The Austrian Grand Prix represented the halfway point of the 2022 Formula 1 season. But the Hungarian GP retaining its pre-summer break spot and the mental reset it offers was why Max Verstappen’s engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase, told him as he crossed the finish line last Sunday: “what a drive – what a way to finish the first half of the year”.
That call came after the Red Bull driver had pulled off something of a shock win, which says more about the previous overtaking challenge at the Hungaroring for a driver that had started 10th – as was the case for Verstappen. Nevertheless, both he and Red Bull were brilliant last Sunday to claim an eighth win of the campaign from that grid spot.
The same could not be said of Ferrari. Charles Leclerc had made up for his unusually sub-par qualifying performance on Sunday, where George Russell took advantage to claim a maiden pole on the back of some unusual Mercedes experiments to finally unlock more of the W13’s potential, by getting into what looked like a race-winning position just before half distance.
But then his team’s call to run mediums for the first two stints badly backfired as the hards he was given at his second stop meant another would be required and Leclerc would finish sixth. That was behind team-mate Carlos Sainz, who ended up fourth having started second on another startlingly poor day for Ferrari that ended with Verstappen’s already very strong championship position being further reinforced.
But there was plenty more to delve into in Hungary, as we explain here.
1. Verstappen and Red Bull really show their class to take shock victory
Verstappen is embraced by Red Bull boss Christian Horner after recovering strongly from qualifying a lowly 10th
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
The 2022 rule changes may have made racing much better even on the tight and twisty Hungaroring (more on that later), but a driver would never choose to start a race at this venue from 10th – especially with the chance that weather won’t intervene.
As the rain just about stayed away at the Budapest track last Sunday other than drizzle falling at various points and with no safety car to bunch the pack up, that Verstappen and Red Bull came away victorious from that grid spot was mightily impressive.
The team spotted Verstappen’s struggles for grip on the laps to the grid in the coolest conditions of the weekend and so decided to stick with the softs for the race start. This proved to be a vital decision as it meant Verstappen could use the mediums for the remainder and avoid the hards, which would undo Ferrari.
The world champion’s passes were brilliant and he heads into the summer break with an 80-point lead. That’s so big Verstappen can now afford to finish second to Leclerc at every round and the final sprint (although he’d need to nick a fastest lap point, which his rival needs at every race, to avoid losing the title on victory countback).
2. Even engine and clutch issues, plus smoky spin couldn’t stop Verstappen’s victory
With a fresh power unit installed, Verstappen was firmly on the front foot on Sunday
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Things did not look so rosy for Red Bull after qualifying, when a sudden engine issue robbed Verstappen of power ahead of the final Q3 runs. But Red Bull team boss Christian Horner estimated that had that not happened, the engine would’ve failed during Verstappen’s laps to the grid and caused a DNS.
Overnight, Red Bull swapped to fresh engines for both Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez and although Horner says the previously used units can be repaired, it does raise the prospect of them taking grid penalties for running further engines later in the season.
During Sunday’s race, Verstappen’s clutch was heating to the point of nearly burning, so Red Bull had to hold him back when chasing Carlos Sainz after the first stops. But once it had figured out a way for him to drive around the issue, he was unleashed again.
Verstappen says the issue causing his wheels to slip when applying throttle contributed to his spin having just past Leclerc for the first time. But his pace was so great – and Perez’s defensive action against the quickly-arriving Russell helped avoid further lost time – he was able to quickly recover.
3. Ferrari’s strategy blunders are really mounting up
Leclerc and Sainz both missed out on the podium after Leclerc had led the race at half distance
Photo by: Ferrari
Ferrari looked to have the pace to beat Red Bull in the preceding French Grand Prix before Leclerc badly let it down with his crash. But that event also featured the team’s botched strategy with Sainz after he’d blotted his copybook by driving through Ferrari’s pitstop red light and getting a penalty. Sainz had insisted the day before that criticism of Ferrari’s strategy calls was unfounded – a claim that is becoming ever more bizarre.
