The Red Bull Formula 1 team will be left completely puzzled after enduring a miserable qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix. 

Red Bull arrived in Hungary with high hopes it could turn in its best performance of the season so far and get its title aspirations back on track in the fight against Mercedes. 

The team has historically fared very well at the tight and twisty Hungaroring, which usually plays to the strengths of Red Bull’s chassis, with Max Verstappen taking pole position and fighting for victory at last year’s race. 

With so much expectation and confidence heading into the delayed 2020 season, Red Bull hoped to go one better this time around and beat Mercedes to victory, after the German manufacturer dominated the opening two rounds in Austria. 

But in qualifying, Red Bull’s hopes for the Hungarian Grand Prix, and potentially for challenging for this year’s world championship, faded dramatically. 

Verstappen will start Sunday’s grand prix with little hope of even achieving a podium finish from seventh place on the grid, having lapped a full 1.4s off the pace of polesitter Lewis Hamilton

Verstappen was also three-tenths slower than the pole lap he managed to post last year, further compounded a woeful session. It marked the Dutchman’s worst Q3 performance since the Belgian Grand Prix in 2018. 

Teammate Alex Albon was even worse off, with the Anglo-Thai racer eliminated in Q3 with a time only good-enough for 13th on the grid, behind rising British star George Russell, who once again impressed in qualifying in his Williams. 

Albon was also outpaced by the man he replaced at Red Bull last year, Pierre Gasly, despite the Frenchman reporting engine-related issues in the sister AlphaTauri. 

What exactly has gone wrong? 

Red Bull’s problems started during Friday practice, with Verstappen admitting the team had “a lot of work to do” after finishing well off the pace compared to Mercedes. 

Mechanics worked through the night and broke the curfew after both drivers voiced their concerns surrounding the RB16’s poor handling and stability. 

The RB16 looked a handful at times during pre-season and seeing either Red Bull driver spinning has not been an uncommon occurrence this year. 

Whatever changes Red Bull did make failed to improve the outlook as Verstappen completed a full 360 pirouette in final practice, and his struggles continued into qualifying. 

Red Bull’s car appears to be dogged with an aerodynamic-related instability problem, and upgrades introduced to the car have seemingly only made things worse. 

“Clearly, so far this year it's not been the easiest car to drive,” Verstappen admitted after qualifying. 

“The car is never the easiest car to drive because if you drive it on the limit, it's always going to be easy to spin or lock up because otherwise you're not pushing. 

“But clearly this one as soon as you get to that point where you are close to having a moment, it just goes and it's not easy to catch.

“Clearly over the long break we had, some teams probably made a step forward and we maybe went in the wrong direction.” 

Albon, who put some of his eight-tenth deficit to Verstappen down to hitting traffic, stressed that Red Bull does not believe it has a “fundamental issue” with the philosophy of its 2020 car design. 

“Going beyond the limit is pretty difficult on the car,” he explained. 

“It’s easy to make mistakes. But it’s not a fundamental issue and we’re not complaining about one thing constantly.”

Red Bull’s underwhelming performance was a huge disappointment and left an overwhelming feeling that the team’s hopes for this season may well have already been dashed. 

Red Bull’s struggles become Racing Point’s gain 

Racing Point took full advantage of Red Bull’s lacklustre showing by cementing itself as the second-fastest team behind the unbeatable Mercedes in Hungary. 

Its dubbed ‘pink Mercedes’ - which has drawn well-documented controversy and prompted a protest from midfield rivals Renault after the Styrian Grand Prix - continues to fly at the hands of Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez, who locked out the second row of the grid with an outstanding performance. 

While Mercedes is expected to run away in the race, Racing Point is well-placed to fight it out for the final spot on the podium, along with Ferrari, whose fortunes improved slightly with a better Saturday showing in Budapest. 

The Mercedes and Racing Point drivers will be the only runners inside the top 10 to start the race on the medium tyre (providing it does not rain), which both teams feel will be a strategic advantage. 

Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc will start on an all-scarlet red third row, ahead of Verstappen’s Red Bull. 

Ferrari has endured a woeful start to the 2020 campaign but it has fared better at the high-downforce Hungaroring circuit, which places less emphasis on the need for a powerful engine, an area the Scuderia has taken a backward step in over the winter. 

Assuming its drivers can avoid a repeat of their embarrassing collision last time out in Austria, Ferrari has the chance to claim a much-needed strong points haul and start to get its season back on track.