Max Verstappen won, Mercedes maximized, racing the new cars was again very good and Ferrari failed. The Hungarian Grand Prix thus had all the trends of the first half of the season in it. We look at these four elements, which are so decisive in 2022.
1. Verstappen was the consistent rocket again
With his spin on lap 42, Verstappen briefly showed that he is also just human. A small reassurance, because the rest of the performance of the Limburger was almost otherworldly. Sure, he’s in one of the best cars on the grid, and his team makes it easy for him by always hitting strategically.
The share of Verstappen himself was nevertheless enormous. Skillfully he kept out of the chaos in the opening laps, and his overtakes were brisk as usual. Charles Leclerc struggled on his hard tyres, but still: overtaking, spinning, and then overtaking your biggest title competitor was a fine example of top-level racing. Verstappen thus raised the bar a bit higher for Leclerc, who would also like to touch that level himself.
But the real strength of Verstappen is in the lap times, which were extremely fast and consistent. Certainly the times in his final stint were as flat as a ruler; Sven Kramer would have been proud of it. It proves the ease with which the reigning world champion acts at his high level. He doesn’t accidentally shake one quick round of his sleeve, but does it again and again. Without making mistakes, and without asking too much of his tires. Championship form at its best.
2. Mercedes maximizes again
Mercedes does not have the car from previous years, but the team is otherwise intact. And that pays off. The race stable of Lewis Hamilton and George Russel is maximizing, with two cars on the podium two races in a row.
The Briton proved again on Sunday that Hamilton is still a factor of great importance within the team. If there’s a race where the tires play a vital role, he’ll come forward. The seven-time world champion still has a good feeling for that. Extending a stint and then having a strategic advantage has always been his specialty. On Sunday he did it again: in the nineteen laps left on the softs he was able to harvest.
Russell already had his moment on Saturday and showed once again on Sunday that he is the man of the future for Mercedes. The Brit had the same strategy as Verstappen, but simply not the raw speed. In the many fights he held up well, but those duels cost him too much life in the tires in the end.
Hamilton and Russell are making optimal use of the mediocre Mercedes in recent weeks.
3. New proof: the racing is excellent this year
The Hungaroring is considered a track on which it is difficult to overtake, but the duels were fine on Sunday. There was extensive fighting for all places inside and outside the top ten, several lines were possible and the drivers could follow each other well. Now the track near Budapest with nicknames like ‘Monaco without walls’ has a bad reputation anyway, because the races here have been well worth watching in recent years. But indeed, overtaking was difficult.
So on Sunday, the circuit provided new evidence that the 2022 rules really work, especially in the slot sector with two long overturners. Those were always exactly the meters of asphalt on which the cars of the previous generation suffered so much from dirty air that they lost crucial time. Overtaking was therefore difficult, also in the DRS zone on the next straight. On Sunday, the drivers were also able to follow each other well in the last few corners.
Charles Leclerc and George Russell in a fight.
4. Ferrari fails flashy again
Another constant in 2022 is Ferrari’s strategic failure of all shapes and sizes. A new chapter was added to this in Hungary. The team’s strategic department could have done two things after the first stint on the mediums: bet on a long second stint on the same tires, or an intermediate stint on soft. After that choice had already been made, Leclerc made it clear that he could continue on his medium tires for a while, but Ferrari became nervous of the steaming Verstappen.
So, again, the wrong choice was made. It becomes alarming if anyone who glances at the lap times of the field already realizes Ferrari could have taken a look on Twitter, so to speak. The team went for the non-functioning hard tire anyway, and it went wrong. Not to mention Carlos Sainz’s two failed pit stops.
The question is what will happen now and whether anything will happen at all. Because it can no longer be like this. The drivers become despondent and the hard work of all the staff is not rewarded. Time after time. Within a normal company, heads roll, which had already happened at Ferrari before. Now it wants to grow as a team and learn from mistakes; the standard tune keeps popping up. But maybe Ferrari should go back to the harsh Italian culture of yesteryear: if you make mistakes, your head will come off. The question is whether team boss Mattia Binotto will survive.