For the first time since 2016 and not counting the pandemic-disrupted 2020 season, Budapest is not Formula 1’s last venue before the summer break, with the upcoming trip to Spa set to do that shortly this year.
However, there were familiar emotions in other aspects of the race. The Hungarian track, which is narrow and has lower speeds, resulted in another unexciting race. Max Verstappen from Red Bull had complete control at the front. This combination did offer a minor but significant storyline for the season, showcasing the ongoing rivalry between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Additionally, Sergio Perez had to make yet another impressive comeback, Ferrari and Alpine continued to struggle, and McLaren experienced more success.
Here we present the pick of what we learned from F1’s 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Red Bull currently holds a distinctive position in the history of F1, with another significant achievement on the horizon.
Red Bull has become the initial team to achieve victory in 12 consecutive races, surpassing McLaren’s longstanding record set in 1988.
Photo by: Red Bull Racing
Verstappen’s Hungaroring victory might’ve lacked the grand slam clean sweeps he secured in Austria and Silverstone thanks to Hamilton’s Q3 magic and the Dutchman’s own slight underperformance there, but it nevertheless propelled him to a swelled 110-point lead over Sergio Perez.
It is not surprising that the Dutchman has been extremely dominant this year, considering the expanded modern calendar of F1. However, he cannot win the world title in the 11th race of the season like Michael Schumacher did 21 years ago. F1 is looking for more storylines to keep things exciting, and Red Bull is contributing to that in its own way as the leading team in the championship.
Red Bull has been consistently achieving milestones and recently surpassed McLaren’s 35-year-old record for the most consecutive wins in Hungary. With Verstappen’s triumph in Abu Dhabi in 2022 and 11 wins in 2023, Red Bull now holds a total of 12 straight victories. Excluding George Russell’s victory in Brazil last year, the team would have achieved 22 consecutive wins. Red Bull has the opportunity to break McLaren’s record for the most consecutive wins in a single season by securing their 12th victory at Spa this weekend.
The cost of the Hungarian GP trophy is $45,000.
Norris broke Verstappen’s trophy when spraying champagne on the podium
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Red Bull will need to use superglue at its Milton Keynes factory today for an unforeseen repair. The operation is necessary for Verstappen’s trophy, which suffered damage to its top and base when it fell from the podium’s highest step.
After coming in second place, Norris celebrated by smashing his champagne bottle onto the podium, a tradition he has followed since his early racing days. Unfortunately, this caused Verstappen’s expensive and meticulously crafted Herendi Porcelanmanufaktura Zrt trophy, worth $45,000 and taking six months to complete, to fall off due to the impact.
Norris playfully commented that Max had positioned it too near the edge. He speculated that it toppled over, but he claimed it was Max’s responsibility, not his.
There were many enjoyable social media videos and minimal anger from Red Bull when Perez’s third-place trophy in Austria was slightly damaged. This happened when the team was taking a photo after the race and the trophy was accidentally knocked over. Motorsport.com observed Oliver Mintzlaff, the new chief marketer of Red Bull, assisting in collecting the loose piece of the trophy from the paddock floor.
McLaren remains grounded despite their impressive performances in two races held on diverse track surfaces.
Norris has finished P2 in the last two races, but McLaren is not getting ahead of itself
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
In 2023, McLaren surprised the teams that usually compete closely with Red Bull – Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Mercedes. They achieved this by introducing a significant development package that resulted in success at Silverstone. However, it was anticipated that McLaren would struggle in Hungary due to the track’s slower average speed. Although not as slow as Monaco, the circuit includes numerous extended low-speed corners and limited opportunities for acceleration in Budapest’s second sector.
The team exceeded expectations by finishing third and fourth in the qualifying round. During the race, they held second and third positions after Norris and his teammate Oscar Piastri overtook Lewis Hamilton on the first lap. However, Hamilton managed to surpass Piastri after an impressive out-lap during his first pit stop, giving him an advantage.
F1 is now heading to Spa, a track that offers more high-speed sections that are preferred by the MCL60. However, McLaren team principal Andrea Stella is not confident about the team’s chances of achieving a third consecutive positive outcome there, considering their difficulties earlier in 2023.
“After the Hungary race, Stella clarified that although Spa is often referred to as a high-speed track, the fastest corner, which is corner 10 [Pouhon], remains flat only during qualifying.”
“There’s a lot of lap time in [La Source] which is [50mph], in [Les Combes] which is [60mph] and in the last chicane, which is [55mph]. So, I don’t want to repeat myself, but I go with some care because in these three corners, at the moment, we see that we lose time. So, I think that’s where we are.
“It will also be a sprint race. Therefore, apart from the overall speed, the ability to quickly adjust your car to meet the track’s requirements will be crucial.”
