(Image via @Max33Verstappen)
As Max Verstappen picked up his eighth win of the 2022 Formula One World Championship en route to a potential back-to-back championship seasons. The once formidable foe of the Scuderia Ferrari took another disastrous blow to their title hopes.
As I slept on writing this review until the day after, I have to believe that whatever the Ferrari team is actually thinking is either the team is this inept in race strategy and have no idea what they are doing. Or, bad luck keeps striking this team. With twenty-four hours of thought after the Hungarian Grand Prix, it would feel like this team is truly inept and it's unfortunate that the title chase is seemingly slipping away.
The reason I believe that the Scuderia is inept in it's strategy is the ultimate blunder of the lap thirty-nine pit stop that saw the switch to hard tires. Before the race took place, Pirelli releases the optimal tire strategy for a given race weekend.
According to Pirelli, the fastest tire strategy was soft tires until lap 16 or 21, medium till lap 42 or 47, then mediums to the end. The strategy that Ferrari used was medium to begin, lap 40 stop for hards, and a lap 55 stop with softs to the end of the race.
This information is public knowledge and given to all teams before a race weekend. In their eyes, the hard compound tire was 1.4 seconds slower than the soft tire and was not put into any of their predicted strategy before the race. Even Martin Brundle of the Formula One commentary team even said during the broadcast that the hard tires wouldn't even be in question to be used because they were so slow in terms of pace that they would offer no strategic advantage to any team....unless their goal was to lose the race. Which is even more unfortunate that Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen were virtually identical in pace.
What Ferrari did without a shadow of a doubt was that the team panicked when Red Bull pitted for medium compound tires. What they should have done was to be confident in the strategy and go with the soft compound at the end. Remember, Verstappen went over thirty laps on the medium compound towards the end and even spun coming out of turn twelve in route to a win. This gets more depressing when in the cooldown room, we saw Hamilton, Verstappen, and Russell laugh openly about the strategy of them even touching the hard tires towards the end of the race.
As for the race winner, it was a fantastic drive by Verstappen. Coming from tenth and even spinning late in the race. It seemed like every thing was going against him at the end. In details that came after the race, the Verstappen power unit was three laps away from a terminal failure. From this point on, Verstappen does not have to win another race in 2022 to claim his second championship if he just finishes on the podium. If this pace continues, Verstappen will lock up a championship as the checkered flag waves in Suzuka later this year.
For Lewis Hamilton, he had his fifth podium in a row as Mercedes had both drivers finishing on the podium for the second weekend in a row. It begs the question on can Mercedes finish ahead of Ferrari in the constructors standings by the end of the year would be a very fantastic goal for them by Abu Dhabi. Mercedes has a car that has been over a second off the pace of the Red Bull and Ferrari this year and is essentially doing more with less than any other team on the grid. If Hamilton did not have his DRS issue during the race and passing being a main issue during the race, it would not have been out of the question that he could have had a win in Hungary.
Moving back towards the midfield and looking ahead to the second half of the season is the battle between McLaren and Alpine in the constructors standings. The gap between the two only being four points with Alpine having the advantage. For McLaren, the brightest bulb in the box has to be Lando Norris. For Norris, it was his 10th points finish in 13 races so far this season and has brought 76 points for the team so far as Ricciardo has 19. For Alpine, Ocon has 58 points while Alonso adds 41 to the team total. If Ricciardo does better, we can see a battle toward the end of the season for the title of "best of the rest."
A lot more thoughts on the first half of the season will be talked about during the summer break has teams have nearly a month off before a championship battle heats up. Next for Formula One is the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on August 28th.
Listen to "Early Apex" as we go more in depth on this race and other stories around the Formula One paddock this Thursday.