Leclerc needs luck to go against Verstappen again – Six Hungarian GP talking points

2022 Hungarian Grand Prix

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With Charles Leclerc throwing away an opportunity to take more points out of Max Verstappen’s championship advantage in Paul Ricard last weekend, there is only one more chance for him to claim back some momentum before the summer break.

But while the championship battle out front appears to be becoming increasingly one-sided, the midfield battle over sixth place looks to be heating up with Haas bringing their first major upgrades package of the season to the Hungaroring.

Here are the talking points for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Can Leclerc strike back before the summer break?

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2022
Leclerc had a strong chance of victory in France before crashing
The French Grand Prix weekend could hardly have gone better for Ferrari and Charles Leclerc up until the start of the 18th lap of Sunday’s race. After beating Red Bull to victory at the previous two rounds, Ferrari looked in with a strong chance of making it a hat trick of wins at Paul Ricard.

That was until Leclerc’s disastrous crash meant he dropped out of a race while leading for the third time in 2022 – the first by his own hand after two technical problems. With Leclerc out, Verstappen duly extended his already comfortable championship lead by another 25 points, making the prospects of a Ferrari fight back in the second half of the season seem less likely than it ever had before.

However, with just this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix before the summer break, there is at least one last chance for Leclerc and Ferrari to gain back some lost momentum and confidence before heading into the final stretch of the championship. Ferrari have tended to be relatively stronger around medium-speed corners so far in 2022, and the Hungaroring has those in abundance.

Red Bull were confident they could have beaten Ferrari to the chequered flag in France even if Leclerc had not thrown his car off the road, but losing out to Ferrari for the third race weekend in a row would have been a first for Red Bull in this 2022 season. Will Ferrari head into the break having outpaced their rivals yet again, or will Red Bull stamp their authority once more?

With a massive, 63-point deficit to his rival, Leclerc badly needs a change of luck. Fortune was not on the side of either him or Verstappen at this track 12 months ago, when both were involved in race-ruining first-lap collisions. If either suffers another misfortune this year, Leclerc badly needs it to not be him.

Magnussen finally gets the upgrades

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Paul Ricard, 2022
Only Magnussen will receive the upgraded Haas
Given that Haas have enjoyed a notable uptick in form over the last two months, it’s somewhat remarkable to note that the team have barely introduced any upgrades to their VF-22 so far this season.

Through the year, the team have been working hard back in Banbury and in Maranello to develop a significant and reliable upgrades package for their car. Finally, at the 13th round of the championship, the team will introduce it at the Hungarian Grand Prix, one race before the summer break.

However, just as Williams installed their upgrades package on only Alexander Albon’s car for two rounds prior to team mate Nicholas Latifi receiving the same benefit, this weekend, only Kevin Magnussen will get to race with the newly revised Haas. Mick Schumacher must make do with the same specification of the car that he has raced and scored points with in two of the last three race weekends.

Having moved ahead of AlphaTauri into seventh place in the constructors’ championship, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner admits that while his team are hungry to move even further up the standings, their first objective is to try and hold onto where they are and avoid dropping points to rivals behind. How far could this new package go towards helping them achieve that objective?

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Stuck in a rut?

(L to R): Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri; Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo; Red Bull Ring, 2022
Neither Alfa Romeo nor AlphaTauri have scored for three rounds
While Haas have picked up points in recent raced, the same cannot be said about the two teams that sit either side of them in the constructors’ championship – Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri.

Both midfield teams began the season with a steady trickle of points that saw them close to Alpine in the standings over the early races. However, since Gasly’s strong fifth place finish at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, AlphaTauri have failed to score a single point over the last four race weekends. Their pursuit of points was not helped by Yuki Tsunoda crashing into his team mate in Silverstone or Esteban Ocon bumping into Tsunoda on the opening lap of the French Grand Prix after a strong qualifying session. But a series of Q1 eliminations, including a puzzling one for Gasly last time out, have also hurt their chances.

