Red Bull Racing’s victorious weekend at the Hungarian Grand Prix could’ve turned out very differently, had Max Verstappen not suffered a reliability problem in Q3 on Saturday.
The Dutchman suffered a power failure during the final part of qualifying, which stopped the Dutchman from setting a lap-time.
This meant he started from P10, yet somehow recovered brilliantly to win at the Hungaroring for the first time in his F1 career.
Staggeringly, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner revealed that he was actually “grateful” Verstappen suffered a reliability problem.
The Red Bull boss explained that the car was only 12 kilometres away from a power unit failure, which would’ve happened on the way round to the starting grid on Sunday.
The team discovered this only by trying to repair Verstappen’s problem from qualifying; the discovery also benefited Sergio Pérez.
The team fitted both drivers with a new power unit as a “precaution”, one that turned out to be highly beneficial.
“We changed the power unit because there was a component that broke in Max’s car on Saturday,” said Horner.
“Thankfully, sitting here with 20-20 hindsight, I’m grateful it did break then because another 12 kilometres and it would have broken on the way to the grid.
“So we elected to change the whole power unit rather than to try and repair in the field, and as a precaution, we also changed Checo’s.”
Verstappen’s victory became possible thanks to another meltdown by the Ferrari strategists, who cost Charles Leclerc a victory for the third time this year.
Leclerc was leading the race when Ferrari called him in for his second stop; however, they fitted him with a set of Hard tyres.
This was advised against Pirelli, who informed all the teams that the hard rubber shouldn’t be used.
The cool track temperatures made the Hard tyre almost impossible to warm-up, as Leclerc discovered.
As a result, Leclerc was forced into a further pit-stop, dropping him to sixth place where he went on to finish.
Horner was asked if he felt like a victory for Verstappen was possible, before admitting that he only believed the win was on the cards when Ferrari put Leclerc on the worst compound.
“No, because I felt that Ferrari was on a very different strategy at that point,” added Horner.
“They looked to bank track position but as soon as they pitted Charles and brought out a set of hard tyres it really felt that a victory was possible.”
Going into the summer break, Red Bull lead Ferrari by 97-points in the Constructors’ Championship.
Incredibly, Verstappen also has an almost uncatchable advantage in the Drivers’ Championship, which he now leads by 80-points.