BUDAPEST — Formula One defending champion Max Verstappen needed only a few seconds to stamp his authority on the Hungarian Grand Prix and win his seventh straight race of a crushingly dominant season.
Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton started from pole position ahead of Verstappen, who muscled him out at the first corner and never looked back.
Red Bull´s 12th straight win, including the final race of 2022, broke McLaren´s record for consecutive team wins set in 1988.
“People forget how hard it is to win 12 in a row, even when you have the fastest car,” Verstappen said according to AP. “Hopefully we can keep this momentum going for a long time.”
Verstappen is cruising toward a third straight F1 title. His ninth victory overall – complete with another bonus point for the fastest lap – means the 25-year-old Dutchman already leads his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez by 110 points after just 11 races.
McLaren driver Lando Norris finished second for the second-straight race and Perez was third for a much-needed second podium in six races.
“If Max retires then maybe (we can win),” Norris joked. “We´re happy with the progress and to be where we are today, fighting for podiums. Our time will come later in the year.”
It’s hard to say how many wins Verstappen will already have if and when that times comes.
Verstappen’s career win total now stands at 44 – the same number as Hamilton’s car.
“Hopefully I don´t stay on 44, that would be terrible,” Verstappen joked. “Hopefully I can get to 45 quickly.”
Hamilton started from pole for the first time since the penultimate race of 2021 in Saudi Arabia – which was also when he won his record-extending 103rd F1 race. He has not won since.
He felt he had a chance after an impressive drive in qualifying.
But Verstappen, who won from 10th here last year, overtook a sluggish Hamilton as they dived into the first turn.
“We had a really good start to I´m happy with that,” said Verstappen, who was involved in two heavy crashes with Hamilton during a dramatic 2021 season. “That corner was mine. Luckily it all worked out well.”
The McLarens of Norris and Oscar Piastri also jumped past Hamilton and dropped him down to fourth.
That is where he finished at the sinewy 4.4-kilometer (2.7-mile) Hungaroring track, one of the hardest in F1 for overtaking.
Daniel Ricciardo finished 13th for AlphaTauri on his F1 comeback and beat teammate Yuki Tsunoda in 15th.
Perez took some pressure off by padding out his lead in the standings over third-place Fernando Alonso to 32 points.
“This performance, this race, helps confidence,” said Perez, who started from ninth place.
Hamilton´s now just six points adrift of the Spaniard.
After taking fourth place at Silverstone, the Australian rookie Piastri maintained his form with a solid fifth for an improving McLaren that has grabbed a healthy 58 points in two races.
“We had the same pace as Mercedes, we just did a better job,” Norris said. “Three races now with this upgrade, three which have clearly been more positive.”
Mercedes improved as the race progressed and temperatures cooled, allowing George Russell to surge past Ferrari´s Carlos Sainz Jr. to finish sixth.
Sainz was seventh ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc – who dropped a place with a 5-second time penalty for speeding in the pitlane – while Alonso and his Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10.
Ferrari´s season is fast turning into another flop.
Pitstop problems resurfaced when the team took nearly 10 seconds to change Leclerc´s tires on his first stop. Piastri´s first was a blisteringly-quick 2 seconds in comparison.
Verstappen´s huge lead meant he was three seconds in front of Perez after pitting for tires on Lap 24. Hamilton was worried that his Mercedes was too slow with a lack of straight-line speed exposed by hot temperatures.
Perez passed Sainz on the inside, and then Russell on the outside soon after, to move up to fifth behind the stressed-out Hamilton.
Hamilton blocked a first attack from Perez on Lap 42, so Red Bull brought in Perez for a tire change – timed at 1.9 seconds – to try and undercut Hamilton. The move paid off on a good day all around for Red Bull.
“Just to work with the whole team is always very enjoyable,” Verstappen said.
Thankfully for Leclerc, his next stop took 2.2, but he undid that good work with the time penalty.
Alpine drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon – the 2021 winner here – retired in quick succession after Alfa Romeo´s Zhou Guanyu pushed them into each other.
“It´s beyond unlucky to lose both cars on the first lap,” said Gasly, while Ocon said his car seat broke in half on impact.
Williams driver Logan Sargeant was the other driver to abandon after an error on the penultimate lap.