Valtteri Bottas was a regular Q3 attendee in the opening six races of the championship, but has failed to reach the final phase of qualifying since the Spanish Grand Prix in May. Zhou Guanyu scored his second points of the season in Canada, but since then has been unable to fight for more top 10 finishes after crashing out spectacularly in Silverstone and having a difficult weekend in France with multiple errors and yet more mechanical problems.

All this is allowing Haas to benefit with double points finishes in Great Britain and Austria, moving them ahead of AlphaTauri and now just 17 points behind Alfa Romeo in sixth. With Haas finally bringing upgrades to their car this weekend, is that sixth place now becoming a realistic target?

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Ocon one year on

Ocon claimed his maiden victory here last year
For the first time in his Formula 1 career, Esteban Ocon will arrive this weekend at a circuit as the defending race winner, having scored his maiden grand prix victory at Hungary last year.

Often that all-important first victory can be a breakthrough that set younger drivers off on a path towards eventually competing for world championships, but there have been many other drivers in F1 history whose first wins end up becoming the apex of their career trajectories. A year on from his impressive performance in tricky conditions,

With a 41 year old double world champion team mate as his benchmark, Ocon may enjoy a greater points haul so far this season and one more points finish (nine) than Alonso (eight), but the stats on Sundays do not tell the full story. Alonso currently leads Ocon 7-3 in qualifying sessions where neither drivers experienced any mitigating factors, while Alonso has had the lion’s share of bad luck this season, having taken a grid penalty in Spain, retired from two races, was affected by a badly timed Safety Car in Canada and had to start from the back of the grid in Austria after an electronics problem meant he never started the sprint race.

Can Ocon back up his top step heroics in Hungary last year with another strong performance this weekend?

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Rules of racing

(L to R): Sergio Perez, Red Bull; George Russell, Mercedes; Paul Ricard, 2022
Will there be more arguments over track limits?
After track limits were the focus after the Austrian Grand Prix, last weekend’s French Grand Prix brought the rules of racing under the spotlight once again.

Following a series of incidents in the British and Austrian grands prix, the 20 Formula 1 drivers sat down with the FIA and race directors Eduardo Freitas and Neils Wittich to examine some recent collisions and incidents and explore why actions – or even no action – had been taken by race control and the stewards.

Drivers were fairly universal in their assessment that the meeting had been a welcome one with a positive outcome, but that did not prevent controversy over racing rules from rearing its head in France. Most notably, George Russell was deeply unimpressed that Sergio Perez did not surrender third place at the end of the French Grand Prix following their clash at the chicane. The stewards deemed the incident not worth of investigation.

The tight, twisty nature of the Hungaroring is a world away from other circuits where DRS-assisted drive-bys are the most effective means of overtaking. With only one straight of note, the opportunities to pass have typically been limited in Hungary. That might change slightly this year, with the new cars for 2022 allowing drivers to follow rivals closer. Maybe the 90-degree right hander of turn 12 will invite some late lunges this weekend.

With more close-quarters combat expected this weekend, there could be yet more debate and discussion over what the rules of engagement are and should be in Formula 1.

Coming attractions

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2021
The future of Spa looks shaky
As F1 heads into its summer break, thoughts begin to turn to next year. Having been forced to cut this year’s schedule back from a planned 23 races to 22, an even longer championship looks likely next season.

As many as 24 races are tipped to feature on the 2023 F1 calendar. Returns to Qatar and Las Vegas are expected, and South Africa’s Kyalami circuit is also tipped for a comeback.

But accommodating those extra rounds without losing one or more of F1’s classic races would be impossible, as 24 events is the maximum Liberty Media is permitted to schedule under its current agreement with the teams. Are the likes of Paul Ricard and Spa-Francorchamps facing the chop? Official word may not be far away.

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Are you going to the Hungarian Grand Prix?

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Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Hungarian Grand Prix? Have your say below.

