Hungarian Grand Prix: Hamilton dominates as Vettel fights back

Lewis Hamilton powered to his sixth Hungarian Grand Prix victory with a dominant performance ensuring that the Mercedes driver goes on his summer break well in control of the championship, while his arch-rival Sebastian Vettel survived a pit stop blunder and contact to finish second for Ferrari.

Hamilton blitzed off the start to take an early lead where he remained pretty much unchallenged controlling the pace until the chequered flag, delivering another faultless performance on a weekend when Ferrari had the edge but Mercedes and their star driver turned the tables to claim victory by over 17 seconds, at one point he led by 20.

After extending his championship lead to 24 points, Hamilton said, “We came here knowing Ferrari would be really quick this weekend so to come out with these points, we’ll definitely take it as a bonus. I’m really happy with how strong its come to the last couple of races. We’ve got to come strong in the next half.”

Behind the reigning world champion, it was free-for-all action as Valtteri Bottas, in second place in the race, came under sustained pressure from the Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

Bottas kept Vettel at bay for several laps, but he ran out of tyres and Vettel managed to scrape past, but not before his Ferrari was clumsily tagged by the #77 Mercedes.

Before the dust had settled, Vettel was past as was Raikkonen as Bottas tripped up with bits of wing flying off his car. The Finn was also on the wrong end of a clash with Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull late in the race. What looked like a sure second place turned to fifth at the end of the day.

For Vettel it was another case of what might have been. When Hamilton pitted he took the lead in clear, but made a mistake that cost him a second or so and then when he pitted the team botched the pitstop which cost him another two seconds which botched his plans to come out in second and start to challenge Hamilton.

Instead he emerged behind Bottas upon which he stalked the Merc relentlessly, but struggled to make any inroad on a track where it is very tough to follow let alone overtake. In the end it was the best result that he could have hoped for considering the hand dealt him on hot afternoon at Hungaroring.

Vettel summed up his action-packed afternoon, “It was a tough race, obviously we were out of the position with the speed we had, I had a good start, was in third, we did well then it was a bit tricky knowing when to come out, had an issue with the pit stop and came out behind Valtteri.”

“His tyres were getting worse and worse and I was quite confident I could get him. P2 was not what we wanted but is the best we could have done. I got hit from behind [by Bottas], I was not sure what had happened and I was lucky the car was not broken and we could carry on,” added Vettel.

Raikkonen ticked all the boxes as Vettel’s rear gunner, holding station when he might have fancied a challenge late in the race. Third was his reward.

The veteran Finn said after his fifth consecutive podium finish, “It was the best that we could hope today. Far from an ideal start, we need to improve those a bit to make them a bit easier, then we caught up with Bottas after the first stop but there was no chance to overtake.”

“So our option was to stop again and try again. At least we got one place back but far from ideal, I think we had pretty good speed today. But what can you do? Sometimes it’s like that, but you take the points and go on to the next one,” added Raikkonen.

Daniel Ricciardo finished an unlikely fourth on a disappointing afternoon for Red Bull. The Australian was involved in a first turn melee that nearly sidelined him, but he persevered to deliver a gutsy performance characterised by his trademark overtakes and survived a punt by Bottas late in the race – the drive of the day would be a well-deserved accolade.

Bottas received a ten seconds penalty and a reprimand from the FIA race stewards for his move on Ricciardo, but the Vettel tap was deemed a racing incident. The sanction did not affect the final result.

On the other side of the garage, Max Verstappen was fired up and looking good early on in the race, making a good start and slotting into fifth where he would have no doubt come into play late in the race when the Red Bull’s pace was stronger.

But on lap five the Renault power unit went AWOL to audible groans from Verstappen’s orange army that invaded the grandstands around the venue and an expletive-laced rant by their young Dutch driver.

One could argue that Red Bull slipped at a venue where they expected to win, but a mysterious lack of pace during wet qualifying ultimately seriously compromised their pre-race weekend ambitions.

Another contender for drive of the day was Pierre Gasly in the Toro Rosso who stayed out of trouble to claim a well deserved sixth place in a very strong race for the Honda-powered outfit.

Kevin Magnussen finished a lap down to claim seventh place for Haas, the Dane again delivering a solid performance to beat his teammate Romain Grosjean who claimed the final point in tenth to make it other impressive double points score for the American team.

With smart strategy by McLaren and a typically solid performance by birthday boy Fernando Alonso earned the Spaniard eighth place on a day of more heartache for his under-pressure teammate Stoffel Vandoorne who managed to match his teammate until his Renault engine expired on lap 49.

Carlos Sainz starred in the wet qualifying 24 hours earlier, but he was sluggish off the start and was swallowed up by the midfield in the first turn confusion. He recovered to finish ninth on a weekend in which he has had the better of his Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg who finished 12th

FIA Blow-By-Blow Report

Räikkönen made the best start, but though he tried to pass polesitter Hamilton on the inside, Bottas came across and blocked the path. As the leaders swept through the first three corners, Vettel was then able to get ahead of his team-mate who had taken a wide line.

