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TeamTalk: A look back on 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix

TeamTalk: A look back on 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix

TeamTalk: A look back on 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix

The 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix could’ve been a boring race on a track that doesn’t historically allow for much overtaking, but it wasn’t.

Instead we were treated to a race that was a fine sendoff for Formula 1 into the summer break, with dramatic developments off track, namely four-time Champion Sebastian Vettel announcing his retirement at the end of this season.

On track the drama was not lacking, starting with George Russell taking his maiden F1 pole position stealing it in the last minute from pole favorites Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, not to mention Max Verstappen’s power unit problem that denied him a shot at pole, as Lewis Hamilton was left to rue a DRS problem preventing him from fighting for the top starting spot on Sunday’s grid.

During the race, it was another case of Ferrari tripping over their own feet – or tyres – while Red Bull delivered a bold strategy that couple with some solid driving from Verstappen, saw the Dutchman win from tenth on the grid.

Some great moment from Hungary which out GrandPrix247 team will reflect on in this edition of TeamTalk.

Kevin Melro: Good racing makes me happy

For me, a pass for position in racing is the equivalent of a football goal as it’s a defining moment in a sport requiring a blend of skill, talent, experience and opportunity to accomplish. The tug of war between offense and defense regardless the sport is what I love.

Enter the Hungarian Grand Prix, my absolute delight; a race that showcases the best of defensive driving. In an era of DRS pointless passing obsession and the God-awful Drive to Survive influence, this year’s edition did not disappoint.

The best element of Hungary was specifically the defensive car positioning of George Russell and Charles Leclerc on each other, it was spot on and high quality “racing”.

It was the first time in a long time that I understood what I was watching in the context of F1 racing. I know this because I watched 13 separate races this weekend across many disciplines of racing and Russell vs Leclerc gave F1 a spot in my mental top 5 highlight reel for the weekend.

Max Verstappen was exceptional as well, so good in fact that it looks like he isn’t even trying anymore. Through betting experience months ago, I wrote the following in permanent ink on the walls of my office at GrandPrix247 HQ: “When in doubt bet on Max.”

Hidden away in the Ferrari meltdown hysteria was the absolute slaughterhouse Verstappen laid upon the entire field during in and out laps at pit cycles. In the words of Antron Brown: “If you’re beating the best, what does that make you?”

Well, with the exception of Leclerc’s first stop, not one driver was within three seconds of Verstappen’s combined in and out lap elapsed time during pit stop cycles one and two.

Another point of interest is Russell’s expression of sympathy for Leclerc. It’s not in line with Mercedes’ usual banter of “great struggle in times of shear dominance”; I guess he missed that era in all fairness.

Instead Russell, whom is tied with Charles on the statistic of least amount of podiums among the top six drivers appears to be exuding the quintessential essence of competitive spirit saying it doesn’t feel good beating Leclerc in this context.

He’d be right as Leclerc led all drivers in rave pace handsomely, showing as the fastest car on circuit by a 31% majority of all green flag laps.

The idea that the car wasn’t good enough or wasn’t fast enough as Mattia Binotto is suggesting does not translate through the data, just as in qualifying both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz fumbled a certain pole position resulting in Russell scooping it up with both hands.

Although, I suspect Spa will be different for Mercedes. They can’t compete north of 300km/h, Hungaroring hid that problem. They’re expected to hit 300km/h five separate times at Spa during qualifying with a significant portion of the lap traveling at 300km/h+.

Many sympathies to Mercedes in advance in the absence of a miracle from their aero department in Belguim, and a well deserved summer break for all.

Mark Kay: Fortune Favours the Bold

We can dissect Ferrari’s strategic choices and discuss how badly they may have ‘effed things up again’, but for me there are a couple of aspects to consider before reasoning total condemnation.

Firstly, Ferrari have spent the best part of the last 2-3 years fighting back from total disaster. The last time they were true contenders for the F1 World Constructors’ Championship was 2018, the last time they had realistic chances of winning races was in 2019, and neither current Ferrari driver has ever been in a World Drivers’ Championship battle, but the team have mastered a fantastic first effort at a chassis under the new F1 regulations for 2022, and in Hungary it showed.

They will battle harden in time.

