Red Bull's reactive decisions compared favourably to bad calls made by rivals Ferrari at the Hungaroring; Verstappen now leads the drivers' standings but Christian Horner refuses to agree the title has effectively been decided before the summer break
Sunday 31 July 2022 17:54, UK
Max Verstappen praised Red Bull's strategy and flexibility as he secured a victory he never expected at Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix.
The world championship leader started the race 10th on the grid following a power unit issue during qualifying, but his team made a series of good strategy calls - in contrast to the faltering Ferrari decisions which saw Charles Leclerc drop from first to sixth - that helped him battle to his eighth win of the season ahead of the summer break.
He now boasts an 80-point lead in the drivers' standings and even survived a 360 spin during the race to win by more than seven seconds from Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen said: "I was at first hoping that I could get close to a podium. There were very tricky conditions out there, but we had a really good strategy.
"We were really reactive and always pitting at the right time, I thought we had some good out laps, and at the end - even with the 360 - we won the race.
"It was a crazy race and I'm of course very happy that we won it."
Red Bull switched Verstappen's tyres from hard to soft following the reconnaissance laps and he believes the versatility of his pit-wall was crucial in helping him to battle through the field.
He told Sky Sports F1: "The team needs to be flexible because everything was calculated around the hard tyre and to make that quick decision shows that we have a lot of belief in ourselves to make the right calls.
"Of course from then on, we had to remain calm and be careful in the first lap. I got a bit unlucky, I was boxed in to turn one, but remained calm. Then we just moved our way forward and the team made the right calls and did two undercuts.
"I think we did the right strategy, we did the right tyres and manged it to the end, including a 360.
"We of course have a few plans but you have to be flexible as well. You cannot always rely on the plans you make before the race.
"Also, with these temperatures and it was constantly drizzling a little bit, you have to adapt, you have to feel. It's not only me and the car but also the pit wall, you need that feeling to make the right calls and they have that."
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admitted he was surprised to see Ferrari put hard tyres on Leclerc's car on his second stop - a decision which helped Verstappen to get past his closest world championship rival on the track.
But he was full of praise for his own team's decisions as they secured an unexpected victory.
"I can only focus on our performance and I think we did a great job today. We switched our strategy on the grid," he explained to Sky Sports F1.
"Going to the grid both drivers felt they were struggling to generate temperature in the soft tyre, which is the tyre to get to the grid and we were due to start the race on the hard tyre.
"So we switched it on the grid to deal with the ambient conditions and a bit of rain around and so on and the soft tyre went a lot further than we thought.
"So at that point we have committed to the two-stop and went soft, medium, medium.
"I think the key moment for us was as soon as we saw Charles go onto the hard tyre, as soon as the whites came out, we thought 'OK, we have really got a chance now'."
Red Bull now hold a commanding advantage in both the drivers' and constructors' standings, but Horner refused to agree with suggestions the titles have been won before the mid-season break.
"It is a very healthy lead but there is an awful lot of racing to go," he added.
"Things can go wrong, we had some reliability issues today with the clutch and that could have quite easily been a DNF but thankfully it wasn't.
"So, there are some areas that we can still improve on and there is an awful lot of racing still to do."
The sport now embarks on a four-week summer break before the Belgian GP on August 28. The race at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps kickstarts a European triple header with Zandvoort and Monza.
Every race is live and exclusive on Sky Sports F1.