap later, the gap between the two was already 1.6 seconds.

Was that the turning point in the Grand Prix?

Until then, Verstappen was the fastest man in the race. But when Leclerc had a clear run, he was gradually able to pull away. Behind him, Sainz and Verstappen bit at Russell, who couldn’t keep up with the Ferrari’s pace. As a result, Verstappen’s deficit gradually increased.

On lap 38, Verstappen took the consequence of not being able to pass Russell and Sainz on the track and made his second pit stop very early. A tactic that worked and flushed him past Russell.

Ferrari reacted and brought the actually leading Leclerc into the pits, changed it from medium to hard. A serious mistake. With the hardest tire, Leclerc initially had no grip, so Verstappen passed him on lap 41.

But a lap later, Verstappen did a spectacular 360 in the penultimate corner, allowing Leclerc to pass him again. Verstappen was even lucky that Russell and Perez didn’t slip through in the situation, but was able to continue and immediately attached himself to Leclerc’s heels again.

Despite the spin, which certainly didn’t do his tires any good, Verstappen was still the fastest man on the track. Exiting turn 1, the time had come on lap 45: Verstappen grabbed Leclerc, who couldn’t get up to speed with the hard tires, and was third again.

Sainz was in the lead at the time, 13 seconds ahead of him, but with one pit stop less. When Sainz and Russell came into the pits, Verstappen took the lead. Now the only question was whether his tires would hold up after the spin. Ralf Schumacher said on the ‘Sky’ microphone: “It’s unbelievable how cool it is!”

Why did Leclerc’s pace suddenly drop so dramatically?

Maybe it was the tires. In that phase of the race, he was the only one of the top drivers to have hard tires on them, which were hardly tested in practice. But as with Alpine before, this tire turned out to be extremely slow at Leclerc.

On lap 54, Leclerc also fell behind Russell. A lap later, Ferrari reacted and brought Leclerc in again to switch to soft tyres. At least the pit stop worked this time. Standing time: 2.6 seconds.

Leclerc came back on track in sixth, more than half a minute behind Verstappen, seven seconds behind Perez in P5. Team boss Mattia Binotto could see his anger.

After that Hamilton, fitted with the freshest, soft tires after a long second stint, was the one who could set the pace the best. Hamilton first grabbed Sainz and then Russell as well and finished the race in P2.

What was the reason for the early VSC phase?

Vettel and Alexander Albon (Williams) collided shortly after the start, in turn 2. Some parts of Albon remained on the track, which is why the race was neutralized by a virtual safety car. Vettel was able to continue, Albon had to come into the pits and fell back to last place. No big deal on the part of the race stewards: “No further investigation.”

For Russell, the VSC has been a blessing. When the race restarted on lap 3, he was already two and a half seconds ahead of Leclerc.

Why did Magnussen get the black and orange flag?

The flag signal means: come to the pits, damaged car, danger for other participants. After contact with Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), his front wing endplate was hanging loose. That had to be replaced.

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