After each Grand Prix, Nextgen-Auto.com invites you to find the tops and flops identified by the editorial staff. Who deserves to be applauded? Who, on the contrary, should be criticized? Finally, what are the question marks or ambiguities, which should be followed with interest during the next Grands Prix? Check it out below!
Top n°1: Verstappen overcomes two problems and a spin
After a difficult Friday, Max Verstappen seemed to have found enough rhythm to challenge for pole position, or at least a front row start at the Hungarian Grand Prix. But a mechanical problem came to stop the machine that is the RB18 at the time of Q3, preventing the Dutchman from setting a time. With a tenth place at the start, on the winding Hungaroring, the case seemed settled, and Verstappen was about to save the furniture.
But that was underestimating the reigning world champion, who immediately began his comeback. Eighth on the first lap, he got rid of the Alpines before the seventh lap, then took advantage of the difficulties of Lando Norris to gain a place. A clutch problem worried his start to the race, during which he had to drive in preservation mode on his Red Bull.
He moved up to fourth thanks to the pit stops. A perfect Red Bull strategy, led by Hannah Schmitz, allowed Verstappen to take the lead on lap 50 and never let go. It is the first time that he has won by starting out of the top 4, and the second time that Red Bull has won from tenth place.
Top n°2: Mercedes F1 and George Russell on pole
With Verstappen’s problem in qualifying, pole position seemed to have to be played between the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. But when the two drivers had finished with their last qualifying lap, George Russell came to steal the show, thus signing his first career pole position, and the first for Mercedes this season. Without a DRS problem on his car, Lewis Hamilton could potentially have allowed his team to monopolize the front row.
The next day, Russell and Hamilton suffered the law of Max Verstappen, but the seven-time world champion gratified the public at the Hungaroring with an impressive last stint. Irresistible against his teammate, Hamilton went for second place, allowing Mercedes to sign a double podium for the second race in a row. Enough to ensure before the summer break that the Brackley team is back in the game.
Top No. 3: Lando Norris ‘best of the rest’ undisputed
Fourth in qualifying, seventh in the race: Lando Norris flew over the peloton this weekend in Hungary. Of course, the leading teams were in a different league from his, as evidenced by the 62 seconds that separated him from sixth place at the end of the race. And unfortunately, that’s what the Briton focused on after the race.
But in fact, his weekend was very positive. Despite a poor start to the race, after qualifying on the second row alongside Leclerc, Norris was one of the few riders to run the hard tires late in the race. His strategy paid off despite the use of all three compounds (softs / mediums / hards), and Norris once again showed that he is the key element allowing McLaren to aim for fourth place.
Flop n°1: Ferrari tripped over the mat
Saturday evening, Ferrari had the cards in hand to make a very good operation in the championship. Admittedly, George Russell was the grain of sand in a well-oiled machine, which had notably dominated the two Friday sessions, but the race promised to be idyllic for the Scuderia. Indeed, the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Sergio Pérez started 10th and 11th, far from the second and third places of the holders of Maranello.
Sainz stayed ahead of Leclerc in the first stint, despite the Monegasque’s clearly better pace. Seeing that the medium tires of the two drivers were working well, Ferrari decided to redo a stint with the yellowwall tires, before seeing what would happen at the end of the race. This was a first big mistake.
Once Leclerc passed Sainz thanks to the overcut, the Monegasque had the opportunity to lead about fifteen laps in total. Ferrari fearing that Verstappen would not be faster than its driver on medium rubber, the Scuderia did not dare to leave him with these tires to put on soft ones at the end of the race, and installed the hard tires on him. A catastrophic decision which imposed a third stop on Leclerc.
Second and third at the start against out-of-this-world Red Bulls, the Scuderia finished fourth with Sainz and sixth with Leclerc. A zero point above all strategic, although the F1-75 was disappointing in race pace. Mattia Binotto focused her communication on the performance of the single-seater after the race, but no one will have missed the colossal tactical error on the pit wall.
Flop n°2: AlphaTauri, nothing is going right
The evolution brought to France on the AT03, the first since the beginning of the season, was to change everything. The balance sheet after two races turns into a fiasco. In qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda were eliminated in Q1. The Frenchman saw one of his times erased, but that should not hide the poor level of the Italian single-seater, since Tsunoda was 16th.
In the race, it was a disaster for Tsunoda, who finished last by two laps, while Gasly evolved out of the points to complete the race in an anonymous 12th place. The package the Frenchman was desperately waiting for has arrived, and the results are not taking off for the small Scuderia, which has not scored any points since Baku. The alert sent by Pierre Gasly in France seems more topical than ever.
Flop n°3: Daniel Ricciardo, we almost believed it…
Until Q2, Daniel Ricciardo was level with Lando Norris. The Australian seemed to be in pace with his teammate, driving an advanced McLaren MCL36 which he managed to tame in the rain. But while the Briton improved by three tenths between Q2 and Q3, the Australian went the opposite way, thus losing more than half a second on his teammate.
The next day, between an average pace and a catastrophic strategy, with hard tires that didn’t work for him either, Ricciardo went through hell and finished the race in 15th place. The highlight of the show, he failed to turn when Lance Stroll overtook him at the second corner after his pit stop and harpooned the Canadian, taking a five-second penalty.
We want to see…
Nicholas Latifi, one step away from the feat?
Saturday could have been an exceptional day for Nicholas Latifi. Already in the morning, he managed to climb to the top of the time sheet for Free Practice 3, to the point of provoking the disbelief of some of his rivals, who saw the Williams in the top 3 in the rain. In Q1 he was breaking the absolute circuit record when he made a mistake on the last corner.
Eliminated and even good last on the grid, he had an anonymous race the next day. If the final result of the weekend is disappointing, especially compared to the points scored last year, we can wonder about one of these flashes of which the Canadian is capable when it rains, and on this circuit in particular.
Haas F1, what potential for the advanced VF-22?
Kevin Magnussen rode this weekend for the first time with the new version of the Haas VF-22. This one sported new sidepods, as well as other new parts, and Haas hoped to squeeze some performance out of it. Unfortunately, the Dane was eliminated in Q2, like his team-mate Mick Schumacher, who had the previous specification.
In the race, Magnussen was unable to ride in an interesting strategy because of a stoppage at the start of the race, following contact. Also, it is difficult to see what gain these new features bring, even if the team is optimistic about the performance potential to be drawn from it. A potential that we hope to see more at Spa.