Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing and The Netherlands celebrates finishing in first position during the F1 Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 31, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary.
© Peter Fox/Getty Images

Learn how Max Verstappen won in Hungary despite starting in 10th place

Oracle Red Bull Racing’s world champion started from a season-worst 10th on the grid, but a Budapest breakthrough helped him to an 80-point lead atop the F1 standings.
Written by Matthew Clayton
8 min readPublished on
Max Verstappen isn’t a driver who is easily deterred. Worst Formula One qualifying of the year at the Hungarian Grand Prix? Unfortunate, but sure. A new engine installed for the 70-lap race? OK, if you must. A mid-race 360-degree spin? Inconvenient, but no sweat. A victory that defied history for Oracle Red Bull Racing and broke new ground? Why not?
Highs have punctuated the Dutchman's world championship defence in the first 13 rounds of the 2022 season, but victory in Budapest was one few saw coming. Including Verstappen himself, who grinned a "not really" when David Coulthard in the post-race parc ferme interviews asked if he imagined he'd be standing atop the rostrum 70 laps after beginning the race from just 10th on the grid.
How unusual was Verstappen's victory? Consider that in the 36 previous Hungarian Grands Prix, just three had been won by drivers starting from fifth or lower on the grid. It was the third victory at the Hungaroring for Red Bull and the first in eight years since Daniel Ricciardo's triumph in 2014. And Verstappen, it was a Budapest triumph that was worth the wait.
Max Verstappen of Oracle Red Bull Racing at the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 31, 2022.
The best way to begin a summer break? With 25 points in the bank
Before Sunday, the Hungaroring was just one of three circuits on the current calendar that have been on the schedule for the entirety of the 24-year-old's eight-season career where he'd never won, along with Sakhir, Bahrain, and Monza, Italy.
The win, Verstappen's 28th in F1, was earned beneath a leaden sky that threatened to dump rain on the circuit all race long – and finally poured down just after the podium ceremony finished. It was a podium that featured the same trio of drivers who sprayed the champagne in France seven days previously. Verstappen was joined by Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, the latter finishing third after taking his first F1 pole position on Saturday.
It was a lot of fun out there … a crazy race, and I'm really glad we won it
Here's how Verstappen's most unlikely race win came about on Sunday.

Max aims high, goes higher

Rewind 24 hours to Saturday qualifying, and it looked like Verstappen's Hungary curse was set to strike again. After qualifying, a power delivery issue saw him fighting with one arm behind his back in Q3. He lined up just 10th for his lowest starting slot since last year's Russian Grand Prix, where he started at the very back after an engine penalty.
The first step to turn a Saturday stumble into a Sunday save for the world champion came with the decision to fit a new engine for the race, and the road to recovery looked plausible off the start when he gained two spots on the opening lap.
After reporting some clutch slip issues in the opening laps, Verstappen began to move forwards, and the team played a strategic masterstroke on Lap 16 when Verstappen pitted to discard his soft tyres for medium-compound rubber, leap-frogging Hamilton.
Max Verstappen of Oracle Red Bull Racing at the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 31, 2022.
Decisive early passes set up Verstappen's victory charge
A second stop for mediums once more on Lap 38 pitched Verstappen into a fight with nearest title rival Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, who Verstappen passed on Lap 41, spun at Turn 13 on the same lap and relinquished the position, and then overtook the Monegasque driver again on Lap 45.
From there, it was all about eking out what life was left in his tyres. He didn't need to be too concerned; 25 laps later, a 7.8-second victory and 25 world championship points were in the bag.
Sunday's win was Verstappen's eighth this season and his 10th podium finish in 13 races; a troubled race for Leclerc saw the Ferrari driver finish sixth and saw Verstappen's drivers' championship lead swell to 80 points.
"I was, of course, hoping I could get close to a podium," Verstappen said of his pre-race aim.
"Very tricky conditions out there, but I think we had a good strategy. We were really reactive and always pitting at the right time. We had some good out laps. At the end, even with the 360 [spin] we won the race.
"I was struggling a bit with the shifts and the clutch, and we had to change a few things around to not burn the clutch, that cost a bit of performance, and I think it caught me out [with the spin]. Luckily I could do a 360 and only lost one spot.
"It was a lot of fun out there … a crazy race, and I'm really glad we won it."

