Broken record, smashed trophy: Verstappen drives Red Bull to historic heights

2023 Hungarian Grand Prix review

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Throughout its near four-decade history hosting a round of the world championship, the dry and dusty Hungaroring has been the scene of many historic firsts in Formula 1.

From the first European grand prix held beyond the ‘Iron Curtain’, to the site of multiple drivers’ first grand prix victories and even a handful of F1 debuts, the Hungaroring breaks new ground more often than most events on the calendar.

In 2023, the Hungarian Grand Prix again saw something that had never happened before in over 70 years of Formula 1. One of the sport’s most enduring all-time records was broken, and in emphatic fashion.

With the mercury approaching 30 degrees in the air and over 50 on the track, the 11th round of the championship was already set to be a scorcher. Add in a front row consisting of the two most successful drivers in the field separated by the closest margin between pole and second for 14 years, the hype for the Hungarian Grand Prix was rivalling that of Barbie and Oppenheimer.

Race start, Hungaroring, 2023
Verstappen dispensed with Hamilton and was never headed
For once, Max Verstappen had been kicked off the top spot by none other than his fiercest rival, Lewis Hamilton. All eyes would be locked onto the duo, memories of their ill-tempered title tussle two years prior coming to the fore once more. Behind both sat two young and hungry McLaren drivers, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, each eager to storm into the spotlight for themselves and steal the lead from the champions ahead into turn one.

The effect of the ‘dirty side’ of the grid has long been acute at the Hungaroring and many expected Hamilton to hold the advantage at the start from the left-hand side. But at lights out, Verstappen defied those predictions. The Red Bull got as good a launch as the Mercedes but drew alongside in the second phase. By the time Hamilton moved to defend, the space to his inside was already occupied.

Verstappen had one hand on the race lead before hitting the brakes for turn one and despite Hamilton’s best efforts to hold on around the outside, the Red Bull had completed the job by the time he’d reached the apex. Behind, Piastri took a far tighter line than his team mate and managed to cut inside both Norris and Hamilton on the exit to claim second place as he powered out of turn one. Hamilton then surrendered third place to Norris at turn three, leaving the two McLarens directly behind race leader Verstappen.

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“Car behind: Piastri,” Verstappen’s engineer Gianpiero Lambiase informed him, a hint of triumph in his voice. The same could not be said of Hamilton’s message to Peter Bonington. “Sorry about that, guys,” the pole winner apologised.

Report: Ocon’s seat broke in two in “violent” first lap crash-landing
Completing the first lap, Verstappen’s advantage was seven tenths of a second over McLaren’s rookie. But as the field took turn one for the second time, they found it littered with carbon fibre.

Zhou Guanyu’s terrible start from a career-best fifth place saw him swallowed up by the pack, and badly-timed braking saw him cue ball the returning Daniel Ricciardo into Esteban Ocon, which in turn sent him into his team mate Pierre Gasly.

Despite being the innocent parties, the Alpines were by far the worst off in the shunt, with Ocon sent bouncing over his team mate and landing back on the track with such force in cracked his race seat. Both were effectively out on the spot, while Ricciardo and Zhou continued, with the Alfa Romeo driver receiving a five-second penalty for triggering the carnage.

Despite the debris, the race stayed green. All of the top 10 starters bar Sergio Perez were on the medium compound, but Carlos Sainz Jnr had made great use of his softs to jump five places from 11th to sixth where he was now sat behind Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc. When DRS was activated at the end of the second lap, Sainz was the only driver in the top six within the magic second margin to enable him to use the overtaking aid, but he remained behind his team mate for the time being.

Piastri kept Verstappen’s lead within three seconds in the early laps, Norris sitting a further two seconds behind his team mate. With softer tyres and much warmer temperatures at the Hungaroring this year compared to 2022, no one could be sure how the three compounds would hold up over a race stint. But it was perhaps a little surprising when some drivers lower down the order started peeling into the pit lane at the end of the ninth lap. While Verstappen’s pace was metronomic, even growing faster as his stint progressed, Piastri’s began fading ever so slightly. That combination was enough for Verstappen’s lead to double in the space of just six laps to over seven seconds.

