Lewis Hamilton wins in Hungary to stretch championship lead

Mercedes driver extends gap to Sebastian Vettel in final race before summer break

Lewis Hamilton crosses the finish line in Hungary. Photograph: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

Lewis Hamilton crosses the finish line in Hungary. Photograph: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

 

Lewis Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix after a controlled and dominant run during which his Mercedes team exploited his advantage after starting from pole.

In hot, dry weather Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel just managed to claim second place by overtaking Valtteri Bottas with five laps to go. Bottas took damage when Vettel passed and could only finish in fifth place. Kimi Raikkonen finished in third, no mean feat given he had to complete the race, which took place at 33c, with his drink bottle disconnected and thus unable to take on any fluid.

The win means Hamilton now enjoys a 24-point lead over the German in the world championship.

Daniel Ricciardo put in another sterling performance in Hungary and came through the field superbly to take fourth from 12th on the grid. He endured a bang of tyres with Marcus Ericsson on the opening lap that had dropped him to 16th and also took hit when passing Bottas on lap 68. His Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, however, was furious when forced to retire from fifth on lap six with another Renault engine failure.

It is Hamilton’s sixth win at the Hungarian Grand Prix and he is the most successful driver at the race. It means he has won exactly half of the meetings he has contested here, a remarkable feat, although he has never go on to take the title after he has won in Hungary. No driver has gone on to take the championship after winning here since Michael Schumacher in 2004, a trend the British driver is in a strong position to buck.

Of greatest import, however, will be taking the victory against the odds on a circuit where Mercedes had been expecting to struggle. Hamilton put in a superb lap to take pole in the heavy rain on Saturday but in the hot weather that had dominated the weekend the Mercedes had been third fastest behind Ferrari and Red Bull. Having claimed a one-two on the grid, however, Hamilton’s team exploited it and the difficulty in overtaking at the Hungaroring, to the maximum to take what had seemed at the opening of the weekend, to be an unlikely win.

This 67th career win is his fifth of the season, one more than Vettel and has, coming back to back after victory in Germany, given him a major advantage in the title fight. He now has a lead that is almost more than a DNF over Vettel and enters F1’s summer break having put the German under huge pressure. The lead has changed hands six times between the two this season but this is the largest gap either has held in the 12 races thus far.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium alongside second place Sebastian Vettel. Photograph: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters
Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium alongside second place Sebastian Vettel. Photograph: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

That Mercedes managed it at a track where the proliferation of slow to medium-speed corners does not suit the their car will be seen as an added bonus, especially with the power circuits of Spa and Monza to come.

Hamilton and Bottas made a clean getaway holding first and second off the line but Vettel charged and made up a place over Raikkonen round the outside of turn two to take third. Behind them Verstappen got away well making it up to fifth from seventh on the opening lap.

Hamilton promptly opened up a gap, with three seconds on Bottas by lap four and with Mercedes having achieved their aim of ensuing they held track position in front of the Ferrari’s set about controlling the race. With passing exceptionally hard, Bottas was able to bottle up Vettel and Raikkonen as Hamilton went five seconds clear out front. Ferrari pitted Raikkonen on lap 15 and Mercedes responded a lap later, giving Vettel the clean air and the chance to push at Hamilton.

Vettel had the gap down to 6.5 seconds four laps later and Hamilton pitted for the soft tyres on lap 25, with Vettel, who had started on the harder, soft rubber staying out and leading the race. His intent to go long and try and pass Hamilton using the quicker ultrasofts at the end of the race.

This led to a settled mid-period as the four front runners stuck to their plans but crucially Vettel was lapping quicker than Bottas and Raikkonen giving him the chance to come out in front of them both when he finally stopped. However he lost time in traffic and when he pitted on lap 39 the stop was slow – 4.5sec, after a problem with the front left – and he emerged behind Bottas.

Ferrari’s gamble had not paid off and worse still even on the quicker rubber could make no impact on Bottas who quickly pulled out of DRS range. Hamilton, now back in the lead, had an 8sec gap up front but the German finally had the edge in fresher rubber over Bottas and made his pass round the outside of turn two on lap 65, which concluded with the Finn trying to come back at him and taking damage to his front wing. The British driver was in serene control out front however and he won by 17sec from Vettel.

Fernando Alonso managed to come home in eighth place for McLaren on his 37th birthday. The Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly was in sixth; Kevin Magnussen in the Haas was seventh, with his teammate Romain Grosjean 10th; Carlos Sainz in the Renault was ninth.

(Guardian service)

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