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2022 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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38 comments on “Leclerc needs luck to go against Verstappen again – Six Hungarian GP talking points”

  1. I think I can speak for the majority of fans. Before Spa is dropped I want to see one final race where Hakkinen overtakes Zonta&Schumacher or Crofty shouting once again those famous lines at the mistral straight or Raikkonen going full steam ahead up on radion without seeing what is in the smoke or Montoya arguing against Raikkonen’s driving at the bus stop or Eddie going crazy after the famous win or Michael going to Mclaren garage to tell about his feelings towards one scot or Fisichella starting at the front row and securing a place in that other Ferrari seat for the next races or at the same race Badoer racing in Ferrari or Michael’s first win or just me playing it in the F1 game and never getting the perfect lap because the lap is so long.

    1. Steveetienne
      27th July 2022, 14:19

      If F1 drops Spa I will never watch another race.

      1. A racing series that would rather race on a Miami parking lot than a historic and driver favourite circuit like Spa-Francorchamps is indeed a series that goes straight into the ‘only watch the quick summary on YouTube’ category.

        1. Steveetienne
          27th July 2022, 20:32

          For me it is an iconic circuit to drop it would be unforgivable from my perspective.

          1. Absolutely, too easy to say not gonna watch any more if they drop spa, but it would be a silly decision, at least monaco is a classic but has hardly any overtaking; spa is a good track to overtake too and can have heavy rain as well.

    2. You forgot Hamilton v Kimi fighting in the rain in the final laps.

  2. Just one more episode of “Bottas Goes Bowling” to blow the championship wide open again

    1. this year he’d wipe out the midfield, then Latifi the GOAT can get best of the rest ;)

  3. Theoretically speaking, Hungaroring should be another Monaco track for Ferrari pace wise where RBR have no business finishing on the front row in both qualifying and race. Technically speaking, reliability will be a concern for Ferrari not only due to hot temperatures but to the fact that Hungaroring is one of hardest circuits on fuel.

    Ferrari failures in both Spain and Baku were due to the high fuel consumption nature of both circuits. Ferrari are using a 3 way ignition system. A pre-ignition, a proper ignition and a post ignition phase to cool the cylinder that have been reduced in order to save fuel which caused the poppet valves to overheat and fail.

    Binotto should tell all his team to forget about both championships. The only objective from now on is to learn how to maximize the weekend points, period. They need to well prepare their weekend and like Sainz said “stop inventing”. If they will manage to attack every weekend with a target in mind that must be achieved, it will surely pay dividend in the long terms. I just hope that Ferrari will concentrate on their own race and keep in mind that track position is king in Hungaroring unless the tyre advantage is huge.

    I personally think that Ferrari are really dysfunctional in terms of racing operations which is depressing not only for the their fans but for the rest of the team in factory that have managed to deliver the F1-75 which is currently the best all around car.

    Apart from Spa and Monza and the race where Charles will have a PU change. Ferrari are capable to deliver 1-2s in all the remaining races. I think Spa is a good race to serve a PU penalty because of the nature of circuit where overtaking is not difficult when the delta between cars is important and also because RBR are going to run away with it anyways.

    1. My personal opinion is that Mercedes, specifically, Lewis Hamilton, should be a bit more competitive at the Hungaroring. A LeClerc / Hamilton battle may be on the cards.

      Then again, I thought Paul Ricard would favor the Mercedes– and while they scored a double podium, it was largely due to other drivers’ misfortunes.

      1. Mercedes themselves are sceptical about their chances in the Hungaroring due to bumpy nature of the track. Anything is possible but in terms of pace I expect them to behind both RBR and Ferrari.

    2. “Binotto should tell all his team to forget about both championships. The only objective from now on is to learn how to maximize the weekend points, period.”

      He already did that in Canada (?) when he said Ferrari doesn’t aim to win the championship, only to be ‘competitive’.

      1. That’s been their agenda for the last 10 odd years.. championships was never on the agenda.

  4. Title race is over, before it’s begun. It’s turning boring

    1. Steveetienne
      27th July 2022, 14:20

      It was over in Baku.