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It was little shock when Sainz on softs was the first of the leading drivers to pit on lap 15, but Hamilton was called in on the following tour to swap his mediums for hards. “Can I not go long?,” he asked, but Mercedes were concerned from the potential threat of the Ferraris. Ahead, Norris was confident he was quicker than he looked, but told his team the dirty air from the other MCL60 ahead was holding him back.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Hungaroring, 2023
Norris pushed harder than Hamilton after pit stop
McLaren pitted Norris first on lap 17 and he instantly pushed his fresh hard tyres to set fastest middle and final sectors of the race. That burst of pace allowed him to cut into the two-second deficit he previously had to his team mate. Piastri came in the next time around and as he emerged from the pit lane he could only watch his team mate drive around him and claim his second place.

Hamilton’s more measured approach to his out-laps had left him 10 seconds adrift of the McLaren. “We’ve probably taken it too easy on these opening laps,” his race engineer Peter Bonnington admitted.

Verstappen continued to lap within the low 1’24s until eventually pitting for hard tyres at the end of lap 23 and rejoining with an advantage of five seconds over Norris. While one Red Bull was leading, Perez was again running a different compound to his rivals and was making progress with his mediums. He dispatched Sainz for sixth into turn one, then gained another place by diving past the Mercedes of George Russell – which had started 18th.

On the hards, Norris could not match Verstappen’s consistent pace in the 1’23s and started sliding back further from the leader. But Piastri was slower than everyone else in the top seven positions and was beginning to be reeled in by Hamilton behind.

Hamilton’s problem was, he was starting to see Perez slowly growing in his mirrors quicker than he was approaching the McLaren. By lap 39 the Red Bull was within DRS range, but despite that advantage and his softer tyres Hamilton appeared to have Perez covered, even when he had a half-hearted look at the outside of the Mercedes into turn two on lap 42.

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Rather than let Perez spend more time fighting with Hamilton, Red Bull called him in at the end of the lap. The well-drilled Red Bull pit crew bolted a fresh set of mediums onto Perez’s car in the single quickest pit stop of the season so far, allowing him to rejoin in sight of Piastri’s McLaren, which had come in on the same lap. Norris followed suit soon after, having more than enough time in hand over his team mate to comfortably resume ahead.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Hungaroring, 2023
Perez swept past Piastri with ease using DRS
While Verstappen and Hamilton continued to circulate on their old hard tyres, Perez had fourth-placed Piastri squarely in his sights. With DRS, the Red Bull slipstreamed the McLaren down the pit straight at the start of lap 47 and the rookie decisively went defensive to force Perez to look to the outside into turn one.

Perez gladly accepted Piastri’s challenge and promptly drove around the McLaren to take the position, but the rookie was not finished yet, mounting his own counter-attack around the outside of turn two, only to see his prospects and his space disappear on the exit, kicking up dust as his outside wheels ran off the road.

“Oscar, did Perez push you off at turn two?,” Piastri’s engineer Tom Stallard queried, obviously eager to mount a case for the stewards. “Did he leave you enough room?”

“He didn’t leave me much space,” the rookie replied, showing he has much to learn in the art of selling the stewards on being victimised by a rival. The incident was noted but, rightly, not acted on.

With one McLaren down for Perez, the second was now eight seconds up the road. The move on Piastri had effectively been for the final podium position, which was made official when Hamilton eventually pitted at the end of lap 49 for a final set of mediums, slotting into the gap between Piastri and the Ferrari duo. The only person left to make a second stop was the leader, Verstappen. But Red Bull rectified this two laps later when he finally pitted for a set of mediums to take him through the final 20 laps.

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As Verstappen once again set about inflating his already healthy lead once more over Norris, who exclaimed how he “can’t keep up with the car ahead”, Perez was eating into the gap between him and the second-placed driver. But Norris’ team mate Piastri was under far more immediate pressure from Hamilton who was right behind the McLaren in fourth. With the benefit of DRS, Hamilton found Piastri to be far more accommodating than he had been for Perez not long before. He completed an easy move to turn one to finally recapture one of the places he had lost to the two McLarens on the opening lap.

Russell overhauled both Ferrari drivers in his final stint
Perez continued to erode Norris’s advantage in second as the laps ticked by, with the McLaren driver feeling the pressure with every update he received about the closing gap between the pair. The lapped traffic was also doing him no favours, with Yuki Tsunoda being particularly lazy about letting him by despite being shown blue flags for a full lap.

But just when the margin appeared set to fall under three seconds, Perez lost time when having to pass a group of slower cars off the racing line, picking up many of the discarded ‘marbles’ which led to his pace falling off by more than a second a lap.

As the laps ticked down until only a handful remained, Perez’s advance on Norris appeared to have halted. Instead, he was now the one looking in his mirrors as Hamilton was far closer to him than he was to the McLaren. But the enemy for Hamilton was the lack of laps available for him to make up the rest of the deficit to the Red Bull – the consequence of not pushing harder on his tyres earlier in the race.