Verstappen and Hamilton are capable of maintaining a clean race.
Verstappen and Hamilton approached Turn 1 closely, yet they did not make any contact.
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
After Hamilton had taken a shock pole for Mercedes, expectations were raised of another bruising chapter in his ongoing late career battle with Verstappen. They might not have been fighting for a title this time, but their coming together in Brazil last year showed the ferocity had dimmed little even with Verstappen having won his second championship in Japan three races earlier.
In that situation, the Dutch driver pushed the matter and ended up in a disadvantageous position. However, in Hungary, there was no dramatic event. Hamilton found himself in a difficult position when his wheels spun during the second start phase, allowing Verstappen to swiftly catch up and brake later than the British driver at Turn 1, ultimately placing his wheels ahead by the apex.
Verstappen chose not to push Hamilton off the track as he could have, as Hamilton recalled his team informing him that he would be significantly slower than the Red Bull car. Therefore, Hamilton did not retaliate as aggressively as he could have.
It was pleasing to see two F1 greats go cleanly wheel-to-wheel – there was no contact as some suggested – and a reminder of the battle they may still have if Mercedes can one day close the gap to Red Bull. That’s assuming Hamilton sticks around, as another race came and went with no mention of his expected new contract being signed…
Perez’s most recent accusation was thrilling, yet ultimately disappointing in general.
Although Perez may have appeared on the podium, his performance was still disappointing.
Photo by: Red Bull Racing
Perez ended his streak of missing Q3 in Hungary, but he only managed to qualify in ninth place. He faced difficulties in navigating through the different tire compounds during the Alternative Tyre Allocation experiment and made a mistake in sector one on his final lap. However, he performed well in the race and fought his way back to the podium. As a result, he received the “driver of the day” vote on F1’s official channels.
However, his outcome still indicated a lack of success – as the RB19 should have been qualifying in the top positions and Norris had the opportunity to secure second place with improved race strategy.
Perez experienced a significant setback in terms of race time when he took six laps to overtake Alonso after surpassing Bottas and Hulkenberg at the beginning. Additionally, he encountered further delays when he was unable to pass Hamilton, who was moving slower, just after reaching the halfway point. As a result, Perez had a shorter second stint, which caused his tires to deteriorate towards the end of the race, ultimately resulting in a final gap of 3.9 seconds between him and Norris.
Ferrari’s strategy mishaps persist, exacerbated by problems with their radio communications.
Leclerc and Sainz seemed to be determining the strategy from the driver’s seat on certain occasions in Hungary.
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
The 2022 Hungarian GP is notable for exemplifying Ferrari’s consistent strategic mishaps from the previous year. Once again, the red team made perplexing decisions, like having Carlos Sainz follow Charles Leclerc in the early stages when he could have potentially utilized his soft tires to challenge Hamilton in front.
After experiencing a problem with the wheel gun, Leclerc had a pit stop that lasted nearly 10 seconds, greatly impacting his race. However, he was given priority to undercut Sainz during the final stops. If it weren’t for a 5-second time penalty for slightly exceeding the pit lane speed limit by 0.4mph, Leclerc would have finished ahead of both Sainz and Russell.
Just before this, Leclerc had had a clipped and highly-charged exchange with engineer Xavier Marcos broadcast. Explaining this afterwards, the Monegasque driver revealed Ferrari had also been suffering a radio problem in Hungary, which has apparently featured at several races so far in 2023.
Leclerc expressed that we are facing numerous issues with the radio communication. Additionally, my engineer is unable to comprehend one out of every four words due to persistent radio problems in three to four races.
“We must address this issue. It is evident that I am speaking with a sense of urgency in order to ensure my message is heard. However, my intention was simply to ensure there was no misunderstanding, emphasizing the importance of being aggressive early rather than late. Therefore, it was necessary to clarify due to the communication problems we experienced on the radio.”
Ricciardo has had a strong start to his return.
Ricciardo outqualified and outraced Tsunoda on his F1 return debut
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Daniel Ricciardo’s highly anticipated return to F1, replacing Nyck de Vries, seemed to be heading towards a disappointing retirement on the first lap. The Australian driver was unintentionally involved in a crash at Turn 1, caused by Zhou Guanyu braking too late in his Alfa Romeo. This resulted in Ricciardo colliding with Esteban Ocon.
Ricciardo expressed his frustration. At first, despite starting from a disadvantaged position at the back with a seemingly undamaged car, he found himself stuck in traffic. However, when AlphaTauri decided to reduce the length of his middle stint on the hards, he was able to continue without obstruction and impressively complete 41 laps on the mediums.
