Ricciardo makes a comeback, McLaren are hoping to build on their strong form at Silverstone and Red Bull are eyeing a record-breaking 12th consecutive win. Here’s what to watch out for and who to back in the 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix!
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Formula 1 is entering its final double header before its annual summer break. Before we head to Belgium next weekend, the Hungaroring plays host to the Hungarian Grand Prix for the 38th consecutive season. Few other races have had such a long, uninterrupted tenancy on the schedule.
Max Verstappen heads into the 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix with a 99 point advantage. Such is the margin now, Verstappen need not win another race this year to be crowned champion. Of course, Verstappen will not be holding back this weekend as he hunts down something only four drivers have achieved in Formula 1’s long history: a seventh consecutive victory.
A record shattering weekend for Red Bull?
How do you determine the most dominant period in Formula 1? Is it by most consecutive wins? Most consecutive wins from pole? Most consecutive podiums? Whichever way you look at it, Red Bull and Max Verstappen are currently enjoying an almost unparalleled winning spell. The team has won all of the last 11 races and another victory this weekend would see Red Bull become the first constructor in Formula 1 history to win 12 races in a row.
Red Bull won here last year, despite neither of their cars starting inside the top nine grid slots. Max Verstappen won the race from 10th on the grid. Verstappen is much more accustomed to starting from the front recently. He’s taken all of the last five victories from pole position. Only one driver has previously taken pole and the win at six successive race weekends. Verstappen could match Michael Schumacher’s record run from over 20 years ago.
All dominant periods come to an end at some point but with Red Bull bringing what is rumoured to be a significant upgrade package this weekend, don’t expect their winning streak to end just yet.
A surprise in store?
So what hope is there for the other teams hoping for a chance at victory this weekend? Well, they can take some solace from the fact that the Hungaroring track is somewhat of an outlier. Described as ‘Monaco without the walls’, the venue can throw some unexpected results due to its characteristics being much different to those of other circuits.
In recent years, Esteban Ocon took an unexpected victory with Alpine in a wet weather thriller in 2021, while George Russell took a surprise maiden Mercedes pole last year. In the last two years, races here have been won from outside of the first three rows of the grid. Ocon won from eighth in 2021, while Verstappen won from tenth in 2022.
Will McLaren’s impressive form continue?
Talking of surprises, McLaren’s impressive pace at the British Grand Prix came as a major shock. Both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri qualified in the top three at Silverstone, while Norris led the opening laps on Sunday and brought home a second place finish. Piastri also impressed, finishing fourth.
McLaren’s sudden turnaround is a rare feat to achieve in Formula 1. Just how much of the upturn in performance was track specific will likely be exposed at the Hungaroring. If the team can maintain their position as best of the rest this weekend, McLaren could be set for a very fruitful second half of 2023.
McLaren last finished on the Hungarian Grand Prix podium back in 2012, when Lewis Hamilton secured victory. Consecutive top three results for the Woking squad would be a seriously impressive display.
Another strong circuit for Hamilton
Alongside Verstappen and Norris on the British Grand Prix podium was Lewis Hamilton, whose record at the Hungaroring is just as impressive as that of at his home venue. Hamilton has taken eight previous victories in Hungary and has enjoyed podium finishes in all but two seasons since 2012 at the Budapest track.
Mercedes enjoyed one of their best results of the season here last year with a double podium finish. Hamilton finished as runner-up, while George Russell converted his maiden pole position into a third place finish.
Having taken three podiums in the last four events, Hamilton will be hoping to add a 196th
top three finish to his collection at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Ricciardo returns at AlphaTauri
Just two days after the British Grand Prix, Nyck de Vries was unceremoniously dumped from the Red Bull junior team, with AlphaTauri confirming his replacement to be none other than Daniel Ricciardo.
After a difficult two seasons at McLaren – aside from a spectacular victory at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix – Ricciardo stepped back from the sport for 2023, opting to take on a third driver role at his former team Red Bull. Ricciardo re-joins AlphaTauri – a team for which he last drove ten years ago, under their Toro Rosso guise – ‘on loan’ from the senior team.
A step back up to Red Bull in 2024, replacing the currently under-performing Sergio Perez, must be the end goal. Whether Ricciardo can prove his racing skills once more with AlphaTauri, who currently sit last in the Constructors’ Championship, remains to be seen.
Points on his return would be a dream result for Ricciardo on his comeback. The Australian has a previous win here – in the wet, in 2014 – plus a further two podium finishes. He’s scored only once in the last four years at the Hungaroring, however.
Perez under pressure
With Ricciardo back on the grid – and Christian Horner admitting that the Australian’s focus is on a future seat at Red Bull – the pressure is firmly on Sergio Perez. The current occupant of the number two seat at Red Bull has had a difficult time recently and could be in for another struggle at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Despite the RB19 being one of the most dominant cars in Formula 1 history, Perez has managed only a single podium finish in the last five races. He’s also failed to qualify in the top ten since the Miami Grand Prix in early May.
Concerningly for Perez’s chances this weekend, he does not have the best record at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Form 12 previous appearances, he has scored points only four times. His best result here is fifth, which is where he finished last year. Q3 appearances are also rare for the Mexican here, with just four top ten qualifications since 2011.
The pressure is on Perez – will he be able to see out the first half of the season with a pair of strong results? He desperately needs them.