Max Verstappen won the 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix from P10 with an absolutely perfect execution of Red Bull’s strategy, while Lewis Hamilton finished second ahead of his Mercedes teammate on pole, George Russell.
Russell led on soft tires and pitted on lap 15, Verstappen on soft pads pitted from P5 a lap later to force Carlos Sainz into the pits from the lead. Charles Leclerc, meanwhile, remained in the lead and extended his first stint until lap 22. Russell was leading again but was passed by Sainz on lap 31. From P4, Verstappen forced the problem with a second stop for Medium on lap 39.
Crucially, Verstappen had undercut Sainz with that stop and also had an advantage over Leclerc as the Monegasse started on medium after a long first stint to swap for the same compound – and hard tires far from the lead excavated after Verstappen. The Dutchman soon swept away his opponent with ease and it became clear that hard tires were not the answer; Leclerc dropped to P6 when he switched to softs again while Verstappen won by 7.8s.
And that’s despite a 360-degree spin that almost cost Verstappen in the final corner, forcing him to pass Leclerc again.
Hamilton started seventh on Medium, cleared the Alps, pitted for Medium and stayed out late to ensure he could finish the race on softs, which ensured he passed the likes of Sainz and then Russell and second could become.
After starting from pole, Russell was unable to convert that into a win as his soft-medium-medium strategy saw him finish third ahead of Sainz, costed by slow pit stops to finish fourth behind the Mercedes. Sainz was still holding off Sergio Perez by a second while Leclerc couldn’t use his soft tires to overtake Perez and finished sixth behind Red Bull in another disappointing day for Scuderia.
Lando Norris beat the Alpines to seventh while Fernando Alonso finished P8 at the expense of teammate Esteban Ocon. Sebastian Vettel scrapped with Lance Stroll to lead his Canadian teammate for P10.
Pierre Gasly was P12, comfortably ahead of 13th place Zhou Guanyu. Mick Schumacher was next, while Daniel Ricciardo finished just 15th thanks to a five-second penalty, ahead of Kevin Magnussen’s other Haas – who was involved in a minor collision early on.
Williams was next, Alex Albon finished ahead of Nicholas Latifi in P17 and P18 respectively, while Yuki Tsunoda was 19th and last for AlphaTauri after a spin.
Valtteri Bottas stopped with five laps to go to extract a Virtual Safety Car and a last-place score for the Alfa Romeo.
WHEN IT HAPPENED
Rain showers threatened to add drama to a weekend that already saw Nicholas Latifi leading a session, George Russell taking his first pole position to keep the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz at bay – and then Max Verstappen qualified on the 10th place in front of him teammate Sergio Perez.
Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly would start from the pit lane with a new powerplant, something Red Bull also decided for both drivers after their qualifying mishap, but due to special permission from the FIA, neither Perez nor Verstappen took grid penalties.
Drivers wore a number of Pirellis, Russell on used softs from pole, Lando Norris took used softs from P4, his teammate Daniel Ricciardo followed (from P9) along with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez (new softs). Further down the top 10, Lance Stroll, Yuki Tsunoda, Alex Albon, Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly would start on new soft tires while the rest of the grid opted for new medium compounds.
The lights went out to end the fevered anticipation, Russell holding off an attacking Sainz trying to pry the lead around the outside of Turn 1 while Hamilton cleared the Alpines – Fernando Alonso pushing Esteban Ocon into Turn 1, to get in fifth, Verstappen up eighth and Perez ninth after Lap 1. The Virtual Safety Car was then used for collisions between Magnussen and Ricciardo and another between Vettel and Albon, but the warning was quickly withdrawn to allow the race to resume on Lap 3 .
2022 Hungarian Grand Prix: Pole sitter Russell struggles to stay ahead at the start in Hungary
Russell gained a jump on the Ferraris as the VSC withdrew, Hamilton behind fourth-placed Nroris while Verstappen pushed the Alpines from Ocon to P6 and Alonso to P7, while Perez also gave chase. Alonso exclaimed that he was “a lot quicker” than Ocon, but on Lap 5 the two-time champion went too far at Turn 3 and Verstappen swept past in P7.