In Hungary, having edged back to pressure early leader Russell in the first stint, Ferrari looked to have the pace and track position to win once Leclerc had finally cleared the Mercedes in yet another brilliant pass this season. But putting him on hards, which it had not run in the dry Friday practice, cost so much pace he even needed an extra stop. Sainz was not put on the hards, but Ferrari still found a way to cost him time – in this instance with two slow pitstops.
Team boss Mattia Binotto claimed Ferrari lacked the pace to beat Red Bull even with the same strategy, but this goes down as yet another example of the red team itself preventing its drivers from achieving their best results. Indeed, Horner said of his rival’s decisions: “You have to think on your feet… [Ferrari] boxed themselves into a corner”.
4. Mercedes “unconventional” tactics bear fruit with Hungary pole
Russell claimed his first pole as Mercedes topped qualifying for the first time in 2022
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
George Russell claimed his first F1 pole by topping qualifying at the Hungaroring, which ended a 13-race streak since Mercedes’ last pole – taken by Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 Saudi Arabian GP.
Afterwards, team boss Toto Wolff credited his squad testing its typical processes by trying new things – such as running a new floor at Silverstone that had not been trialled in its windtunnel due to correlation issues spotted in its at-track data across the season so far.
This, Wolff felt, contributed to Russell’s pole, while Hamilton reckoned the team could’ve qualified in a 1-2 without his car having a DRS issue just as he started his only new tyre run in Q3. The pair ended up finishing second and third for the second race in a row, with Hamilton following Verstappen home.
“This season, we have done unconventional things,” said Wolff. “I remember having a chat with a very clever lady in aerodynamics and she said: ‘if you would have told me last year that we’re putting a floor on the car that we haven’t run in the windtunnel, I would have said we are never going to do this.’ We did and everybody was proud of the results.
“It’s been same thing every weekend, and more so on Friday and Saturday here. We’ve tried things.”
5. Red Bull’s engine investments continue, but Porsche plans still not confirmed
Top Mercedes engineer Prew will bolster Red Bull’s new engine department
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Intrigue continues over Red Bull’s future F1 plans, but it is set to further bolster its burgeoning Powertrains division by signing Phil Prew from Mercedes.
Prew, who had a long career with McLaren that included being Hamilton’s race engineer during his title-winning 2008 campaign before joining Mercedes, is the Silver Arrows chief engineer at its High Performance Powertrains effort. It is not yet known when he will formally join Red Bull. The team’s Powertrains facility has now been completed, and named after 1970 world champion Jochen Rindt, with its attentions soon to be focused on the 2026 engine rule changes.
Ahead of the Hungary weekend, it was revealed that formal processes to complete a Red Bull tie-up with Porsche are well underway, which could end up with the German manufacturer owning 50% of Red Bull’s grand prix operation.
But Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said last weekend there are “some major caveats that we need to get past first before things can get anywhere near progression”. This is namely the 2026 engine rules finally being confirmed by the FIA and then being given final approval by Porsche.
6. One F1 legend will soon end, while another gets a fresh twist
Vettel announced ahead of the weekend that he would retire, and Aston Martin moved quickly to replace him with Alonso
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Two bombshell driver market developments in four days. And both occurred at the Aston Martin squad.
The first was Sebastian Vettel following finally joining social media by using his Instagram account to announce he will retire from F1 at the end of the season. As this came on Thursday, the Hungary media day largely focused on the paddock reacting to his decision, which he said was mainly driven by his desire to spend more time with his family.
Then on Monday morning, Aston revealed it its hiring of Fernando Alonso as Vettel’s replacement to drive alongside Lance Stroll in 2023. Given the short timeframe between the two announcements, this reflects the speed with which both sides came together to find an agreement.
This is understood to have been a result of Aston’s desire not to be left behind in the driver market – the team acting quickly to poach Alonso from Alpine. The blue team had just one race previously been highlighting how the Spaniard was set to join its Le Mans programme once he calls time on his F1 career, but the development at least seems to have solved the problem of where to place current reserve driver Oscar Piastri for 2023.
