The five elements that led to Verstappen's unexpected F1 Hungary victory

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© F1 2022

Max Verstappen's victory in the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix was probably one of his and the Red Bull team's finest performances.

The five elements that led to Verstappen's unexpected F1 Hungary victory
Even Red Bull's best strategy models predicted that the world champion would only be able to advance as far as fifth after beginning the race from 10th on the starting grid due to a qualifying engine problem that left him without power.

In the end, though, a perfect storm of circumstances – some attributable to team and driver skills, and others to external variables beyond their control – brought him to the front of the pack.

Here are the five things that helped turn damage containment into a knockout punch in the title fight against Ferrari and Charles Leclerc.

Weather


During the weekend of the Hungarian Grand Prix, the temperature changed more than it ever had during a Formula One race.

On Friday, Ferrari excelled in a 34-degree sauna, but on Sunday, a change in the weather front resulted in 21-degree temperatures with clouds and drizzle.

This turn of events, coupled with rain washing away the rubber and leaving a very green track, completely altered the performance of the cars and tires.

The Ferrari, which had performed so well in the heat on Friday, struggled to get its tyres up to temperature on Sunday, and this put it back in the pack.

On the other hand, the Red Bull came to life, especially since it appeared to have so much speed on soft and medium ground.

In addition, when drivers quickly realized the hard was not going to be easy to switch to, Red Bull abandoned its original plan to start Verstappen on the hards and instead opted for the aggressive soft, which ultimately proved to be the superior choice.

On a hotter day, he may have started on the hards and been forced to play the long game, which would have placed him in the back of the pack.

Instead, his early tire advantage allowed him to go on the offensive.

F1 2022 rules allowing overtaking


The Hungaroring is regarded as one of the most difficult courses to pass on in the world, alongside Monaco.

In fact, Red Bull's strategy projections indicated that at least the first quarter of the race would be spent stalled in traffic and losing ground to the leaders.

Despite the fact that Verstappen had a weather-induced speed advantage on the soft tires, the new F1 2022 rules made passing significantly easier this time around.

Verstappen had passed Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon by the seventh lap as he attached himself to the rear of Lewis Hamilton, as opposed to becoming mired in the Alpine train.

When they passed Lando Norris on lap 12, just prior to the first pit stop phase, that put Verstappen directly behind the Mercedes and Ferrari vehicles, despite his clutch problems.

Ferrari pace and strategy


Due to the chilly temperature on Sunday, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc struggled to keep up with the competition. And their issues benefited Verstappen's cause even more.

Ferrari's decision to start its drivers on the medium tyres on a day when the hard was not a terrific tyre further hampered its performance by forcing the team into a corner with its strategy.

Due to the fact that only two sets of medium tires were available to the top teams, those starting on the compound would have to make two pit stops throughout the race.

The optimal strategy was to extend both medium stints as far as possible, followed by a final burst on the soft.

However, Ferrari, believing that track position was of the utmost importance in the title race versus Verstappen, chose to place Leclerc on the hard tire one lap after his Red Bull competitor had pitted for his second and final set of mediums.

Due to the difficulty in bringing the track up to temperature, Leclerc was rendered immobile as he fell from the lead, allowing Verstappen to advance.

Max patience


Verstappen's victory in Hungary was not just due to weather, strategy, and the Red Bull pace exploding on Sunday. It is essential to note that Verstappen's driving was also of the greatest caliber.

His earlier victories were largely attributable to his incredible speed, aggressive maneuvers, and willingness to occasionally take risks.

Hungary, though, was the perfect illustration of a much more mature Verstappen, who can combine the aforementioned skills with the ability to play the long game.

Verstappen's start was one of the most conservative we have ever witnessed from him, as he was boxed in at the first corner due to his apparent unwillingness to take unnecessary chances.

As teammate Sergio Perez swooped around the outside, Verstappen appeared to be in jeopardy of becoming mired behind Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen, but he surged past them on the exit of Turn 1 as they lost momentum.

After that, Verstappen remained composed despite clutch issues, was content to wait until the problem was resolved, and was unruffled when he made that one mistake with the spin after passing Leclerc for the first time.

Christian Horner, the team's manager, responded, "It is right up there" when asked to compare this victory to others by Max Verstappen: "It is right up there."

Lucky timing of his engine problem


For every ounce of talent that came together in Hungary, pure good fortune cannot be entirely disregarded.

As a result of a qualifying engine problem, Verstappen was relegated to the tenth position on the starting grid.

Although the specifics of what transpired have not been disclosed, the team has confirmed that a defective component caused the malfunction, which could not be fixed on the circuit.

Therefore, Red Bull decided to provide Verstappen with a brand-new engine for Sunday's race.

But, as Horner remarked later, it was likely a stroke of luck that the component failed on his penultimate Q3 lap. If it had lasted just two more circuits, it would have eliminated him from the race.

“Thankfully we're sitting here now, with 20/20 hindsight, and grateful that it did break [in qualifying],” said Horner. “Because another 12 kilometres, and it would have broken on the way to the grid.”