More questions for Ferrari to answer as Max Verstappen wins in Hungary

Max Verstappen won the Hungarian Grand Prix after another Ferrari strategy blunder cost Charles Leclerc a possible victory.

Verstappen crossed the line 7.8 seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton, after a late surge from the seven-time world champion, with George Russell third.

Leclerc finished sixth and now trails Verstappen by 80 points heading into the sport’s summer break.

After overcoming 30 laps of poleman Russell’s resistance to take the lead with a brilliant move around the outside of the Mercedes at Turn 1, Leclerc looked on course to take the checkered flag.

But the Monegasque afternoon was ruined – and his championship hopes dealt an almost irreversible blow – when Ferrari opted to field their star driver on the harder rubber.

From the fastest man on the track, Leclerc was suddenly out of speed and was swallowed up by Verstappen, who started 10th, at the start of the 40th lap.

Verstappen spun at the penultimate corner on the same lap to allow Leclerc back into the lead.

But such was his lack of pace in a strategy rejected by tire supplier Pirelli, Verstappen was behind the Ferrari, passing his beleaguered rival at turn two five laps later.

From there, Verstappen’s eighth victory in his championship defense was never in danger with a second title in as many years looking increasingly likely.

Max Verstappen (centre), standing on the podium with Lewis Hamilton (left) and George Russell (Darko Bandic/AP)

(AP)

The opening half of Sunday’s race was dominated by Russell after he ran off his marks 24 hours after claiming his first career pole.

Carlos Sainz, who started second, pulled the gearbox of Russell’s Mercedes from the opening corner, but Russell showed great composure to keep the Ferrari man at bay and pulled 2.4 seconds clear after just three laps.

Sainz and Leclerc began to bring Russell back, but after the first round of stops, Russell’s lead remained at two seconds.

By now, Leclerc had passed Sainz and was the fastest man in Hungary. A look of resignation appeared on the face of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, and despite Russell’s stoic resistance, Leclerc took his man on lap 30.

Despite the threat of rain, that seemed to be the case for Leclerc, only for Ferrari to make a strange strategic move.

Leclerc crashed out while leading at last weekend’s French Grand Prix, but this was his team’s fault, with their star man forced to stop for tires once again by his rivals.

He is now level three wins back of Verstappen with nine laps to go after the sport closes.

Hamilton started seventh but moved up to fifth after passing both Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso at the start.

For long periods of the race, Hamilton was out of contention but, after adopting a different strategy to those around him, the race came to the British driver in the closing stages.

There are more questions for the Ferrari garage to answer (UK only/AP)

(AP)

With 19 laps to go, Hamilton was leading when he pitted for the softer tyre.

He left the pits in fifth place but passed Sainz with seven laps to go and then moved ahead of teammate Russell with five to run, finishing the race with the fastest lap.

Sainz crossed the line in fourth, one place ahead of Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

Asked if he thought he could win ahead of Sunday’s race, Verstappen replied: “Not really.

“Of course I was hoping I could get on the podium. Very difficult conditions, but we had a good strategy and pitted at the right time. Even with the 360 ​​degree spin we won the race.”



I honestly don’t know where the speed came from. I struggled at the beginning of the race but got comfortable with the balance.

Lewis Hamilton

He added: “It was a crazy race and I’m very happy to win it.”

Hamilton said: “I honestly don’t know where the speed came from. I struggled at the beginning of the race but got comfortable with the balance.

“For us to have both cars on the podium twice is very special for us. The other guys have an advantage, but we’re still closing and that’s a great way to get into the break.

“Hopefully we can bring more performance after the break and start to fight with the guys at the front.”

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