Lewis Hamilton showed his fighting side as he claimed a superb victory in the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix, finally clinching his first win in a Mercedes GP car to prove his championship credentials.
A day after declaring that it would be “a miracle” if he could hang on from his 30th pole position to win at Hungary, the British driver kept his cool in the heat and drove a race of fine quality to keep his rivals at bay on the way to claiming his maiden win of the 2013 season, and a first triumph with his new squad.
After claiming his fourth pole position of the year with a lap that surprised even himself, Hamilton made a demon getaway from the front when the lights went out to lead a tight tussle into turn one, Sebastian Vettel being forced to defend his second position into turn one as he held off Roman Grosjean and Fernando Alonso.
The latter pairing locked horns at turn two as the Ferrari man tried to go around the outside of Grosjean, but the Frenchman stood firm and held onto third, leaving Alonso fighting a rear-guard action for the next two corners.
While one Silver Arrows made its break at the front, the other was in the wars as Nico Rosberg lost out heavily in the bottleneck at turns four and five, being spat out wide by Felipe Massa at the latter bend and falling down to 12th position in the process.
The top three of Hamilton, Vettel and Grosjean all made a break from Alonso in the early running on the softer tyres, the exception to those rubber-wise being Mark Webber in sixth and Jenson Button in eighth on the medium compound, Button having made a great start from 13th where he played a crucial role in the race through that particular strategy.
The overheating issues that have plagued Mercedes during the year so far did not appear to hurt Hamilton throughout the race as he held off his rivals until making the first stop on lap nine, re-joining the race behind Button. Hamilton then made the first of several bold moves when he lunged inside his former McLaren team-mate into turn one a lap later, a move that would prove critical later in the race.
It meant that Button became a buffer between himself and Vettel when the Red Bull driver came in for his first stop two laps later, Vettel re-joining behind the McLaren before Grosjean also slotted in behind the trio after his visit to the pits.
The long-running Button then fended off the pair all the way until lap 24, Vettel surviving a brush with the McLaren at turn two while attacking before finally making his move up the inside at turn four to release himself. Grosjean on the same lap tried to dispatch Button two corners later but clumsily chopped the nose of Button’s car, Alonso taking advantage as the McLaren pitted at the end of the lap.
By then however, the damage had been done to Vettel’s chances of beating Hamilton, the Mercedes already 13 seconds up the road in clear air as Webber pitted and joined onto the back of the queue for second, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen who it turned out would be on a two-stop strategy over everybody else’s three, the Finnish driver passing Massa with a cut-back move at turn 11 as the Ferrari was baulked by a Force India of Adrian Sutil who retired shortly after.
Grosjean tried to make amends for his brush with Button following an early second stop, passing Massa with a sensational move around the outside of the Ferrari at the high-speed fourth corner, one that – although brave – saw him handed a drive-through penalty for using too much run-off for the stewards’ liking.
Leader Hamilton pitted next on lap 31, but found himself slotting in behind Webber and Alonso. The Mercedes man took no prisoners once again as he made a brave move around the outside of the Red Bull at turn two, taking the place and returning to the lead once more as Alonso and Vettel pitted moments later, the latter again re-joining behind Button.
As Hamilton put the hammer down to maintain his gap, Vettel made his lunge on Button into turn one as the McLaren put up less of a fight this time, the order remaining unchanged as the final round of stops approached.
Hamilton pitted on lap 50 but re-joined alongside Webber, the Australian nicking the advantage. Hamilton’s tyres were fresher at this stage however, and the three-time Hungarian GP winner showed his fiesty side again as he hung on around the outside at turn two, edging the Red Bull aside before pulling clear.
Vettel pitted for the final time not long afterwards, but came out behind Raikkonen’s Lotus, the Australian GP winner going to the end after just two stops. The pair duelled hard but ultimately very fairly over the remaining 15 laps, Raikkonen hanging on as Vettel attempted to drive around the outside of the Lotus at turn four.
Hamilton meanwhile was over 10s clear of the battle as he began celebrating exiting the final corner to claim a hard-earned first win in a Mercedes, Raikkonen hanging on to second place after Vettel ran slightly wide at the chicane and had to settle for third, Webber a distant fourth after his third stop but having recovered from 10th on the grid.
Alonso was a disappointing 31s back from the race winner in fifth ahead of Grosjean, Button and Massa, while Sergiro Perez and Pastor Maldonado had quietly strong races to round out the points finishers, Rosberg not being a part of those after retiring with a spectacular blow-up with five laps to go.
Vettel heads into a five-week break with an extended championship lead of 38 points over new second place man Raikkonen, Alonso now 39 points back while Hamilton’s win boosts him into contention, just nine points behind Alonso as the championship heads to Spa-Francorchamps on August 23-25.