Red Bull’s rare-in-2023 upgrade under scrutiny in Hungary

The Hungarian Grand Prix has become the testing ground for Red Bull’s rare-in-2023 car upgrade, but the results are far from certain. Sergio Perez faced a setback during FP1 when he crashed one version of the package, leading Dr. Helmut Marko to reveal that the team is now short on spare parts for the Mexican driver.

Meanwhile, Max Verstappen’s performance in the later session raised eyebrows as he failed to secure a top-ten position, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took the lead. Leclerc acknowledged the challenge of predicting everyone’s performance due to the new tyre distribution but expressed confidence that Red Bull would still be strong contenders.

“Because of the new tyre distribution, everyone is doing something different so it’s almost impossible to read where everyone is,” Leclerc said. “Red Bull may not have had the best day, but I still expect them at the front.”

Marko acknowledged that Verstappen’s car needs “fine-tuning” but remained optimistic about the team’s strength during long runs, providing reassurance amidst uncertainties.

“We still have to improve a few things, but we know where to start,” Marko stated confidently.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton joined Leclerc in criticizing the smaller-than-usual tyre availability in Hungary, a result of the qualifying format tweak.

Verstappen echoed Hamilton’s sentiments, expressing his concern about the focus on saving tyres and its impact on the fans’ experience.

“It’s not ideal because the aim was to save the tyres and that’s not fair on the people in the stands,” Verstappen commented.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri also weighed in on the format tweak trial, expressing disappointment with the limited tyre sets available throughout Friday.

“It’s not so much fun when you only have a couple of sets of tyres for the whole of Friday,” Piastri remarked.

As for Daniel Ricciardo’s return to racing action with Alpha Tauri, team boss Franz Tost acknowledged that teammate Yuki Tsunoda’s performance was quicker on the soft tyre runs. However, Tost expressed happiness in having the experienced Australian back on board and valued his input in the car’s development.

“He drove the best car (the Red Bull) last week – that means he can tell us whether we have a hopeless car or whether we can do something about it,” Tost praised Ricciardo’s expertise.

Tost did not dismiss speculations that Red Bull might consider Ricciardo as the eventual replacement for struggling Sergio Perez.

“If a driver changes from Alpha Tauri to Red Bull, that’s 100 percent ok with us,” Tost revealed. “Personally, I prefer that to another driver being taken on. That’s what we’re here for.”