There was also a battle behind for sixth, just not on the track. Leclerc held the place but had been handed a five-second time penalty for exceeding the pit lane speed limit by 0.7kph and so was vulnerable to Russell behind. The second Mercedes driver had climbed from his ninth row start to seventh having easily overtaken Sainz and was well within five seconds of Leclerc. All he needed to do was stay there to secure the position, while Leclerc would also have to make sure he ran fast enough to not lose a second place to his team mate.

But out front, Verstappen had no such concerns. As his driver continued to check off the laps at his leisure, Lambiase was left with little to have to worry about. “Everything okay?” he asked. “Just checking in.”

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“Yep, all good,” came the quick reply from Verstappen.

The champagne flow is continuous at Red Bull this year
At the end of an especially competitive and unpredictable weekend, Verstappen’s mammoth half-minute lead made any pre-race suggestions that he could have faced a genuine threat for the win seem laughable in hindsight. But after starting second, Verstappen had led every corner of every lap of the race and at end of the 70th and final lap he took the chequered flag for the seventh consecutive race, the ninth time in the season and, by doing so, elevated Red Bull to all new heights by eclipsing McLaren’s 35-year-old record of winning 11 consecutive races.

“It’s one of those days where everything goes perfect and you’re just enjoying every lap, smiling in the car because it’s that perfect,” the winner said after the race. “Everything just went well. I could take the lead into turn one and basically from there I could just do my own race and look after the tyres.”

So great was Verstappen’s margin of victory by the end that he could have pitted on the penultimate lap, stopped for 10 seconds in his pit box and rejoined still in the lead. But despite being nowhere near as close to the Red Bull as he had been at Silverstone, Norris was still more than happy with second place after out-running Perez in the closing laps.

“We’re very happy, because it’s my first time I’ve had consecutive podiums,” Norris said. “To be P2, I guess is a fantastic result in a car that probably shouldn’t be P2.”

For Perez, third place meant had achieved his own objective of a podium from ninth on the grid. “I was looking forward to getting onto the podium,” he admitted. “I knew that I had to do some overtaking there.

“It was not easy to overtake out there today. It’s a track that is very difficult to overtake at, but I think we managed to execute a good strategy.”

From pole, Hamilton’s outside hopes of ending his longest win drought had vanished in the run to the first corner, while Piastri had faded through the race to finish in fifth, meaning a his first podium finish eluded him again. Leclerc crossed the line in sixth but his position was soon handed to Russell, who finished the race having gained more places than Verstappen did last year when he won from 10th.

(L to R): Lando Norris, McLaren, Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez Red Bull, Hungaroring, 2023
Verstappen’s latest trophy soon depreciated in value
Leclerc did not have to suffer the frustration of falling behind his team mate in the race results after his post-race penalty was applied, but that was little comfort after a weekend when Ferrari’s performance in Hungary had not lived up to their pre-weekend expectations. With Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll completing the top ten, it meant that the points scorers consisted of just five teams.

On the podium, an enthusiastic Norris created a viral moment by inadvertently knocking Verstappen’s winner’s trophy off the top step while spiking his champagne bottle, smashing the base of the exquisite vase ornament off from the rest of it. While an unfortunate mishap that Verstappen laughed off, it served as an almost fitting act of revenge for McLaren – smashing the symbol of Red Bull’s victory on a day when the champions smashed their own long-standing win streak record.

Team principal Christian Horner has not been lacking for reasons to feel pride in his team in recent seasons, but even he knew that this was special. “It’s an amazing achievement for the whole team,” he said.

“Twelve races in a row is insane – particularly against the level of competition that we have. So it’s something that the whole team, from every department, has played a key role in. I’m incredibly proud of everything that we’ve achieved.”

And so the Hungaroring had seen another historic Formula 1 first achieved upon it. But while the summer break is almost within reach for the teams, Red Bull’s first defeat of the 2023 season still feels like it is a long way away.

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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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30 comments on “Broken record, smashed trophy: Verstappen drives Red Bull to historic heights”

  1. Did Mercedes really thought that Lewis was to go to win? Don’t they check long runs during FP? So Mercedes have now a good single lap car (if they watch the rest and go a bit earlier) but needs a bit more during the race.

    1. Sikhumbuzo Khumalo
      24th July 2023, 12:36

      Lewis Hamilton had indicated in post race interviews that Mercedes wasnt in fight for win.

