Verstappen on top in Hungary as Red Bull claim record 12th successive win

Max Verstappen stormed to victory over Lando Norris and Sergio Perez with another commanding performance in the Hungarian Grand Prix, giving the reigning double world champion his seventh straight triumph and the Red Bull their 12th in a row – beating McLaren’s long-standing record.

Verstappen passed pole-sitting Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton at the start before settling into the lead and pulling clear of the chasing pack with aplomb, chalking up a lights-to-flag win that puts further distance between himself and team mate Perez in the drivers’ standings.

It means Red Bull continue their 100% winning run for the 2023 season, while setting a new outright milestone in terms of successive race wins, with their staggering tally now one clear of the 11 McLaren achieved with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost during the 1988 campaign.

Verstappen took the chequered flag comfortably clear of Norris, who dropped behind fellow McLaren driver Oscar Piastri early on but regained the place at the first round of pit stops, while Perez – one of only two drivers, along with George Russell, to go long in the first stint on hard tyres – rose from ninth to third with another strong recovery drive.

Hamilton’s hopes of turning his 104th pole into a 104th win were dashed at the start when he lost out to Verstappen, Piastri and Norris in quick succession, before that was compounded when he fell victim to Perez’s alternate strategy, but the seven-time champion at least salvaged fourth via a late move on the Australian rookie Piastri.

Charles Leclerc crossed the line in sixth position but dropped behind the other Mercedes of Russell after the chequered flag when a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane was applied, with Ferrari team mate Carlos Sainz coming home eighth.

Aston Martin ended an anonymous race weekend with a minor double points finish, Fernando Alonso the last driver to stay on the same lap as winner Verstappen in ninth and team mate Stroll finishing one tour down in 10th to round out the points.

Fresh from their recent points-scoring exploits, Alex Albon and Williams had to settle for 11th this time out, followed by the lead Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas in 12th after the Hinwil team’s high-flying qualifying display turned sour on race day through incidents and a general lack of pace.

Verstappen makes his move heading into turn 1.

Indeed, Zhou Guanyu’s fifth-place starting position became a lowly 16th on race day after he tried to make up for a slow getaway and ran into F1 returnee Daniel Ricciardo at the start, triggering a four-car collision that led to both Alpine drivers retiring from proceedings once again.

Ricciardo recovered to take 13th in his first race back since the 2022 season finale in Abu Dhabi, ahead of Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, AlphaTauri team mate Yuki Tsunoda, the aforementioned Zhou and final finisher Kevin Magnussen.

Williams rookie Logan Sargeant pulled into the pits after a late spin, with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly doing the same in the early stages due to the significant damage their cars picked up in the chaos sparked by Zhou.

With the penultimate round before the summer break completed, Verstappen now holds a 110-point lead over Perez in the 2023 title race, having also claimed the bonus point on offer for posting the fastest tour of the 70-lap encounter.

After a thrilling qualifying session, which saw Hamilton pip Verstappen and Norris to pole under Pirelli’s Alternative Tyre Allocation, there was plenty of intrigue over race-day performance levels and whether drivers would go for two stops or even three in the fierce mid-afternoon heat.

When the tyre blankets came off, it was revealed that most of the field – including the top eight drivers – would be starting on the medium compound, with Sainz, Stroll, Gasly and Tsunoda going bold on softs and Perez and Russell opting for hards.

An electrifying start saw Verstappen get the jump on Hamilton off the line, slip down the inside approaching Turn 1 and make the move stick at the apex, where Piastri took advantage of the pair going deep by taking the inside line, slotting between them and snatching second position.

Hamilton’s regression continued as Norris leapt ahead with a fine move around the outside of Turn 2, while a little further back, a slow-starting Zhou attempted to make up for lost ground but tagged Ricciardo, who then ran into Ocon, who subsequently hit team mate Gasly.

Piastri dropped behind his teammate after the first round of pitstops.

Disastrous scenes followed for Alpine, with both Gasly and Ocon – having picked up significant damage on their respective cars – pulling into the pits to retire from the race, marking a second successive double DNF for the Enstone squad.

After that drama, Verstappen comfortably led the way from Piastri (crucially getting out of the DRS window), followed by Norris, the demoted Hamilton, who apologised to Mercedes over the radio for his start, and the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz – the latter making up several places on his soft tyres.

A few seconds behind, Alonso and Perez were busy squabbling over seventh and eighth positions, with the Red Bull man making a DRS-assisted move into Turn 1 on Lap 8, as Hulkenberg and Stroll held the final points-paying positions.

Alfa Romeo were the big losers at the start, Zhou almost stalling off the line as he tumbled down the order and made that aforementioned contact with Ricciardo, picking up a five-second penalty for his actions, while Bottas dropped to 12th in the Turn 1 bottleneck – the man who replaced him at Mercedes, Russell, on his tail after rising from 18th.

Lap 9 saw Albon come into the pits to swap his medium tyres for hards, followed a lap later by Stroll, Bottas and Tsunoda, who also took on the white-marked rubber, but Sainz held firm on his starting set of softs and resisted Ferrari’s calls to box.

By Lap 15, Verstappen was more than five seconds clear of Piastri, with Norris a couple of seconds further back, as Hamilton remained fourth from the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz, who began to come under pressure from the hard-shod Perez.

“If I see Checo is going to pass me, I will call ‘box’,” Sainz reported over the radio, to which Ferrari agreed, and that strategy was duly followed when the Spaniard dived into the pits on Lap 16 to swap his soft tyres for hards, rejoining just outside the top 10.

