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  1. F1

Formula 1 - Motorsport: Mid-season report

School's out in Formula 1 as the teams take a well-earned summer break, with Max Verstappen and Red Bull firmly established at the top of the class.

Reigning world champion Verstappen's impressive victory in Hungary, where he came from tenth on the grid to secure his eighth win of the season, saw him extend his lead in the drivers' championship to 80 points and he is now 1/12 to retain his title.

It leaves the Dutchman with one hand on the drivers' title, while Red Bull are 1/8 to pick up their first constructors' crown in nine years, having moved 97 points clear of Ferrari in the team standings.

While Red Bull are able to relax between now and F1's resumption in Belgium on 26th August, Ferrari have been sent away with homework after a season of what-ifs so far.

Despite having a car capable of challenging Red Bull, the Scuderia's constant issues have left them in danger of slipping behind an improving Mercedes team, with the Silver Arrows one of several outfits feeling optimistic heading into the second half of season.

Red Bull running away with it

The landscape in F1 has changed a lot over the course of the first 13 races, the season having begun with the teams grappling with the huge overhaul of technical regulations introduced for the 2022 campaign.

Red Bull were one of those sides to get to grips quickly with the new rules, only to be troubled by reliability issues as Verstappen failed to finish two of the first three races.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc took full advantage of Verstappen's DNFs to move 46 points clear of the Dutch driver, only for the Italian team's season to start unravelling on home soil in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Red Bull's one-two finish at Imola was a sign of things to come, while a costly spin from Leclerc was the first in a series of events that have hampered his season.

With Red Bull's reliability issues behind them and having built a car with superior straight line speed to the rest of the grid, Verstappen hasn't looked back since the Emilia Romagna, winning six of the subsequent nine races.

His latest victory in Hungary was arguably his best yet, taking the chequered flag at a track which heavily favoured Ferrari from a starting position of 10th. Only two men - Nigel Mansell and Jenson Button - have won at the Hungaroring from worst starting positions.

No end in sight to Ferrari faults

While it was an excellent drive from Verstappen to take the win in Hungary, Ferrari should never have allowed him to get in that position having clearly had the quicker car.

However, a switch to the hard compound tyre, which Alpine had already proven was struggling in the cool temperatures, was their undoing - Leclerc ended up sixth and Carlos Sainz fourth as they once again threw away a chance of victory.

The Scuderia have had issues for the last ten races, some out of their control, as was the case with the mechanical failures in Azerbaijan and Spain.

However, the strategic errors, such as switching to the hard tyre in Hungary, or failing to react quickly enough to the changing conditions of a wet-dry Monaco Grand Prix, paint the picture of a dysfunctional organisation.

Team principal Mattia Binotto needs to get a grip on Ferrari, who have clearly built a quick car, one that has a distinct aerodynamic advantage over Red Bull and isn't far off in power terms.

Leclerc's record of seven pole positions in 13 races should have led to far more than the four wins he has to his name at this juncture, with three of the last four races he's started from first on the grid having ended in retirement.

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Silver Arrows finding their mark

Ferrari's fumbles mean they are now much closer to Mercedes in third in the constructors' table than leaders Red Bull, with a strong middle part to the season from the Silver Arrows pulling them back into contention.

Mercedes had started the year way off the pace, often lapping a second slower than Red Bull and Ferrari due to their pronounced porpoising issues, but through a series of upgrades, coupled with their excellent reliability, the Brackley-based team have drawn themselves closer to the top two.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has strung together six podium finishes, with team mate George Russell joining him on the podium in the last two races.

Hamilton has also collected points for the fastest lap in two of the last four races, with Russell’s pole in Hungary another indicator that the team are trending up.

The next step for Mercedes now is to secure a win, the possibility of which Hamilton had ruled out earlier in the season, only to have softened his stance, claiming there will be opportunities for race wins after the summer.

The Brit is 13/2 to claim his first victory of the season at the next race in Belgium.

Norris showing promises as Vettel bows out

Best of the rest behind the big three at the summer interval are Alpine, with their duo of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon consistently scoring points.

They lead McLaren by four points, despite the best efforts of Lando Norris, who has been getting the maximum from his inconsistent challenger.

Norris has put his underperforming team-mate Daniel Ricciardo firmly in the shade with his impressive haul of points, the highlight of which was a podium finish at Imola.

The 22-year-old is showing traits that should see him enter the world title picture at some point in his F1 career and he may one day stand alongside the likes of Sebastian Vettel in the list of drivers’ champions.

Four-time champion Vettel will be bowing out of F1 at the end of the year after a remarkable career, but looks unlikely to sign off with a bang, with his Aston Martin team having found the going tough thus far.

Aston Martin, who have snapped up Alonso as Vettel's replacement, sit behind Haas and Alfa Romeo in the team standings, with the duo performing way above pre-season expectations.

Valtteri Bottas has proven an excellent pick-up for the Ferrari-powered Alfa, which went into the summer with some worrying reliability issues.

Meanwhile, Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher have been getting plenty from the Haas, with the American team having arguably benefitted most from the technical changes for the new season.

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