It wasn’t just the time he spent on the softer rubber, it was his pace too, as he drove away from Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg to the flag. It didn’t result in points, but it was a positive start to life back in F1, which also meant beating new team-mate Yuki Tsunoda.
Ricciardo concluded that if they had maintained their lead and started in the same position, they could have potentially competed for a points finish today.
Alpine is facing a series of unfortunate events.
Gasly and Ocon were both eliminated from the Hungarian GP following a collision caused by Zhou at the first corner, leading to a chain reaction.
Photo by: Alpine
In 2023, Alpine experienced their third instance of both drivers retiring from a race, with the most recent incident occurring at the first corner in Hungary. Although Pierre Gasly was initially classified in Silverstone, he was forced to retire after colliding with Lance Stroll, similar to the incident in Melbourne where both Gasly and Ocon crashed into the wall.
Lowly grid spots always leave drivers vulnerable to mid-pack incidents, but this was all set off by Zhou having a shocking start from ahead of the Alpine pair. Zhou reported his initial problem in the car as a clutch issue that Alfa later claimed was really a brake software one. Then he outbraked himself at Turn 1 having fallen far from his fifth-place starting spot and his Ricciardo tap sent Ocon climbing over Gasly – attacking nicely in the other Alpine on the outside.
Ocon experienced a crash that caused his seat to break into two parts. Despite attempting to continue for another lap, he had to retire due to damage to the rear suspension. Gasly’s car, on the other hand, had already returned to the pits and was in Ocon’s side of the garage. This was because Gasly’s floor had suffered significant damage, making it impossible to continue after the first lap.
“At this moment, we all feel a sense of bitterness,” expressed Otmar Szafnauer, the team boss of Alpine, as they find themselves trailing McLaren by 40 points in the constructors’ championship. “It’s a difficult pill to swallow, but we need to stay focused and recover from this setback.”
The tire experiment conducted by F1 during qualifying yielded positive results on Saturday, although uncertainties persist in other areas.
On Saturday, Hamilton’s pole position in qualifying was exhilarating.
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
The Alternative Tyre Allocation experiment by F1 was a major topic of discussion during the weekend. It commenced after the initial trial at Imola was canceled, along with the rest of the event, earlier this year.
The regulations that mandated drivers to use different tire compounds in each qualifying session seemed to have an effect. It made it more challenging for the racers to adjust to the varying characteristics of the tires and achieve their fastest laps when necessary. This was evident in Sainz narrowly missing out on Q3 by a margin of 0.002s and Perez starting in ninth position. Verstappen also faced difficulties, although this was primarily due to Red Bull’s decision to optimize his setup for race conditions.
It was difficult for the leading drivers to notice the impact during the race, but four drivers who had new soft tires decided to use them at the beginning. This strategy seemed to work well for Sainz and Tsunoda, as they were able to gain an advantage when accelerating away from the first corner.
However, the modification provoked the anger of numerous drivers who believed they had less practice time on Friday. It should be noted that this concern was compounded by the wet FP1 session, which resulted in fewer laps being completed and less opportunity to familiarize themselves with the performance of the tires. Additionally, there were concerns about the wastage of wet tires when there was no rain, particularly considering that the main objective of the ATA is to decrease the transportation requirements for tires. Pirelli, however, dismissed these claims.
There is another ATA experiment to come at Monza to assess if it will be used more regularly or even become the norm in 2024, so expect a similar debate to come up again just after the summer break.
F1 could potentially return to a level of engine equalization that has not been witnessed since the late 2000s.
Teams are set to discuss the possibility of equalising engine performance
Photo by: Erik Junius
The racing field is set for an interesting Belgian GP due to the information uncovered in Budapest about a subject that has been included in the schedule for the upcoming F1 Commission gathering at Spa.
The teams will have a discussion about the potential for balancing engine performance. Alpine is worried that its Renault engine is believed to be 20-33hp weaker than its rivals and there is no opportunity to close the gap until 2026.
Engine development is frozen until then, with only changes allowed on reliability, safety or cost-saving grounds – around other small changes that make little meaningful performance difference. But the FIA is understood to now feel performance gaps have emerged between engine builders despite the freeze being in effect since 2022 considering those allowances. Therefore, a discussion will take place regarding the possibility of intervening to help Renault close up.
F1 has been here before – also when Renault’s power fell behind after the 2007 engine freeze as rivals found gains in a retuning process allowed by the rules and the FIA later conducted a 2009 investigation that ultimately went nowhere. Just after this, Renault made performance gains in the exhaust-blowing software it developed for Red Bull, which helped it close its overall power deficit.
But this could be a big 2023 and future competition topic given an equalisation move might hand another squad a big boost or handicap and rather goes against F1’s meritocracy ethos.
Any move to equalise engines is fraught with difficulties
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images