Jul 23, 2023 at 7:24 PM Update: an hour ago
Due to the characteristic layout of the Hungaroring, some answers to outstanding Formula 1 questions were received this weekend. NU.nl lists five conclusions.
McLaren has made a step, but now for real
Expectations were tempered by the team itself in advance. On the winding circuit in Hungary, McLaren would not be able to do the same as on Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring, where it is all about high speed. If the pace is there on the winding track near Budapest, then the update that was introduced in Austria is very strong. That turns out to be the case.
Lando Norris even had the luxury of being disappointed with third place on the grid after qualifying on Saturday. The contrast is great with the opening races, in which McLaren simply struggled. The realization that a major intervention was needed already subsided during the preparations. At the headquarters in Woking, a change of course was therefore quickly initiated by team boss Andrea Stella. The Italian is now getting that gamble back.
McLaren is fast on the fast tracks, now also fast on the slow tracks and has a good driver duo with Norris and Oscar Piastri. Plus, another major update is coming later in the season. It’s not often that a team can take such a step in an ongoing season, but McLaren has done it. Competitors such as Ferrari and Mercedes look on enviously.
Norris talks with winner Verstappen. Photo: Getty Images
Mercedes is sometimes fast, usually not
Although Mercedes itself had the success that the team craved for on Saturday, Toto Wolff and his men received a reality check on Sunday. The pace with which Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole on Saturday appeared to have disappeared in the race.
There was already the necessary realism at Mercedes beforehand, which was not expected to be able to do anything against Verstappen. Only if Hamilton could stay ahead of the Dutchman at the start did he have a chance. That was the expectation. In practice, Hamilton messed up his start and then couldn’t keep up with the McLarens. Let alone Verstappen.
Remarkably enough, Hamilton got going late in the race and George Russell also had the speed on the mediums. That was with a thick layer of rubber on the track and with empty tanks. It must be frustrating for the former championship team: the speed is definitely in the car. But often it doesn’t come out when it really has to.
Aston Martin is sinking like a brick
From the second team to the fifth team. That is the situation Aston Martin has found itself in. Fernando Alonso’s team cannot keep up with the pace of development at the front and is falling further and further back in the pecking order.
That pattern started in Spain, with a brief revival in Canada. Although the team introduced an update there, it was not as drastic as on other cars.
Despite a shiny new factory at Silverstone, it shows that Aston Martin is still in the process of moving from midfield team to top team. The development war up front is routinely waged by the established names there. Aston Martin threw six once by choosing the right concept early, but now seems to be stuck in further development.
Alonso did not get further than ninth place. Photo: Getty Images
Pérez does damage repair, doesn’t he?
A nice catch-up race by Sergio Pérez somewhat repaired the damage he did to his reputation. However, there are caveats to the performance of the Mexican. Looking at Verstappen’s lead (33 seconds) over the rest of the field, a third place from ninth on the grid was perhaps ‘normal’ for the Red Bull. Verstappen won here last year from tenth place. Pérez’s speed was superior to the cars around him (almost) throughout the race, which makes strategy a lot easier and overtaking easier too.
Piastri was nicely outwitted, but otherwise Pérez did things that simply belong to the standard with this car. And then the race should not have lasted two laps longer, because Hamilton was getting closer.
Moreover, it is difficult to forget Saturday. Pérez did make it to Q3, but was half a second slower than leader Verstappen. This time there was no excuse like track limits, a crash or unfortunate timing. He was simply not fast enough. His rookie mistake on Friday, where the very experienced Pérez crashed his newly updated Red Bull by driving two wheels over the grass, makes this another mediocre weekend.
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Ferrari does not function as a top team
It was also a mediocre weekend for Ferrari, which was quite optimistic about the chances at the Hungaroring. Everything went wrong again.
Carlos Sainz already predicted it on Thursday: “If the temperature is too high, it will be to our disadvantage.” Ferrari could not keep up with the pace of Mercedes, for example, on the griddle that had become the asphalt in Budapest. This was best illustrated in the last stint: the Ferrari drivers had to run on the hard tyres, while everyone for Sainz and Charles Leclerc drove on mediums. Ferrari just can’t manage to get the tires under control, something that takes far too long for a top team.
Then there are the further stretches. Sainz already stranded in Q2, due to bad timing and not the fast lap at the right time. It happened to Russell too, but it mostly happened to Ferrari again. Leclerc’s pit stop then went wrong in the race. He then braked too late for the pit lane, giving Russell sixth place. This also happens with other teams and other drivers, but Ferrari is always there. All in all, there is still a lot of work for Fred Vasseur to do, because his team is not currently operating as a top formation.
Leclerc’s first pit stop didn’t go well. Photo: Getty Images