GRAND PRIX: Hungary: “Below Par”

Posted on August 16, 2022.

Ferraris ran together for a large part of the race
Mattia was happy on Thursday, and with good cause.
Wet running.

Report by Tony Cotton.

Just when you think everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, a new thing pops up and guess what? It goes wrong. That was the Hungarian Grand Prix. It was as if the scriptwriters of the East Enders Christmas Specials were employed by Liberty to write the story, and to make sure that the fans got an upbeat start, a tense, optimistic middle, and a stomach-wrenching, downbeat, depressing ending to send us off into the summer break with a heavy heart and low spirits. Lower spirits than a bottle of gin that’s been thrown into the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench.   Can it get even worse? I wouldn’t put money on a “no” to that question.


Mercedes laid down a marker straight from Q1, with the top time being by Hamilton. Clearly, their major British GP update and subsequent mods were effective. It was initially the turn of Verstappen and Perez to lead in Q2, while all the time clouds threatened. Perez time was deleted for track limits and later reinstated, which made the officials looks a bit amateurish, but as the cars went faster he didn’t improve and finished 11th. Charles and Carlos put in good runs to go second and fourth, separated by Alonso. Remembering 2021, the Alpines seem to like Hungary.

In Q3, it was the turn of Carlos (1:17.421) and Charles (1:17.567) to show everybody the way, but as the track dried a little from the light showers, in the closing seconds an opportunistically timed run from Russell lit up the fastest sector lights; he was consistently excellent for a 1:17.377. At this point, everybody was relaxed; the “new” Mercedes is good but it still isn’t a race match for the F1-75. Norris showed the McLaren has merits by getting fourth, ahead of Ocon and Alonso in the Alpines (or Alpine if you have a French accent.) Hamilton only managed 7th due to a DRS issue, Bottas and Ricciardo were next with Verstappen well out of the way; he would line up only a place ahead of the unlucky Perez. This was believed to be due to a transitory issue with the power unit. Or “misfire” as the editor and I call it.

The team looked forward to Sunday with anticipation.


Russell proved harder to dislodge than anticipated. He started well (on softs)  and Charles and Carlos fought each other, which was exciting but ultimately not ideal. Carlos came out ahead, and briefly took the lead on lap 16 when Russell pitted for new tyres, not too surprising as they were the softs. He now had to have a second stop for his second set of mediums, so that sounded like good news.

Carlos’  lead was, of course, an illusion, shattered when he pitted for new mediums on the next lap. Not only was the team finessed into an early pit stop, but it was a slow one. As a result, when Charles came in for new mediums 3 laps later he rejoined ahead of Carlos, second behind Russell. In retrospect, this early stop committed Carlos to either a 2 stop strategy of mediums plus a soft, or a one stop with hards. The snag was, the hards weren’t good. My wheelbarrow has more grip. In fact, my Teflon frying pan has more grip, though my frying pan does warm up which the hard Pirelli’s don’t.

Red Bull had supposedly tested hards and realised they were terrible. Unaccountably Ferrari didn’t do so, so didn’t realise.

On lap 28, there started a DRS-fuelled fight between Charles and George, resolved 3 laps later in Charles favour. After a good run through the final corners, he took the Englishman on the outside of turn 1. Leclerc then showed how he had been slowed by the Mercedes by drawing away into a 2 second lead.

It then all started to fall apart.  Ferrari had now run out of mediums and with 31 laps to run had no choice but to fit hards on Charles’ car at the next stop on lap 40.  Why they had stopped for the first time at around the same time as teams running softs is a question I haven’t heard an answer to. I’m guessing that Charles and Carlos haven’t either.

Those hards cost Charles dearly, being just plain slow. On lap 42, he lost 3rd to Verstappen (of which more later). Charles briefly reclaimed the place when Verstappen had an uncharacteristic spin, a complete 360 during which forward momentum continued. Apparently, the 18” wheels reduce the feel greatly, which explains this spin, and probably Charles’ French faux pas. Reducing the feel does, of course, reduce the advantage which a natural driver has. Was this the intention? How much capped budget has been used repairing cars crashed through lack of feel?

Max soon retook the place, leaving Charles in 4th. By lap 53, Russell had caught Charles and passed him. With 16 laps left, Charles went onto softs, rejoining behind Perez in 6th, which was where he finished.

Carlos had taken softs on lap47, intending to run to the end. Hamilton was on the same, having taken them on lap 51. On lap 63 he passed Carlos. Hamilton then used tyres in better condition (and definitely not team orders) to pass his team mate Russell for second.

Hobbled by tyres which either had no grip or limited durability, the pair who had shown so much promise finished 4th and 6th. With Hamilton and Russell in front of them, and Perez between them, that left Verstappen at the front in P1.

How had this happened? Red Bull recognized that they had a choice of mediums and softs, and a bit of testing and algebra identified the time to pit. Verstappen, who clearly has a racing brain even if he doesn’t have a social niceties one, started on softs and drove them with respect. He picked up places where he could, having to negotiate around both Alpines, and we know Alonso in particular can be hard to pass at the Hungaroring. Or anywhere for that matter.  But he bided his time, and it was lap 7 before he was behind his nemesis Hamilton, who started on mediums. On lap 12 both passed Norris for 4th and 5th, but Hamilton effectively acted as a “pathfinder” for his “friend”, which must have given Verstappen a few chuckles. A pit stop on lap 16 enabled Verstappen to undercut Hamilton, leaving him 4th. Fresh tyres on lap 38 saw him ready to successfully challenge Hamilton and to safely avoid the Ferraris reversing at high speed past him to lower places. Apologies for a long story about Verstappen, but Hungary was won by the RedBull team – not just Verstappen – and lost by Ferrari – not Leclerc and Sainz.

The remainder of the places were filled by the Alpine Hungaroring Specials, and Vettel who, just shading out Stroll, dragged the often disappointing Aston into the top 10.


Ferrari’s own press release describes the performance as “below par” so this report, though somewhat critical, is nothing the team haven’t admitted to. In the words of Carlos “There are some things to look at and learn from today.” Words which could have been said just as accurately by the captain of the Titanic.

Mattia Binotto, who left the pit wall early, presumably as the whole thing was too terrible to watch, said “Today’s result is unsatisfactory. In general, we did not perform well in terms of how we managed the strategy and pit stops. Analysing every aspect of this race is our top priority over the coming days, in order to prepare as well as possible for the remaining Grands Prix.”

If we’ve entered the summer break feeling bad, just remember it could be worse. We could be Mattia.



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