Lewis Hamilton said that his drive to victory today at the Hungarian Grand Prix was ‘one of the toughest races I’ve ever driven’, but added that was why it was all the more rewarding.
The Brit was under pressure for much of the race – first from Romain Grosjean and then, in the closing stages, the other Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen.
“Well, what can I say?! I'm over the moon! The team did a fantastic job! Absolutely brilliant!” he exclaimed.
“It was a really enjoyable race – but it wasn't at all easy. In fact, I reckon that it was one of the toughest races I've ever driven – but, guess what, I'll savour it all the more for that.
“I was under a lot of pressure throughout all 69 laps. First, Romain [Grosjean] and then Kimi [Raikkonen] were right behind me, all the way through, and I had to look after my tyres without letting my pace drop, which was pretty tricky at times.
“It isn't a static situation when a race goes like that. The feel of the car is changing all the time. You get different messages from the tyres with every lap. But they lasted – I managed to make them last.
“It was a case of managing the gap behind me, over the whole lap, every lap. In particular, I had to make sure that, every lap, I always had a big enough gap at the last corner, so that I wouldn't be overtaken in the DRS zone on the pitstraight. And I managed to do that every time.
“As I say, the team did an absolutely incredible job – and the support we've had here in Budapest, not only from the visiting British fans but also from the local Hungarian fans, has been phenomenal.
“And to be able to win a Grand Prix on the weekend that the Olympic Games started in the UK too, well, I feel like we've done our part to contribute to what I hope will be many more British successes over the Olympic Games period. Someone has just told me that we've scored Britain's first gold medal of 2012. Well, it isn't really that, is it? But it's the first British victory of the Olympic Games period, which is pretty cool.
“Looking at the season as a whole, it's clear that after the mid-season break we'll have a lot of work to do. But, for now, let's celebrate – all of us, family, friends and fans – and put on our Vodafone rocket-red tops, and enjoy the moment.
“Nobody celebrates like we do.”
His McLaren team-mateJenson Button switched to a three-stop strategy part-way through the race, which proved to be the wrong decision and he finished down in sixth. However, he was keen to praise Hamilton, and the rest of his team, on their success today.
“First of all, I want to say a big 'Well done!' to Lewis and the entire Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team,” said Button. “Fantastic job, guys!
“For me, though, I guess today was quite a bit more frustrating than it was for Lewis. Having said that, I was really pleased to be able to get ahead of Seb [Vettel] on the opening lap, passing him on the outside of Turn Two, and to be able to hold a very solid third place at that point. I was on the leaders' pace too. In fact, even after the first stop, I could still see the leaders – so we were obviously still pretty close.
“Then we decided to go for a three-stop strategy – but after my second and third stops I encountered traffic, unfortunately, which made things really difficult for me because the traffic I was stuck in was lapping quite a bit slower than I could have been lapping if I'd had a clear track.
“But there are lots of positives to take away from this weekend: our car is obviously quick, as I was able to show at Hockenheim and Lewis was able to confirm here, and in the second half of the season I know that everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will work as hard as possible to maintain and continue that upward performance development curve.
“Now, as we go into the mid-season break, I'm going to go away and relax. I'm really looking forward to it, in fact.”
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh praised Hamilton for his drive today, and said that the team would come back from the summer break fighting for more weekends like this one.
“Lewis drove with tremendous composure all afternoon, and the result was a meticulously judged victory, wrought under intense pressure throughout,” said Whitmarsh.
“He made a superb start from pole position, then controlled the race with masterful authority, all the while balancing the necessity to execute rapid laps against the equally pressing requirement to conserve his tyres.
“The 25 points he annexed today have taken his season-so-far total to 117. Although he’s still a little way behind the Drivers’ World Championship leader, he’s now very well placed to mount an assault on the Drivers’ World Championship crown over the remaining nine races of the season. Believe me, it’s still all up for grabs.
“Jenson had a frustrating race but nonetheless managed to score a useful eight points as a result of finishing in sixth place. Like Lewis, he’ll come back from the mid-season break ready to attack the second half of the season with energy and enthusiasm. And, again, also like Lewis, he’ll be aiming to score plenty of points, at Spa-Francorchamps and Interlagos and everywhere in between.
“Yesterday Lewis scored the 150th pole position in McLaren’s history – and today he notched up our 178th Grand Prix victory. It was his 101st Grand Prix – and it’s difficult to imagine a better way for him to have begun his second century of Grand Prix appearances, isn’t it?
“In the Constructors’ World Championship, the 33 points that Lewis and Jenson scored today have lifted Vodafone McLaren Mercedes to second place overall. Again, as with the Drivers’ World Championship, we’re in a good position from which to work as hard as is humanly possible to close the gap on the leaders and wrest the Constructors’ laurels by season’s end.
“Talking of hard work, I want to pay tribute to the massively impressive levels of dogged application and sheer graft that everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in Woking [Surrey, UK] and at Mercedes-Benz AMG HighPerformancePowertrains in Brixworth [Northamptonshire, UK] has brought to bear on the 2012 Formula 1 World Championship campaign so far. And, in fact, I want to say an especially big 'thank you' to our friends from Stuttgart [Germany] as well as from Brixworth, actually, because today's win was the 75th victory of the McLaren/Mercedes-Benz partnership: a pretty impressive stat!
“We’ll now take our holidays, we’ll recharge our batteries, and we’ll return at Spa-Francorchamps in a month’s time, fighting fit and ready to do battle once again.
“Bring it on!”