Verstappen eyes another win as Ferrari turn to Sainz for Hungarian Grand Prix

By Sports Desk July 27, 2022

Max Verstappen's path to a second Formula One drivers' championship appears clear following Ferrari's mishaps in France, with the Red Bull ace looking to extend his lead in Hungary.

Heading into the final race before F1's summer break, Verstappen holds a mammoth 63-point advantage over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in the standings – while Red Bull lead their rivals by 82 points in the constructors' championship.

Ferrari's latest setback, which saw Leclerc retire from the lead for the third time this season, brought an end to what had been a positive stint for the Italian manufacturers – who had won back-to-back races before heading to the Circuit Paul Ricard.

While Leclerc has been the leading man for Ferrari this season, his crash in France was the latest mistake from the young driver – and it may now be Carlos Sainz that has the biggest part to play in chasing down Red Bull.

After a difficult start to the season, the Spaniard has found his rhythm with the car and weaved his way through the field in France to secure fifth place, having started 19th on the grid and impressed in qualifying.

Sainz boasts two fastest laps in 2022, both of which have come in the last four races (in Canada and France) – one more than he recorded in his previous 148 outings, and he's now eyeing consecutive fastest laps for the first time in his F1 career.

Ferrari's record in Hungary is also encouraging, with only McLaren (11) winning more races at the venue than Ferrari (7) – who last won at the Hungaroring in 2017. Red Bull, meanwhile, have won twice, in 2010 and 2014.

Red Bull's main strength this season has been straight-line speed, which may not fit with the Hungaroring's lack of straights – the track is comparable to Monaco, with several corners to string together.

It's on those sorts of corners where Ferrari have been the better outfit but, even with a win, they would require some serious reliability issues or incidents from Red Bull to rejuvenate their flagging title hopes.

Hamilton's charge reviving Mercedes

Mercedes' woes this season have been well documented and are not yet over, with the team extremely disappointed by their upgrade package failing to have the desired effect for the French Grand Prix last time out.

However, Lewis Hamilton is at least back at his best after registering four consecutive podium finishes heading into Hungary, while George Russell's appearance alongside his team-mate on the podium was the first time Mercedes have had both drivers in the top three this season.

The Hungaroring is a track Hamilton knows well, having secured eight victories at the venue – including all five of Mercedes' wins.

Now 12 races without a win, Mercedes are in the longest winless stretch of their F1 history, and Hamilton is still awaiting the triumph which would see him break Michael Schumacher's record of consecutive seasons with at least one victory – with both drivers currently on 15.

Ricciardo's moment of truth

Daniel Ricciardo's spell at McLaren has been disappointing for both driver and team but both are committed to each other for the long haul, with the Australian's contract running through 2023.

Speculation of an early termination appears to have cooled, with Ricciardo taking to social media to quash such rumours before issuing a strong message ahead of France – telling Sky Sports he'll deliver a win if McLaren can deliver a car.

That's something the Silverstone-based team are yet to do, however. Ricciardo's experience in France was another disappointing one, having come in ninth and, yet again, finished behind team-mate Lando Norris.

The young Brit is clearly the more comfortable driver, having registered 70 of McLaren's 89 points this season, and Ricciardo needs to start changing the game.

A positive race in Hungary would provide a significant boost ahead of what is a crucial sequence for the Australian after the summer break.

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  • What next for Christian Horner, Red Bull and Formula One? What next for Christian Horner, Red Bull and Formula One?

    Christian Horner continues to fight for his Formula One career following a string of allegations against the Red Bull team principal.

    Here, the PA news agency looks at the key questions surrounding Horner, Red Bull, and the sport.

    What were the accusations against Horner?

    On February 5, Red Bull Racing’s parent company GmbH confirmed Horner was under investigation following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour”. The company said it “takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible”.

    Horner denied the claim – made by a female colleague – and remained as team principal and CEO of the Milton Keynes-based team. It is understood the complainant also continued in her role.

    How did Red Bull react?

    Horner was questioned by a lawyer for eight hours at a secret London location. There was no immediate resolution and Horner subsequently appeared at Red Bull’s car launch on February 15.

    He continued to dismiss the allegations. Horner then headed to Bahrain for last week’s three-day test before returning to England, while Red Bull’s Austrian board met to discuss his future.

    What was the verdict?

    On the eve of this weekend’s curtain raiser – and 23 days after it emerged Horner was under investigation – Red Bull GmBH said the grievance against the 50-year old had been dismissed.

    The corporation said it was confident the investigation had been “fair, rigorous and impartial” but added that the report, understood to stretch to 150 pages, is “confidential”. However, a number of senior figures in the sport felt Red Bull’s probe lacked transparency.

    So, what happened next?

    Twenty-four hours later, a number of messages and images apparently exchanged between Horner and the complainant were sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media.

    What did Horner say?

    Horner released a statement saying: “I will not comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate I have always denied the allegations.”

    He was back in the paddock a day later for qualifying as Max Verstappen took pole position. There was speculation that another damning email leak against Horner would arrive on Friday – but it failed to materialise.

    Will the FIA take any action?

    It is understood the FIA explored bringing a disrepute charge against Horner – and assessed the legalities of seeking Red Bull to hand over its report – but no action has emerged.

    Neither F1, nor its regulator, has commented publicly on the latest allegations. Horner met with both Domenicali and Ben Sulayem on Friday.

    And what about Red Bull’s sponsors and partners?

    There is thought to be considerable unrest and unease behind the scenes following the latest allegations to hit Horner – but there has been no public comment from Red Bull Racing’s two biggest partners – Ford and Oracle.