Charles Leclerc’s whinging, though, is starting to bore me. It’s time for him to put his big boy pants on if he wants to win a World Championship any time soon.

Instead of moaning about his lack of understanding of his team’s strategic choices, maybe it’s time for him to take a leaf out of his team mate Carlos Sainz’s book, and make his own in-car strategic choices if he disagrees with the pit wall.

On several occasions this year Sainz has overruled and defied Ferrari pit wall calls, and it is no coincidence that most World Champions do at times too.

One of the highlights of the Hungarian Grand Prix for me was the performance of Lewis Hamilton. I must admit that during the first part of the race I thought to myself that George Russell was going to smack him, but his superb tyre management skills, and ability to show outright pace when it mattered was simply mesmerizing.

Some people are talking up the improvement in Mercedes performance and indicating that it might even be possible that Hamilton could win a race this year, but I disagree because after Hungary I predict that he might be able to win 2 or even maybe 3 races in the second half of the season. Anyone remember Sao Paulo last year?

Nevertheless, one thing that will stick in my mind about Hungary in 2022 was Max Verstappen and Red Bull. They both were willing to take risks, and this is something that Ferrari should pay attention to.

Verstappen managed his tyres just as well as Hamilton, he was blisteringly quick when he needed to be, but the devastating blow to the entire field was his in and out laps when pitting.

Red Bull on the other hand were not only willing to change their race plan on the fly on the grid and start on the Soft instead of the Hard compound that they originally intended to start on, but they also made the gritty decision to run Verstappen for 32 laps on a set of mediums after his second and last pit stop.

Success in F1 is risk versus reward.

David Terrien: The way is paved for a second Verstappen title

Budapest was a roller coaster race where we had three various teams leading the race and, in all fairness, they could all have a shot at winning it, but with F1 becoming very competitive, race results and also race strategies tend to look very complex or even over complicated when it comes to Ferrari.

Race strategy is dictated by free practice, Qualifying position, race tyres available, weather conditions race incidents, race pace, tyre degradation, and so many other factors that we can’t always see as spectators seated on our sofas in front of our TV screens.

Even though we don’t have the full picture, the strategies of Red Bull or Mercedes tend to make sense most of the time and they are not very often surprising and look successful in average; but when it comes to Ferrari, it looks like they are missing the basics, even as if a 5-year-old could do better.

Well somehow it is true, Ferrari makes mistakes after mistakes but in the case of Budapest, I think we should look at the information we have been given and look at the potential mistakes leading to their terrible strategy and when they actually cornered themselves with decisions leading them to Sunday’s chaos.

It looks like Ferrari used all of its allowance of Medium tyres in FP2 and FP3 and this somehow dictates the rest of your weekend since it is limiting your strategy in terms of tyre choice for the race. They knew the weather would change over the weekend, hence they knew grip level and required tyres would change to adapt to grip levels on the track but still they made that mistake.

I think drivers are also to blame on this one since they should know better and look at what choices they will have once the race is on. So yes, it is Ferrari’s mistake, but the drivers should get involved and prevent this from happening.

Ferrari’s drivers also compromised the team’s chances in qualifying. They both had the pace to put the car on pole and their best sectors prove it, yet they were not capable to put a good lap together when it really mattered and they let a driver with a slower car steal pole from them which should never have happened.

From that point onwards, they were not completely in control of their destiny since they were at risk of seeing George Russel and Mercedes dictating the pace and taking their chances away. You would think that having two cars chasing a single one, they would go for split strategies and try a car on Mediums and another one on Softs for the start, but they didn’t. You would also think that what Max Verstappen was able to identify during formation laps (very poor grip hence an obvious need to start on Softs) would also be obvious to the Ferrari duo, but it was not.

From that point onwards, Ferrari was on the wrong foot, and they delivered what is becoming a regular Ferrari comic show where they take one wrong decision after the other, incapable of putting a single car on the podium while having two great drivers, most probably the fastest car on track and starting P1 and P2.

As a spectator, not only we feel sorry for them, but the team seems condemned to lose this season’s Title fight and for many seasons to come if they don’t make the right decision and bring in fresh blood into the team.

While Ferrari show their worst game, Mercedes seem good in Hungary, and it would have been interesting to see Lewis Hamilton having a trouble-free qualifying session and starting from pole. I am not sure Verstappen would have been able to catch him as he did with the others.