7. Williams takes a “moral victory”, but issues persist
Latifi enjoyed clocking the best time in FP3, but it proved inconsequential come qualifying as he was eliminated in Q1
Photo by: Williams
By topping the wet third practice session, Nicholas Latifi gave Williams its session-leading position since the 2017 Italian GP, which he called “a nice moral victory”. But, as has often been the case for the Grove-based team in what has not been the season it was hoping for, things went awry as the event progressed.
Latifi qualified last after being caught out in the wind blowing at the final corner on his final Q1 lap. It goes down as an error, but, like its predecessors, the FW44 doesn’t cope well with gusting wind. Having set a then quickest first sector, the Canadian called that a “hero to zero” moment, while in the race he picked up damage in a Turn 2 clash with Vettel. That occurred seconds after team-mate Alex Albon had a similar incident with the Lance Stroll in the other Aston.
Williams was also fined for a bizarre incident in qualifying. In Q1, Albon was sent out on a set of tyres the FIA’s system said had already been returned to Pirelli. It turned out to be what the stewards’ called an “administrative error” – namely entering the wrong barcode number for the set that had indeed been returned. Williams was fined €1,000 for the infraction.
8. F1’s new rules ace their latest major test…
Drivers were able to make passes at the Hungaroring thanks to revised ground effect rules and tyre offsets
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Remember this event from a year ago – where Vettel couldn’t pass eventual winner Esteban Ocon for the entire race despite having a faster car? Well, even just a small pace advantage was enough for the drivers to pull off overtaking moves at the narrow Hungaroring in the new ground effect cars.
As ever, small caveats apply – such as Ferrari’s tyre strategy shambles leaving Leclerc without grip and pace on the hards early in the race’s second half and so allowing his rivals to close in. But given previous dry Hungarian races have led to a dearth of action, this was rather more eventful. In years gone by, Verstappen’s spin would’ve been race losing as he would’ve been stuck back behind Leclerc, but things are different with the car changes for this year.
The track’s technical middle sector means Turn 1 remains the main overtaking spot, but the second DRS zone running down to Turn 2 led to plenty of stunning driving and one bit of bad – Daniel Ricciardo clouting Lance Stroll.
9. …but Aston Martin’s new rear wing tests the rules in a different way
Aston Martin sported a new controversial rear wing
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Having been at the forefront of the news as a result of Vettel’s retirement announcement, Aston continued to make headlines as the weekend progressed. The second chapter of its Budapest intrigue concerned its rear wing upgrade – which appears to go against one of the key aims of F1’s new rules.
The wording of these had effectively ended the previous rear wing endplates in a bid to reduce airflow disruption to following cars. But the AMR22s ventured out in practice at the Hungaroring with new vertical elements added after Aston’s engineers seemingly found a loophole in the rules, which includes the new wing’s apostrophe-shaped rolled over section.
Although the upgrade didn’t transform Aston’s pace potential – Vettel said it was “not a massive step in performance” – the potential for teams to circumvent the intent of the 2022 rules may lead to the FIA closing the loophole in the future.
10. The drivers still aren’t happy with the FIA’s track limits policy
Verstappen lambasted the FIA’s officials for treating Formula 1 drivers like “amateurs” over track limits
Photo by: FIA Pool
For the third race in a row, the drivers were again unhappy with the FIA’s strict approach to track limits, with Verstappen even referring back to corners at Austria’s Red Bull Ring to make his case after qualifying in Hungary.
In the other Red Bull, Sergio Perez had a time deleted and then reinstated during Q2, which he called “messy” and offered his thoughts on the current way of policing track limits not being “really up to it”. Kevin Magnussen called the ongoing debate “very frustrating”, but it was Verstappen’s comments that grabbed most attention.
“They started talking about Turn 13, the exit, the dotted line was the track edge,” Verstappen said. “There was a kerb and a white line next to it, which for me personally is the track edge. We have so many silly little things which make it also more difficult for them to police.
“As drivers, we always want to help and give our advice, but nothing was heard and for me, that’s extremely frustrating. I don’t want to fight with them, I want to just advise them, but it seems like they don’t really care.
“They actually, for my feeling, look at us a bit like we are amateurs. I don’t think that’s correct.”
Track limits look set to be an issue that won’t go away
Photo by: Alfa Romeo