  5. Not luck but a teammat

    1. Carlos only attacks Max if he is on for the win, otherwise he’d rather have Max win over leclerc.

  6. Can Leclerc strike back before the summer break? – Hopefully, albeit a single race won’t make a difference if he can’t reduce the 63-point gap considerably.
    Magnussen finally gets the upgrades – Haas could jump further up in the midfield, at least with K-Mag.
    Stuck in a rut? – Recently, yes, & this trend could only continue into & past the break.
    Ocon one year on – Maybe, but a similar feat would require similarly unusual circumstances.
    Rules of racing – Some clarification is needed, especially leaving track & maintaining a position that would’ve otherwise got lost, to avoid setting a new precedent.
    Coming attractions – Qatar & LV aren’t expected, but given & officially confirmed for some time, so only Kyalami & Shanghai feature question marks. Both appearing would certainly force both Paul Ricard & Spa off.

  7. There’s got to be a mathematical way to determine who is at fault in a collision on a turn. Neither driver can have the racing line if 2 cars are in the same corner. The outside car must have some outside line and the inside car must have some inside line. Whichever car infringes on the other car’s line is at fault.

    1. Thing is, the way the FIA “clarified” their instructions on overtaking, Russell was right– his front wheel was ahead of Perez’s rear wheel, thus he was “significantly alongside”, and Max pulled the same kind of overtake on a regular basis in 2021 with no penalty. Brazil springs to mind.

      In reality, it’s a stupid rule, and it doesn’t take much to see who forced who off the track. The question is, is this the kind of racing we want? It’s entirely possible Hamilton would have been penalized for his brilliant defense against Rosberg in Bahrain 2014 under the new guidelines.

      1. Thing is, the way the FIA “clarified” their instructions on overtaking, Russell was right– his front wheel was ahead of Perez’s rear wheel, thus he was “significantly alongside”

        But then he was left enough room by Perez.

        Conversely, on exit Perez was “significantly alongside” so should’ve been left racing room by Russell. Which did not happen.

        1. The problem is the rules don’t really cover what happens after the apex. It is apparent for example that the stewards will now allow a car overtaking on the inside to run a car wide on exit again. Seems to be a step back from them having to leave a cars width. Ultimately this generation of drivers seem very poor at overtaking cleanly and its devolved into you concede the corner or we crash. I’d rather any driver that initiates a crash or pass overtake be given a drive through penalty regardless and it would stop some of the clumsy careless and in some cases dangerous moves.

  8. Only Facts!
    27th July 2022, 14:56

    Is the championship over? Not at all! Ferrari 1-2 is quite possible in about half of the post summer races. Each race can chop 10 points out of Verstappen’s lead if he finishes 3rd and Ferrari play the teammate game right.

    There may be some DNF coming for RBR as well.

    But Ferrari should be perfect on strategy, race management, reliability and pit calls.

    By what we’ve seen so far…

    1. Yes it is, stick a fork in it, its done. Nobody has ever comeback from such a gap and won and certainly not when the driver and team are so error prone.

      1. Yes, realistically speaking the only thing that can stop verstappen is some problem that prevents him from competing in at least 5 races, such as an injury.

      2. Their only shot at the title is a couple of DNFs for Max, while Leclerc wins pretty much every race from here on end. Ithink there’s a chance that some unreliability could come Red Bull’s way, but Ferrari winning so many races on the trot…. I don’t think Binotto will allow that.

  9. It looks unlikely but anything can happen in this sport. Max looked set to dominate 2021 after Austria and then there was the British GP and Hungarian GP.

    What Ferrari needs is Sainz to start challenging Max and if they can get a few 1-2s they will be able to close up pretty quickly. A DNF for Max could put this title fight back on while a DNF for LeClerc could end it permanently.

  10. The question is not if Charles needs some more luck, but if he can hold his nerve against a very cool Max.

    1. Ah, yes, and in any case if we correct for bad luck, verstappen still did a better job than leclerc, so even if he lost less points through unreliability than leclerc, he’s still the most deserving so far, while last year he’s been significantly less lucky (especially being taken out through no fault) than hamilton and risked to lose the title while being by far the better 2021 driver.

