Ricciardo’s back, new qualifying format and history beckons for Red Bull

Here are all the key talking points for 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix, the 12th round of the Formula 1 season


There was a time when the Hungarian Grand Prix was seen as one of the more dull events on the Formula 1 calendar, but the last decade has seen some thrillers and a few big surprises.

It would be a shock if Red Bull don’t win this Sunday and victory would mean McLaren‘s record of 11 consecutive wins from 1988 is broken. Coincidentally, it was McLaren that were Red Bull‘s closest challengers last time out at the 2023 British Grand Prix.

They call the Hungaroring, “Monaco without the barriers” so Aston Martin and Ferrari will fancy their chances to at least be on the heels of Red Bull. Mercedes should fare better too with fond memories for Lewis Hamilton and his eight wins in Budapest, plus George Russell‘s maiden pole position from 2022.

Ricciardo returns

The big news though is Daniel Ricciardo‘s return. Gone for eight months and back in F1 as he replaces Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri for the remainder of the season.

F1 is cut-throat, something many drivers allude to, so the De Vries dismissal is fair, given he’s failed to perform and predominantly been behind Yuki Tsunoda.

As Christian Horner says, what’s the point in carrying on with a driver who is unlikely to deliver? Throwing a fresh Ricciardo into a team which needs a lift just makes sense.

You can tell in the paddock that the Australian has missed the buzz of F1 and if he can beat Tsunoda immediately, that will lay a serious marker down and Red Bull would surely have to consider putting him in the main team for 2024.

“It’s all good,” said Ricciardo. “It’s all positive. Lots of optimism. I was there [at Faenza] last week, the facility has changed a lot in the last 10 years since I was there.

“So it felt like a, let’s say, a new team or a fresh environment. But also, 10 years is a long time. That team has changed. I’ve changed, you know. There’s a nice kind of nostalgia going back. But I feel like we both evolved.

“I’m starting this next phase, next chapter, with a very kind of fresh, I don’t know, page. Also for me, I needed to after, let’s say, stepping aside from the sport for a little bit, I think I kind of changed my perspective on things.

Daniel Ricciardo looks on ahead of the Hungarian GP | Francois Nel / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“So, I’m just coming into this without any… ‘Oh, what’s it going to be like? Oh, it’s going to be a struggle here. it’s going to be frustrating’. I’m just happy to have this opportunity.

“I think just getting an opportunity again inside the Red Bull family is something I’m really appreciative of. So that’s really where my head’s at. Just try and enjoy it. I’m sure we’ll have some work to do.

“But I’m not going to solve every problem this weekend. So it’s really just about me getting back into the race weekend and the flow.

“Last week [in the tyre test] of course it was a very good car I drove but it filled me with some confidence. So try to take a little bit of that into this but also not to expect the world. Just day by day.”

Red Bull bring upgrades to Budapest

While Red Bull‘s rivals have been bringing upgrades in recent races, it’s the Milton Keynes-based team’s turn to have some new parts themselves. The team are set to bring a sidepod update as part of their latest developments.

Max Verstappen leads the F1 drivers’ championship by 99 points from teammate Sergio Perez and wasn’t keen to give too much away about the upgrades.

“They look good,” said Verstappen. “Normally it makes the car a bit faster, but it also looks nice. Everyone of course always tries to improve the car, right? So that’s also what we are trying to do.”

The Dutchman also revealed the new parts should help the car in the corners, so as long as Red Bull don’t lose their exceptional aerodynamic efficiency, you can count them as big favourites to clean up in Budapest.

Max Verstappen sits in his Red Bull ahead of the Hungarian GP weekend | Dan Mullan / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Teammate Perez needs to keep things simple and not have any errors. Perez has admitted he’s particularly struggled in mixed conditions, which have affected the qualifying sessions at the last four Grand Prix in Spain, Canada, Austria and Britain.

Ricciardo‘s presence on the grid will only put more eyes on Perez and it will put more pressure on him, even if he denies it. Big couple weekends coming up for the Mexican to find some momentum.

Aston Martin look to get back on track

It was an underwhelming two weekends in Spielberg and Silverstone for Aston Martin as they failed to finish on the podium in consecutive races for the first time in 2023.

The cooler conditions and the power sensitivity of those two tracks saw them drop back, so the twistier Hungaroring should play more into their hands.

“I think because the layout of the track and the characteristics are a little bit more similar to the circuits that we did perform well at so far this year,” said Fernando Alonso, who is third in the F1 drivers’ championship.

Fernando Alonso on track at Silverstone on the 2023 British GP weekend | Aston Martin F1 Team

“I think high-speed corners, long straights are not maybe the strength of our package. Hopefully here, we can come back to a stronger performance, even though our main competitors, they improved their packages, and they will be very strong as well here. So it’s going to be difficult, but hopefully good fun.”

New qualifying format

The 2023 Emilia Romagna GP was set to see F1 trial a new qualifying format. However, the event was cancelled, so this weekend’s Hungarian GP will see the new tyre rules introduced.

Normally, teams are given 13 sets of tyres for a race weekend and hand two sets back after each practice session, meaning they have seven sets available for for qualifying and the race.

But, under the new format teams will only have 11 sets for the weekend and each qualifying session will have designated compounds. In Q1 drivers will use hard tyres, Q2 is restricted to medium tyres and softs can only be used in Q3.

Pirelli’s soft, medium and hard tyres | Total Motorsport

Q1 will be fascinating as the drivers will be forced to do consecutive laps to warm up the tyres and there will be a real skill to adapt to the medium and soft tyres in Q2 and Q3.

Limited tyres for the weekend will likely mean less running in practice and will change the usual programmes the teams have too.

“The idea is good,” said Williams team principal James Vowles. “I’m not sure what it’s going to do. There’s always a little bit of concern, where you’re slightly on the slower side. Is it going to be as easy to get the harder tyres to work? Are we actually going to split the field out?

“But the concept of trying it is exactly why we are doing it. We’re unsure of what the other circumstances will be, what will happen to the field spread. In many ways, there’ll be positives.

Logan Sargeant of Williams during 2023 British Grand Prix | Williams F1 Team

“On that harder tyre in the first session, you’ll be able to not just get one lap out of it… but multiple laps so you’ll see more cars going around the track, more laps being completed.

“It’s probably positive for the sport, positive outcome for it, but will it make a bigger gap or make it more predictable, unsure yet, which is exactly why we’re running it as a format. So I’m open minded and it might present a new direction of travel.”

John Smith
John Smithhttps://total-motorsport.com
Editor at Total-Motorsport.com and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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