    Will Horner be on the pit wall for Saturday’s race?

    Yes. It is understood Horner remains defiant that he can see out the controversy.

    His wife Geri Halliwell flew to Bahrain and could be trackside on Saturday, while Chalerm Yoovidhya, who owns 51 per cent of the Red Bull group, might also be in attendance.

  • Lewis Hamilton confident Mercedes can challenge at front with Max Verstappen Lewis Hamilton confident Mercedes can challenge at front with Max Verstappen

    Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes have delivered a car capable of putting him in the fight at the front – despite qualifying only ninth for Saturday’s opening round of the season in Bahrain.

    Max Verstappen saw off Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by two tenths to capture pole position, with Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell next up, a third of a second back.

    Hamilton raised hope that he might take the challenge to Verstappen when he finished fastest in practice here on Thursday.

    However, the 39-year-old, entering his final campaign for the Silver Arrows before he joins Ferrari, finished half-a-second adrift.

    But an optimistic Hamilton said: “It is amazing to see how close everyone is, and George’s position is testament to how amazing a job all those working at the factory have done to give us a car to fight.

    “The car is really fantastic, and a big improvement from previous years.

    “It is stable and more fun to drive. For George to be three tenths off Max is incredible and it shows what is possible.

    “We just have to add performance, but if that is our platform, we can definitely chase for the rest of the season.

    “For the first qualifying session to be as poor as that when you put in so much preparation is disappointing, but that is racing.”

    Verstappen is expected to romp to his fourth consecutive world championship in his all-conquering Red Bull machine.

    But the Dutch driver was made to work for the 33rd pole of his career under the thousands of bulbs that light up the Sakhir Circuit.

    Verstappen headed into his final run with less than a tenth in his pocket over Leclerc before extending his margin to the Ferrari driver.

    Despite taking top spot, Verstappen apologised for what he perceived to be a scruffy lap.

    “Don’t be sorry, Max,” said a weary-sounding Christian Horner – whose Formula One future is again in the spotlight after hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him to a female colleague were leaked. “You finished two tenths clear of Charles and three tenths ahead of George.”

    Verstappen added: “It was a lot of fun. I am very happy to be on pole, and it was a little bit unexpected. The car came to us and I felt happier than I did in practice.

    “The race is going to be close, too, but we will see tomorrow. I am confident we can have a strong race.”

    While Verstappen qualified first, Sergio Perez was fifth in the other Red Bull, one place ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

    British driver Lando Norris will line up in seventh for McLaren, with Williams’ Alex Albon 13th.

    Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly will prop up the grid following a miserable qualifying session for the Alpine team.

  • Max Verstappen ‘fully focused on car’ amid latest Christian Horner allegations Max Verstappen ‘fully focused on car’ amid latest Christian Horner allegations

    Red Bull’s superstar driver Max Verstappen stopped short of providing his full support for embattled team principal Christian Horner.

    Verstappen temporarily took the spotlight off Horner – whose Formula One future is again in the spotlight after hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him to a female colleague were leaked – when the Dutchman secured pole position for Saturday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

    But moments after capturing top spot, Verstappen was quizzed on how the latest allegations surrounding Red Bull had affected his preparations, and if Horner remains the right person to lead the crisis-hit team.

    “From my side, and, from the mechanics and engineers, we’re fully focused on the car, and fully focused on the weekend which is how it should be and that is what we continue to do,” said Verstappen.

    Appearing to swerve the question about Horner, he added: “It’s not our business to get involved in that. We are paid to do our job, that is what we are out there doing, and that is what we love doing and that is what I focus on.”

    Verstappen was asked again if he still had faith in Horner.

    “When I look at how Christian operates within the team he has been an incredible boss so from the performance kind of things you can’t question that,” he added.

    “I speak to Christian a lot and he is fully committed to the team.

    “He is here for the performance, and of course he is a little bit distracted, but we just focus on performance and that is how we all work together.”

    On Wednesday, Horner was cleared to continue as Red Bull team principal following an internal probe into “inappropriate behaviour” by the F1 team’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH. He has always denied the claims.

    But just 24 hours later, a number of messages and images apparently exchanged between Horner and the complainant were sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media.

    Domenicali and Ben Sulayem spoke on Friday to discuss the next steps.

    Horner’s wife, Geri Halliwell, flew to Bahrain and could be with her husband at Saturday’s race. Chalerm Yoovidhya, who owns 51 per cent of the Red Bull group, might also be in attendance.

    Neither F1’s American owners, Liberty Media, nor its regulator, the FIA, have seen Red Bull GmbH’s report into Horner, which is thought to stretch to 150 pages and was said to be “confidential”.

    The FIA considered the legalities of asking Red Bull to hand over its report, and examining if Horner might have breached two clauses of its International Sporting Code.

    Article 12.2.1.c of the code states that a competitor will have committed an offence if there was “any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any Competition or to the interests of motor sport generally”.

    Article 12.2.1.f highlights “any words, deeds or writings that have caused moral injury or loss to the FIA, its bodies, its members or its executive officers, and more generally on the interest of motor sport and on the values defended by the FIA”.

    Meanwhile, article 12.2.1.g states that “any failure to cooperate in an investigation” would breach the code.

    However, the likelihood of any action receded as another extraordinary day – which included speculation that another damning email leak would arrive but never did – wore on.

    Horner spoke only once about the latest allegations as he made his way from Red Bull’s hospitality suite to the team’s garage earlier on Friday.

    “I am not going to comment on anonymous speculation from unknown sources,” he said. When asked what comes next, Horner replied: “We go racing.

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