Reigning Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton praised the strategy “risk” his Mercedes squad took in the Hungarian Grand Prix, after a switch to a two-stop engineered victory.
From third on the grid, Hamilton quickly passed team-mate Valtteri Bottas on the opening lap, sitting around two seconds behind Verstappen’s Red Bull for the remainder of the opening stint thereafter.
After both drivers had switched from the medium tyres on which they had qualified to a fresh set of hard compound Pirellis, Hamilton attempted to pass the Dutchman around the outside of Turn 4, ceding the position as he ran wide.
Mercedes’ chief strategist James Vowles then switched Hamilton to a two-stop, the British driver fitting a new set of medium tyres on lap 47, leaving him 23 laps to make up the 20 or so seconds lost by stopping.
Red Bull was forced to keep Verstappen out as Hamilton was on course to undercut him, but as the two navigated the traffic, the gap settled to around 15 seconds in the leader’s favour.
In the final 10 laps, Hamilton began to carve chunks of laptime out of Verstappen, making the move on the exit of Turn 1 on the 67th of 70 laps. Verstappen then pitted for a successful assault on fastest lap, while Hamilton eased to his seventh victory in Budapest by 17.796s.
“We’ve been together for seven years, but this feeling never gets old. If it wasn’t for everyone here and back at the factory, this wouldn’t have been possible,” said Hamilton after opening up a 62-point lead in the drivers’ championship as Bottas could only manage eighth in a difficult afternoon for the Finn.
“I’m so grateful to be a part of it and for the team for continuing to believe in me, push the limits and take a risk. We struggled a little with the brakes today, so I was trying to save as much as I could for when I had a chance to pass Max.
“It was very, very difficult to get by. I wasn’t sure if I could close the 19-second gap, but the team said to just get your head down, so I did. I kept pushing, the gap closed and the laps were like qualifying laps. I was on the limit all the way.”
“I take my hat off to the team and I think if Niki [Lauda, Mercedes’ non-executive chairman who died in May] was here today, he would take his hat off too.”
Hamilton heads into the summer break on 250 world championship points, having secured his eighth win from 12 races in the first-half of the 2019 season, which moves him onto 81 career victories, just 10 behind Michael Schumacher’s long-held record of 91. Mercedes sits atop the constructors’, having accrued 438 points, 150 more than Ferrari.