Verstappen and Red Bull are delivering a sleek job, they don’t even need to be at the top of their game since Ferrari is handing them the Title over silver platter, while Mercedes don’t have a car, competitive enough to challenge them.

Just pretend you didn’t see the grand prix, you have no clue what happened and you just look at the facts:

  • Max started P10
  • We are on a track where overtaking has always been difficult
  • He spun during the race
  • There was no major strategy gamble related to SC Cars or VSC
  • There were no race incidents
  • None of the guys in front of him at the start retired

…and Max won the race almost without breaking a sweat. This is not being strong; this is almost being unbeatable, and I can’t see how he could miss the Title under these conditions.

I thought it would be a Ferrari weekend. I thought Max and Red Bull would be smart enough to maximise their weekend and take a lot of valuable points in the Title race even if it meant let Ferrari win on a turf which seemed to favour them a lot.

I thought this would be enough for them, allowing them to go into the summer break with a comfortable lead and peace of mind. But they delivered a great race and almost a masterpiece if it was not for Max’s spin.

Maybe the Mercedes team with Ferrari’s F1-75 would give them a bit of a challenge but as it stands, the way is paved for a second consecutive Title for Max.

Spa is a great track, and we can expect a great race in Belgium where we hope weather conditions will spice up the show. Meanwhile Red Bull and Max will enjoy a very relaxing summer break with an extremely comfortable lead.

Jad Mallak: Are Verstappen and Red Bull embarking on a streak?

With Sebastian Vettel announcing his retirement on the eve of the 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix, I couldn’t but start to make comparisons between the German’s time with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013, and Max Verstappen’s current form with the energy drinks outfit.

Vettel won his first Title in 2010 on the final race of that year in Abu Dhabi – ironically after Ferrari bungled Fernando Alonso’s strategy – and it was the first time he lead the Championship that year.

After that, Vettel went from strength to strength with Red Bull, and proceeded to dominate F1 for the next three seasons winning everything on the way and breaking various records.

My point is, Vettel’s first Title was very tough to achieve, and he barely won it, much like how Verstappen won his maiden F1 crown after a bitter and tough battle with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in 2021.

Mercedes are out of the picture this season, and Ferrari have taken their place as Title rivals so to speak, with their formidable F1-75 arguably the fastest car on the grid as it secured eight poles in 13 races, seven for Charles Leclerc and one for Carlos Sainz.

No reliability and bad race execution made 2022 a different story, as Ferrari have been no less than a disaster in that regards, and that’s why Leclerc enters the summer break 80 points down on Verstappen.

But I won’t dwell on Ferrari’s calamities as it’s getting boring to be honest, plus I feel we will have an abundancy of mishaps from the Reds over the final part of the season which will give us much to write about.

My focus will be Verstappen and Red Bull, as this combo has evolved into an intimidating package that threatens to clean up this season, and maybe in 2023 as well, as the Melton Keynes squad have been supreme with or without Ferrari’s implosions.

Verstappen is a different driver this year, calm, more mature, and calculating in his approach. His “all or nothing” mentality seems to be a thing of the past, as he has become more strategic in how he tackles race weekends and battles.

Before, the reigning Champion used to want to be fastest in every session in practice, take pole and win the race, and he used to crash a lot on the way. That has changed.

Never have I seen Verstappen calm after losing pole to a rival, but this year he feels more willing to play the long game, biding his time for the race where points are handed down.

The race in Hungary was a clear example of this, as despite starting tenth on the grid after his power unit problem in qualifying, he remained composed, and drove one of the best races of his career, so dominant that even a 360 spin could not derail his charge.

The reason I am focusing on Verstappen more than Red Bull, is that the team has always been an impeccable operator during the races, always delivering “out-of-the-box” strategies taking their rivals by surprise. They may have dropped the ball with some of their cars before, but with strategy and race executions, the Bulls have been bang on.

But Verstappen is the part of the Oracle Red Bull racing equation that has evolved, probably with age, and most importantly after winning his First F1 Title last year. That has definitely removed pressure off his shoulders.

Having said all this, and after the Verstappen/Red Bull Hungary performance, could they be on the verge of starting another success streak?

There is no reason to believe otherwise.