    2. 4LegitTitlesSebastianVettel
      24th July 2023, 16:58

      No they didnt they know they have a slower car and that the pole lap was Hamilton’s pure skill

  2. Looking to Spa it seems a lot cooler and wet tracks during the weekend. That means Perez is going to have problems during qualifly.

    1. notagrumpyfan
      24th July 2023, 8:49

      Perez is going to have problems during qualifly.

      what does the track of the weather have to do with that? ;)

      1. When it’s cooler Perez has problems keeping his fron tyres in the right window. This is why he did so bad all those Q3 fails were when it was cooler or wet. Looking at the weather for Spa Perez is in big trouble just wait and he will see. When it’s warm he reached Q3 easy as i said earlier before the weekend and it’s warm and Checo is in Q3.

        1. He is on trouble anyways lately, warm/cold, fast straights/slow corners alike, it seems

        2. When it’s warm, he can just about get the best car on the grid which has won every race so far this season to the bottom end of the top 10… Yeah, he does so well when it’s warm!

  3. I should’ve noticed the trophy drop at the time, but I somehow failed at that. Oh well, a triviality anyway.

    1. notagrumpyfan
      24th July 2023, 9:52

      I should’ve noticed the trophy drop at the time

      As we are sharing now; I failed to predict that you would comment on the broken vase. :p

      1. Jonathan Parkin
        24th July 2023, 13:06

        A better question was who decided a vase was a brilliant idea for a podium trophy

        1. The trophy on Hungary has been these vases for years without issues.

          It took a clown like Norris to do these kind of shenanigans with the bottle AGAIN for it to break.

          Once or twice is fine, he does this everytime he steps on a podium, like a child.

          1. I think they ask Lando to drop the way he opens the bottle as he twice in a row caused to drop a trofee (€60.000 and 6 months work I think the 6 months work is the worst to lose)

    2. @jerejj I hate to be a party p**per but I think that Lando should change his way of celebrating. It is not the first time a trophy dropped off the rostrum because of Lando’s way of ‘activating’ the champagne. Trivial maybe, but it is not very respectful to the creator of the trophy or the one that won the trophy. Or the trophies should be removed before celebrating.

      1. Even without this, the celebrations get rather rambunctious at times. It’s probably just luck that we haven’t had more broken trophies, although most are much more robust than this. I’d support removing the trophies before celebrating, at least when they are breakable.

  4. “Twelve races in a row is insane – particularly against the level of competition that we have.”

    He seems to be watching a different F1 season from the rest of us.

    1. What he says is they ate competeing against mighty Mercedes. We all know what they achieved and how strong team it is. Also ferrari, mclaren etc.

    24th July 2023, 12:02

    It’s bwwwooooken!!!

  6. At least we know Red Bull can’t take home EVERY trophy this year… /s

    1. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
      24th July 2023, 14:33

      They literally can’t, though.

      There are three trophies per race, and Red Bull is only fielding two cars.

      1. :) very good!

      2. 4 trophies per race… There’s a constructors’ trophy too. There’s also a pole position trophy, though that’s not for the race.

        AFAIK there is no trophy for fastest lap or DotD.

        So, theoretically RBR could pick up 4 of the 5 trophies each weekend, but it’s definitely impossible for them to get all of them.

  7. 4LegitTitlesSebastianVettel
    24th July 2023, 16:56

    meanwhile a 38 years old grandpa Broke the most poles at a single race record with an inferior car lol

    1. Nothing inferior on the Mercedes.
      It’s not a well designed car like the rb19 but still top of the “best of the rest”. Same goes for the driver

      1. At that track, it was the 3rd best car at most IMHO. The McLaren was faster, Hamilton just managed to hook up an amazing lap in qually. I doubt it’s been better than 3rd best all season, and has often been lower.

      2. Mercedes is overall best of the rest because they don’t have the lows Ferrari and Aston Martin had, nor they came out of nowhere like Mclaren.

        The only race they were actually best of the rest was Spain, maybe Australia too.

        On the others they raced and were beaten by the runner up car.

        1. Yes, I said something similar in another article, they’re more consistently near the top than the others are, mclaren now are doing well but we’ll have to see if they can keep that up till even just the end of the season.

  8. Can’t wait to see the driver ratings for this race to see if NOR’s podium behavior is factored in.

    1. Nope, he will get a bonus point for revenge

    2. It shouldn’t be. Driver ratings are based on driving performance.

Comments are closed.