Hamilton was the first of the leading medium-tyre runners to pit on Lap 17, coming back out in eighth, with attention turning to what Verstappen and the McLarens of Piastri and Norris would do in response to the seven-time world champion.

Sergio Perez produced a fine drive to rise from P9 to P3.

Norris reacted by pitting a lap later, following Hamilton onto hards, with Leclerc also coming in but enduring a delayed stop due to a sticky tyre and losing a hatful of positions – forcing the Monegasque to fight his way back through the field.

Piastri stopped at the end of the next tour – while leader Verstappen continued to stretch out his opening stint – and the Australian fell victim to the undercut when he rejoined the action as team mate Norris pulled alongside him at Turn 1 and made a pass stick.

“How have they got nine seconds already? That’s a crazy amount,” Hamilton commented over the radio after that flurry of stops, seemingly in reference to Norris and Piastri putting some significant distance between themselves and his Mercedes.

Lap 23 was the moment for Verstappen and Red Bull, with the Dutchman pitting to swap mediums for hards and having enough in hand over the field behind to come back out in the lead – hard starters Perez (running in P2) and Russell (P5) the only two drivers yet to stop.

Perez’s stop would come on the 24th tour, followed by Russell – who had moved aside for team mate Hamilton – on the 29th, as the pair continued their alternate strategy with a second stint on medium tyres while the other 16 remaining drivers pounded around on hards.

Up front, Verstappen still had a five-second margin over second place, as Norris sat a similar margin clear of Piastri in the developing intra-team McLaren battle. Meanwhile, having started on pole, Hamilton was now more than 20 seconds off the lead.

After his stop, Perez pulled off a sequence of aggressive moves – clearing Sainz into Turn 1 and Russell into Turn 2 in quick succession – to rise to fifth, meaning Hamilton was the next target and a podium finish was not out of the question. “Just reel him in,” was the message from the Red Bull pit wall.

Sainz and Leclerc remained sixth and seventh for Ferrari, with Alonso, Stroll and Bottas holding the final points – Russell occupying 13th on his fresh hard tyres and starting his charge towards the top 10 with a pass on Tsunoda at Turn 1.

The Ferrari’s enjoyed a strong start but finished a disappointing P7 and P8.

As the second stints developed, and the race hit its halfway mark, Verstappen stretched his advantage over Norris to 10 seconds, while Piastri started to drop away from the top two and fall into the clutches of Hamilton, who in turn had a fired-up Perez approaching him.

“Podium’s on,” was the next message to Perez, who now had Hamilton firmly in his sights and was lapping almost a second quicker than Piastri and Norris ahead, while Russell was showing similarly impressive pace to work his way up to ninth.

“The tyres are not bad but they don’t feel that good,” Norris reported over the radio when asked for an update from the McLaren camp, as he fell more than 15 seconds behind Verstappen and the threat from Perez behind continued to grow.

There was also some radio chatter at Ferrari, who shut down messages from Leclerc as he arrived at the rear of team mate Sainz’s car – the Italian team stressing that they are “on it” as they ploughed on in distant P6 and P7 positions.

On Lap 43, Piastri and Perez pitted from their front-running positions for medium tyres, with the Red Bull crew completing an incredible 1.9-second stop to release their man on the tail of the McLaren, who suffered a slightly delayed service.

Two laps later, Norris was in for his own set of mediums, coming back out with a comfortable margin over the delayed Piastri and the chasing Perez behind, while Verstappen and Hamilton continued and eked some more life out of their hard tyres.

There was also a sluggish stop for Aston Martin man Alonso, meaning his hard work to catch the Ferraris came undone, but Leclerc was subsequently noted for potentially speeding in the pit lane – resulting in a five-second penalty that would need to be served in the pits or at the finish.

By Lap 47, Perez was all over the rear of Piastri’s car and made a smart move stick around the outside of Turn 1, before putting his elbows out at Turn 2 to keep the Australian rookie behind him and continue a charge towards the podium positions.

Daniel Ricciardo finished P13 on his return to F1.

Hamilton’s second stop came on Lap 50, continuing the trend of medium tyres for the final stint, followed by Verstappen on Lap 52, with no dramas to report for either the Mercedes or Red Bull mechanics and the leading positions remaining unchanged.

With just under 20 laps remaining, Hamilton lit up the timing screens again to slash the gap to Piastri and get within DRS range, making the move feel inevitable when he tucked behind down the start/finish straight and slipped past into Turn 1 on Lap 57.

“They have to get out of the way – so many blue flags!” Norris shouted over the radio as the race moved into its final 10 laps, with the Briton starting to come under pressure from Perez, who now sat just three seconds behind in his flying Red Bull.

But once clear of traffic, Norris had enough in hand to edge away again, maintain position and make it to the flag between Verstappen and Perez, meaning there were no changes to the podium finishers.

Hamilton had threatened to attack Perez in the closing laps but ultimately fell 1.5 seconds short, as he settled for fourth ahead of Piastri and team mate Russell, who passed Sainz late on and then benefitted from Leclerc’s time penalty.

Alonso and Stroll rounded out the points for Aston Martin with another quiet display from the green machines, nonetheless denying Albon and Williams, and Bottas and Alfa Romeo – whose day promised so much more.

Ricciardo took 13th after getting caught up in the Lap 1 melee, with Hulkenberg, Tsunoda, Zhou and Magnussen the last drivers to make the finish – Sargeant pitting after a spin at the chicane on the penultimate lap, and Alpine pair Ocon and Gasly watching from the sidelines.

The next stop on the 2023 F1 calendar is the iconic Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, which takes place next weekend from July 28 to 30.

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