Checo's Budapest best

Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Pérez hadn't found Hungary to be his happiest hunting ground either – until Sunday, when the Mexican finished fifth for his best result in 12 starts in Budapest, and a 10-point haul that didn't look probable after his own Saturday went sideways.
Pérez was ousted in Q2 after a strange qualifying session where he had a lap deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 5 and later reinstated and began the race from 11th place with a new engine in his RB18 like his team-mate.
He was inside the top 10 by the first corner of the race and ran a steady race inside the top six after he overtook McLaren's Lando Norris on Lap 12, finishing 15.688s behind Verstappen and just three seconds off the podium.
"Checo's pace in the second half today … he was a second a lap quicker in the closing stages than George [Russell] and Carlos [Sainz] … he was coming for them very quickly," Oracle Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner said.
"A reset over the summer break to understand what's not quite gone right for him the last couple of races … he'll come back strong from Spa [Belgium] onwards."
The combined 35 points for Verstappen and Pérez, compared to 20 earned by Sainz (fourth) and Leclerc (sixth) from second and third on the grid respectively, saw Oracle Red Bull Racing's lead in the constructors' championship balloon to a season-best 97 points.

No rain and no gain for AlphaTauri

One team that wouldn't have minded a shower to hit the Hungaroring to throw another variable into the mix was Scuderia AlphaTauri. Their run of races without points extended to five after Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda could make little headway from challenging qualifying sessions on Sunday's race.
Like Pérez, Gasly had a lap time for a track limits infringement at Turn 5, afflicting his qualifying charge. Unlike the Mexican's rescinded penalty, Gasly's sanction stuck, and he was 19th on the grid, which the team turned into a pit-lane start after it changed the Frenchman's engine before the race. Gasly made some progress in a race where just one car (Valtteri Bottas' Alfa Romeo) retired, but 12th was as much as he could manage.
Pierre Gasly of Scuderia AlphaTauri at the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 31, 2022.
Gasly made some progress, but not into the points
Meanwhile, Tsunoda finished 19th of the 19 finishers, a mid-race spin at the Turn 6-7 chicane that saw the Japanese driver lose a ton of time after qualifying 16th on the grid.
AlphaTauri maintained eighth in the constructors' standings with 27 points, seven points ahead of Aston Martin.

Seb's swansong

Arguably, the biggest story of the Hungary weekend came before a wheel had been turned in anger, with news that four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel would retire at the end of the 2022 campaign with Aston Martin.
Vettel, now 35, isn't the title-winning force he was in his F1 prime, most of which came with Red Bull from 2009-14, where he won 38 Grands Prix and four titles in a row from 2010.
At his best, his 53 wins rank him third all-time behind Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher. He holds a host of records that may never be touched, among them the most wins in succession (nine in 2013) and becoming the youngest world champion in the sport's history in 2010 at 23 years and 134 days, when he won a dramatic four-way showdown for the crown in Abu Dhabi.
Vettel's Budapest weekend was modest – he qualified 18th and finished 10th in the race to enter the mid-season break in 14th place in the world championship. But his news, and the resultant outpouring of respectful comments from F1 friends and foes alike, show how revered he is now and how he'll be remembered after taking his last lap in November.

And now… exhale

Need to take a breath after 13 rounds of the season in a little over four months, with five back-to-back races? Us too. Formula One embarks on its summer holidays from Budapest, with three straight weekends off before the final nine races of the season, some classic tracks and a couple of favourites in Asia we've not been to since 2019 (Singapore and Japan) among them.
First up? The Belgian Grand Prix, where Verstappen returns as the defending winner, but not of a race anyone sitting soaked in the Spa-Francorchamps grandstands or watching at home wanted. After persistent rain, the result was called after one lap behind the safety car and a delay of more than three hours last August.
Pérez was perhaps the unluckiest driver in Belgium last year, qualifying seventh but ending up 19th in a race with no racing after he aquaplaned off the circuit in treacherous conditions and crashed on the way to the grid.
Tune in on August 28 to see how the drivers fare at this year's Belgian Grand Prix.