Behind them, Verstappen made a good start and passed Gasly, while Sainz, who had started fifth, slipped back to eighth. That meant that Verstappen held fifth place ahead of the Gasly, the fast-starting Magnussen, Sainz, Hartley and Hulkenberg.

Towards the rear of the field Ricciardo, in the second Red Bull, got away well but on the run to Turn 1, Ericsson collided with the Australian’s left rear wheel. There as no damage but Ricciardo dropped to P16.

There was worse news for Red Bull a few laps later when Verstappen slowed dramatically in Turn 3. He reported a loss of power and was told to pull over at Turn 6 and retire from the race.

Ricciardo was soon on the moved from 16th and by lap 10 he had climbed to 11th place, passing Alonso under DRS into Turn 1 at the start of the lap.

At the front Hamilton was building a gap, with the Briton 3.9s ahead of Bottas at the start of lap 10 and 6.2s clear of Vettel. Räikkönen was now a second behind his team-mate with Gasly in fifth place ahead of Magnussen and the second Renault of Sainz.

Sainz’s stay in P7 wouldn’t last long, however. Ricciardo’s march through the pack continued and having passed Hulkenberg and Hartley under DRS in Turn 1, he repeated the move on Sainz on lap 16, diving down the inside to steal P7.

The window for first stops was open at this point and prior to Ricciardo’s move on Sainz, both Räikkönen and Bottas had stopped for soft tyres.

Hamilton and Vettel, though, stayed on track. By lap 23 Hamilton had 7.3 seconds in hand over the German, who made a mistake and locked up at Turn 12. Bottas as now third, 27s behind Vettel, with Räikkönen fourth, almost four seconds clear of Gasly and with a stop in hand.

Vettel recovered from his laps and once again began to exert pressure on the ultrasoft-shod Hamilton. The German’s superior pace led to Mercedes pitting Hamilton on lap 25. He took on soft tyres and rejoined in P2 ahead of Bottas and 13.629s behind Vettel who continued to circulate.

Behind them Ricciardo continued to make progress and by lap 28 he was up to P5 having eased past Magnussen and Gasly. Räikkönen, meanwhile, was beginning to close on Bottas and on lap 30 Ferrari’s Finn was just 2.3s behind his Mercedes-driving compatriot.

Vettel was also encountering the traffic and the front his lead over Hamilton, who was in free air, began to shrink and on lap 36 he was just 10s ahead of the Mercedes man.

Räikkönen then backed out of the battle with Bottas and made a second stop, taking on more softs. He rejoined in P5 and immediately began setting purple times as he chased after Ricciardo who was still on starting soft tyres.

A lap after Räikkönen switched tyres, Vettel did the same. The German took on ultrasofts but there was a momentary problem with the front left and he emerged in third place behind Bottas.

Ricciardo was the last of the front runners to pit and the Red Bull driver took on a set of ultrasoft tyres at the end of lap 44. The effect was immediate and he was soon setting purple times as he tried to chase down Räikkönen.

Further back, behind sixth-placed Gasly and seventh-placed Magnussen, late pit stops had also benefited McLaren and after their stops, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were in eighth and ninth places respectively. It was too good to last, however, and on lap 51 Vandoorne slowed and pulled over at Turn 1 to retire. That boosted Sainz to P9 ahead of Grosjean.

At the front, on lap 55, Hamilton was now 13.7s ahead of Bottas. Vettel was desperately trying to find a way past the Finn but the longer he sat in the Mercedes’ wake the more damage was done to his tyres.

The German kept probing, however, and on lap 57 Bottas radioed through to say he was struggling with his rear tyres. Vettel closed to within DRS range of Bottas, but the Finn did a superb job of managing the gap and his tyres life to hold off the German for a long spell.

It came to an end on lap 65, however, as Vettel launched an attack around the outside into Turn 1. He made the move stick through Turn 2, but as they went into the next corner, Bottas collided with the rear of Vettel’s car.

Despite the showers of carbon fibre as elements of Bottas’ front wing disintegrated, Vettel suffered little damage and carried on to claim an eventual second place behind Hamilton. Räikkönen then swept past Bottas to take third.

In the final laps Bottas now fell back into the clutches of Ricciardo but when the Red Bull driver pounced, around the outside in Turn 1, Bottas went straight on into the side of Ricciardo’s car.

Both drivers were able to carry on but Mercedes soon instructed their driver the cede fourth place to Ricciardo due to the collision and the Australian completed a successful day with a 12-point haul. Bottas was left to take fifth place ahead of Gasly who handed Toro Rosso its best result since his fourth place in Bahrain earlier this season.

Magnussen was seventh for Haas, while Alonso celebrated his 37th birthday with a good drive to eighth place. The final points positions were taken by Sainz and Grosjean.