It was yet another incredible race win for Max Verstappen and Red Bull in Budapest, despite a lowly starting position of 10th place after power unit issues in qualifying. Verstappen and his team managed to pull off two crucial strategy moves – firstly getting ahead of Carlos Sainz and George Russell in the first round of pit stops, and then getting ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the second round of stops – which put him in prime position to overtake Charles Leclerc’s struggling Ferrari on the hard compound tyres, and cruising to the chequered flag to take his 28th grand prix victory, despite a spin shortly after overtaking the Monegasque.
Speaking after the race, Verstappen said he didn’t expect to win the race, and that he hoped to get “close to the podium”. He emphasised how the team’s strategy was a key part to his success on a tricky day in Budapest:
“Very tricky conditions out there, but I think we had a really good strategy – really reactive, always pitting at the right time. I think we had some good out laps, and then at the end, even with a 360° [spin] we won the race.”
Verstappen had just passed Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari when he had a somewhat strange spin on the penultimate turn. He explained that clutch problems meant he lost performance and was caught by surprise with his lack of grip in that moment. Despite that, he re-joined the track and quickly re-overtook Leclerc.
“I was struggling a bit with the [gear] shifts and the clutch, and we had to change a few things around that to not basically burn the clutch, and that cost a bit of performance. And I think that caught me out, out of that corner. Luckily, I could do a 360°, so only lost one spot.
Verstappen was full of praise for his “flexible” and “reactive” Red Bull team pit wall and strategy decisions. He explained that the original plan was to start on the hard compound tyres – the same compound which Leclerc and both Alpine cars struggled to make work – but quickly realised that it wasn’t the right tyre for the track conditions:
“I think it just shows how quickly we can react, because we were planning to start on the hard [tyres]. We went out on our reconnaissance laps, and we were like ‘that’s not working, we will go on the soft [tyres]’.
“The team needs to be flexible on that, because everything was calculated around the hard tyre, and then to make that quick decision, shows that we have a lot of belief in ourselves to make the right call.
“From there onwards, of course we had to remain calm, be careful in the first lap – because I got a bit unlucky, got boxed in into turn one, but then again, you remain calm, and actually out of the corner I got a good launch because it was all a bit messy there.
“And then we just moved our way forward, then the team made the right calls with the two undercuts really. I think we did the right strategy, also we chose the right tyres, and we managed them to the end, including that 360°.”
On a day in which Ferrari made crucial strategy errors, Verstappen was clear that his team has the “feeling” to make the right calls in difficult situations, and it showed today with its victory from the fifth row of the grid in one of the hardest tracks of the calendar for overtaking.
“We have a few plans, but you have to be flexible as well, you cannot always rely on the calculations you made before the race, because with these temperatures, and also it was constantly drizzling a bit, you have to adapt, you need that feel.
“It’s not only me in the car, but also on the pit wall, they need that feeling of making the right calls, and they have that,” he concluded.
With his main championship rival Charles Leclerc finishing down in sixth place, Verstappen has once again extended his championship lead, and now he is a massive 80 points ahead of the Monegasque on the standings as F1 heads into the summer break.