Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Hungaroring, 2023

How Verstappen’s Saturday set-up struggle turned into Sunday delight in Hungary

2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen was unhappy with his car’s balance after missing out on pole for the Hungarian Grand Prix, but his sentiment changed when that same set-up led to the race win.

Another important factor in Verstappen’s seventh consecutive win was the rapid start from second place which allowed him to pass pole-winner Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen previously made poor getaways from his grid box in Austria and Great Britain.

Hamilton had beaten Verstappen to pole by just 0.003 seconds, with McLaren’s Lando Norris 0.082s further back in third. However in the race Verstappen enjoyed an average pace advantage of 0.482s per lap as he won with over half a minute in hand to Norris in second.

“The car was honestly really enjoyable to drive today, so basically, with the balance I had yesterday actually worked very well for today,” said Verstappen afterwards.

“It already started with the actual start, where we had a good launch for once, and we then could look after our tyres quite well, and every stint just eked out a bit more of a gap.”

Race start, Hungaroring, 2023
Poll: Vote for your 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix Driver of the Weekend
“As soon as I released the clutch, immediately I felt like I had good bite, no wheelspin like in Silverstone,” he added. “Good run, then I knew of course I had the inside and that was going to be my corner in turn one. We braked quite late but then did my thing through turn two as well.”

After missing out on pole position on Saturday, Verstappen described his RB19 as having “probably the worst balance I can have in a car”.

However the team’s chief car engineer Paul Monaghan indicated on the morning of the race Verstappen had nothing to worry about as all teams strived to find the best compromise between a fast car for qualifying and one that could handle the anticipated hotter temperatures of the race.

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“Max is aware of all the trades we made going into qualifying, so the result will determine today whether our preparation was correct or incorrect,” said Monaghan on Sunday morning.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Hungaroring, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix in pictures
After taking victory Verstappen said the team “tried a few different things with the car in terms of set-up in qualifying, which probably worked very well for today.

“But we tried so many things throughout the whole weekend, and it never worked on one lap [pace]. So it might have also been that we just didn’t make our tyres work well over one lap.

“In the race everything heats up and it runs hotter for a long period of time. You need probably a very different balance for that and basically yesterday it was understeering a lot, today it’s warmer ambient and track [temperature] so probably it all came to me anyway. And that’s why I probably had such a nice balance today.”

There was extra satisfaction for Verstappen as the team broke Formula 1’s long-standing record for most consecutive wins with their 12th in a row. “It’s really enjoyable to work with the whole team and to have this kind of success,” he said.

“I think people probably forget how tough it is to win 12 in a row. Even when you have the fastest car it’s easy to make mistakes or have an ‘off’ weekend. But I think so far, of course there were weekends when the gap was probably a bit smaller than we would have liked, but then also we had a few weekends where we also surprised ourselves and had a really good race, for example.

“I hope that we can just keep that momentum going, keep on trying to learn from the car, from the upgrades we’re bringing to the car, towards the end of the season, and also going into next year.”

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2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Author information

Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...
Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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2 comments on “How Verstappen’s Saturday set-up struggle turned into Sunday delight in Hungary”

  1. “I think people probably forget how tough it is to win 12 in a row. Even when you have the fastest car it’s easy to make mistakes or have an ‘off’ weekend.

    True. It isn’t an easy feat at all. Luckily they have a rare driver who can pull out a victory despite safety car bad luck and strategic errors. Credit needs to be given equally to the driver and the rest of the team. Heck, they’ve won 20 out of the last 21 races. That is absolutely ridiculous.

    1. Yes, having verstappen really helps at records like this cause he basically is always on it, while hamilton, despite the consistency claims, had occasional weekends where it was bottas showing how fast the car was that weekend.

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