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Formula 1 Hungarian GP

Wolff: Verstappen makes F1 rivals look 'like a field of F2 cars'

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff reckons the pace of 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen makes the rest of the Formula 1 grid look like “a field of Formula 2 cars”.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60

Verstappen scored his seventh GP win in a row in Budapest, having dived past polesitter Lewis Hamilton into Turn 1 before pulling 34 seconds to runner-up Lando Norris.

His latest success, as team-mate Sergio Perez recovered from ninth to third, landed Red Bull a 12th consecutive victory to break the championship record set by the revered McLaren MP4/4 in 1988.

Given the current level of command being exerted by Verstappen aboard the RB19, Mercedes motorsport boss Wolff reckons the rest of the competition has been left to look like they are driving around in FIA Formula 2 cars.

F2 feature race winner Jack Doohan set a fastest lap of 1m30.997s aboard his UNI-Virtuosi Dallara-Mechachrome. Verstappen set the fastest lap in the grand prix, 1.097s clear of Hamilton's 1m21.601s best.

Discussing Verstappen winning by the biggest margin so far this season, Wolff told Sky Sports: “It is a meritocracy. We are going to fight back and win races and championships but today you’ve seen the pace that Max had, and you saw it already on the long runs on Friday [practice].

“That is where they are. It is like a field of Formula 2 cars against a Formula 1 [car]. They’ve done the best job. Within the regulations, they’ve done the best job.”

Hamilton, who suffered a poorer launch compared to Verstappen, led the Mercedes line-up in fourth. Meanwhile, George Russell classified sixth after qualifying in 18th, which was partly owed to losing out to the experimental Alternative Tyre Allocation qualifying format trialled for the first time.

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The W14 appeared to swap its usually sound race pace for a stronger one-lap showing. However, a quick final stint from Hamilton enabled him to close to Perez in the dying laps.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Asked where the qualifying pace had gone, Wolff said Hamilton’s Saturday performance was a major factor, but that Mercedes was second only to Red Bull in the race although it had failed to “monetise” that speed.

The Austrian said: “I think clearly yesterday was a mega Lewis lap. We screwed it up with George in qualifying.

“I think we had the second quickest car today, if you look at the lap time profile and also where George came from. But we just didn’t monetise on it.

“But having said that, you see where Verstappen is doing his laps and that needs to be the target and that is far off at the moment.”

Wolff added that Hamilton lost out not only through his poor launch, but from Mercedes having potentially messed up its tyre preparation.

He said: “The start certainly played a role but you know that can happen.

“Maybe we also brought the tyres in very carefully, maybe too carefully, and you can see the lap time difference towards the end.

“I think we reeled in 15 seconds, and we were missing 1.9s or so to Perez and just four seconds to Lando, or less, and I think we had that.”

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