    2. Agree. Last season, I thought Max and Red Bull were completely ready for the championship battle. It was years of being competitive enough to win races but not mount a serious challenge. Max grasped the opportunity really well.. he was consistent, fast and pretty much error free for the entire season. This season he seems even more composed and ready.

      Ferrari have spent too many years battling midfield teams.. they’ve forgotten what is required from a championship winning team. Leclerc doesn’t seem mature enough yet either.. his unnecessary spin at Imola was the first sign of that. In France, he proved that this isn’t his season yet. It’s a shame, because I don’t expect Ferrari to be competitive for much longer.. once Mercedes gets its act sorted out.. then it’s back to the pros fighting up front.

  11. I’d like to add the Porsche buy-in at Red Bull to the list.

  12. No idea why ocon’s race win is seen as a breakthrough, lets not go overboard because his win was clearly a fluke due to Bottas torpedoing most of the front runners and Merc’s clowish tacticians starting Lewis on the wrong tyres for the restart.
    Alonso is a bitter washed up driver who’s only achievement at alpine is aggressively and dangerously blocking Lewis at this race last year.
    There also should be more coverage about fernando robbing a seat from young Alpine academy driver Oscar Piastri who won the F2 title in his first season(and cant race in F2 anymore due to a ban on champions racing in the series) but got no race seat for 2022 because alonso and his overinflated ego is guaranteed a seat for life at team Enstone.

    Back to the weekend: i fear that it will be a borefest because the WDC is basically over due to no competition for wunderkind. At least in the virus seasons you had a neck and neck championship battle plus random mariokart winners to keep the casuals happy but this season is a RB lockout and Ferraris are self sabotaging their championship hopes.

    Regardless of the cheater flexi floors other teams use I can see Lewis doing well here because it is a highly technical old school drivers circuit and a drivers skill can make more difference here than the last 2 ‘dumb’ tracks which consisted of a long straights and hard breaking zones.. plus he won his only race of the 2013 season here

    1. Should you be maybe reminded that 2020 was a walkover for Lewis and this season, despite Ferrari burrying it, is far more competitive in terms of championship battle?

      1. Indeed, 2020 was the least competitive season since 2015, in either years no one could do anything to stop mercedes and on top of that hamilton’s team mate couldn’t give a challenge either.

  13. You need both the car and the driver, if you want to win the championship.
    Unfortunately, Ferrari didn’t have a driver for it since Alonso left.
    And while Alonso was there, they didn’t have the car.
    2010 car wasn’t that bad, but it was not a match for Red Bull, while in 2012, it’s only miracle that he actually took it to the last race.

    Unless you have a car that is considerably faster than the competition, you can’t afford to drop a single point.
    You need a driver which wins when the car is the fastest, and comes 2nd or 3rd when it isn’t.

    And what happened to Ferrari’s strategy calls?
    Back in Schumacher’s and Alonso’s days, they were famous for always finishing way higher than expected.

    1. Without ross brawn any more, ferrari’s strategies haven’t been good any more; really a shame that team principals are apparently unable to see beyond the statistics (vettel has more titles than alonso, let’s keep him after 2018), because alonso was still very effective the last few years, now it might be too late but he’s still exceeding expectations age-wise.

      1. @esploratore1

        I feel Alonso doesn’t get enough credit for what a mega impact he had on that Ferrari squad. He always gave them a fighting chance for the WDC in 2010 and 2012 even though the car was 2nd fastest in 2010 and 3rd fastest in 2012. The team had raised it’s game to match the driver.

        Right now, Ferrari have the best car on the grid and neither the driver, nor team can even raise their expectations to call themselves championship contenders.

        If they had Alonso in one of their cars currently, I reckon he’d be closer to Max in the championship than Leclerc is. He would have made the right strategy calls for himself.. and he would have been consistently finishing in the top two in every race that didn’t have mechanical failures.

  14. Whilst the WDC is all but over, there’s some great battles going on further down the field. Indeed even 2nd and 3rd looks like becoming a close fought battle.

    Now if only we could get the TV Directors to show more of the midfield racing….

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