Verstappen made another move on Lap 7, levering P6 from Ocon and now the reigning champion was up against the seven-time champion for P5, Perez behind with DRS and shortly after that at Alonso’s expense around the outside of Turn 2 for P8. Perez would wrestle Ocon in seventh place two laps later to make it a Red Bull six-seven.
Magnussen had made it into the battle for the points but had to pit on lap 7 after his early battle with Ricciardo; The Alfa Romeos had fallen behind in the order from poor starts, with Bottas in 12th and Zhou Guanyu in 16th.
Russell was about 2.5 seconds down on Sainz when the counter hit lap 10 of 70, but the Mercedes driver had a set of soft tires to look after, as did Norris and the Red Bulls. Norris soon found he was creating a bottleneck as both Hamilton and Verstappen chased him for coveted fourth place and a shot at the Scuderia.
Norris had a hard time stopping the Mercedes
Hamilton enjoyed a superior run into Turn 1 on lap 12 and went around the inside of Norris in P4, Verstappen soon after rounded the outside of the McLaren to leave him sixth ahead of Perez – who would take that place from him with DRS one lap later .
Verstappen began complaining, in colorful language, that his clutch was slipping and that he was about to drop Hamilton’s rear wing; Leclerc would ask his pit wall if Sainz could accelerate. In fact, Sainz picked up the pace after closing the gap to 1.2 seconds early on lap 15, DRS got his privilege a lap later when the call-to-box was given. Sainz skipped the pit lane and instead it was Russell who stopped for Medium – Verstappen followed – to come out sixth early on lap 17.
Russell came out of the pits – his stop was a bit slow – only to find Alonso trying to fight him around the outside of Turns 1-4, but the Mercedes just held on.
Sainz made his stop on lap 17 but it wasn’t ideal either and he was released in P6 between the Alpines with Alonso and Verstappen behind him. Crucially, Sainz was now on the same tire as Russell but with Ocon the obstacle was between him and the pole sitter. Ocon was cleared with ease on lap 19 (when Perez pitted and came out 10th in traffic) leaving Leclerc in the lead, 11.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton and a further 7.5 seconds ahead of Russell when the ticker lap ticked reached 20.
Leclerc extends his first stint
Hamilton took the cue to stop from P2 on Lap 20, but with Verstappen lighting up the sectors, the Dutchman successfully undercut the Mercedes, which emerged in P7. The reigning champion was comfortably P5 after clearing Alonso when Hamilton stopped for another set of mediums, with Verstappen taking another place ahead of Ocon on the following Tour.
This new set of Mediums not only gave Verstappen an undercut on Hamilton, plus two places ahead of the Alpines, but also the pace to threaten then-leader Leclerc, who was forced to cover the Dutchman with a solid stop for Mediums on lap 22 . That let Russell take the lead again, Leclerc came up in front of Sainz.
Alpine’s strategy was contrary: Alonso pitted hard on lap 22 while Ocon came back two laps later for the same compounds. Ocon emerged in a battle with his teammate and Ricciardo then saw an opportunity, pouncing on the pair at Turn 3 to jump them and take 10th place behind the yet-to-be-stopped Alfa Romeos – while Alonso was left frustrated because he couldn’t get past his team mate.
To add insult to injury, Aston Martin’s Stroll would soon take P12 from Alonso and pass Ocon on Lap 30 as the Alpines began to struggle. Vettel compounded Alpine’s problems by picking off Alonso two laps later and then Ocon on lap 39.
Russell’s lead over Leclerc shrank as the Monegasque driver picked up the pace and by lap 27 the Ferrari was within DRS range of the Mercedes, looking around but refusing not to overtake at Turn 1. A more committed attempt was made on the following lap for the lead, but Russell held off Leclerc in a wheel-to-wheel battle on the descent to Turn 5.
The battle continued, Russell slightly going too far at Turn 2 on Lap 29, but Leclerc refused to drive down the hill and instead tried it on Lap 30 – the Mercedes driver taking unconventional, wide lines to avoid the Ferrari tempted to lead before plunging into the lead to deny him the lead fairly but sternly.