Records have always been broken whenever a driver-team combination appears to be the dominant force in Formula One. In 2023, Max Verstappen and Red Bull are taking this to another level with their breathtaking dominance week-in and week-out.
Their triumph in the Hungarian Grand Prix is just the latest in it, as Red Bull won their 12th consecutive race in Formula One starting from the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi in 2022. Red Bull’s victory run also broke the record set by McLaren back in 1988 of 11 straight wins. Much like the famed McLaren MP4-4 car that took Ayrton Senna to his first world title in 1988, the RB-19, too, has now won the first 11 races of the season. The all-conquering McLaren won 15 out of the 16 races that year, and it would be wild to bet against Red Bull beating that win percentage, even though it sounds improbable that a team can be that efficient over 22 races.
By now, everyone has resigned to the fact that Red Bull is set to win every race this season, barring some accident or technical trouble. However, Saturday offered hope that Verstappen might be stretched as Lewis Hamilton took a sensational pole position by 0.003 of a second from Verstappen. In a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult, there was a fervent belief that if Hamilton could lead the race at the start, anything was possible, especially since the Briton is mighty around the Hungaroring, having won eight times.
Unfortunately for the Mercedes driver, Verstappen had a better getaway, took the lead immediately, and sailed off into the distance. It did not help the McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris too got ahead of Hamilton, who slipped to fourth within the first two corners.
From there on, it was just a fight for the remaining two positions on the podium, which Norris and Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull managed to secure. It was another poor race for Perez, who qualified ninth and managed to finish third while his teammate finished half-a-minute ahead of the rest of the pack. The only silver lining was the Mexican qualified in the top-ten, something he failed to do in the previous five rounds.
Ever since McLaren brought upgrades in Austria, the team has shown a decisive upturn in its form, with Norris finishing on the podium in the last two events. Once again, on a track where the team was expected to struggle, the two McLarens locked out the second row.
Earlier this season, the McLaren struggled with tyre wear and for pace around the slow corners. On a hot day in Budapest with its twisty bits, it was a track that would have exposed the McLaren big time. Instead, the team came away with a second and fifth-place finish. The last race before the upgrade was in Canada, where they finished seventh and ninth. At the end of the race in Montreal, the team had just 17 points, eight of which came that weekend. Since then, the team has added 70 points in three rounds and moved to fifth in the standings ahead of Alpine.
Meanwhile, in the world of electric single-seater racing, the battle for the championship swung decisively in favour of Andretti-Porsche driver Jake Dennis. In the penultimate round at the Rome EPrix, Dennis cemented his lead in the championship with a sensational win from pole position in the second race of the weekend to extend his advantage to 24 points ahead of his closest rival, Nick Cassidy (Envision-Jaguar).
Cassidy, who trailed by one point before the Rome event, started the weekend well by finishing second in the first race and took a five-point lead ahead of Dennis, who had to settle for fourth.
But in the second race of the double-header, Dennis demolished the field to clinch pole, win and the fastest lap while Cassidy came home a forlorn 14th.
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