An alternate strategy from Mercedes AMG Motorsport and a late pass on Max Verstappen helped Lewis Hamilton to a seventh victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix in his Formula 1 career.
Verstappen led the race for the majority of the 70 laps at the Hungaroring, before Hamilton scythed down a 21 second gap on fresh medium tyres to pass the Dutchman with four laps to go.
A late pitstop to get the fastest lap of the race meant that Verstappen finishing 17.796 seconds behind Hamilton, with Sebastian Vettel taking third place for Scuderia Ferrari over a minute adrift.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished a testing race in eighth place after starting from second, his progress dented by two first lap lockups and a collision with Charles Leclerc.
Verstappen converted his maiden F1 pole into an advantage coming out of Turn 1, as Hamilton and Bottas battled behind.
A snatched brake into Turn 2 helped Hamilton to pass the Finn at Turn 3, then Leclerc swiped across Bottas before Turn 4 and caused damage to the right hand side of his front wing – leaving the Mercedes in need of a very early pitstop for hard compound tyres.
Verstappen held Hamilton at arms length for the first 20 laps of the race, as Ferrari lagged behind in third and fourth, but the Red Bull driver started to report a loss of grip in track temperatures that hovered around the 40C mark.
The Dutchman’s concerns forced Red Bull into making the first move for hard tyres on lap 25, with Hamilton ordered to pick up the pace by his race engineer Peter Bonnington on tyres he remained happy with – but potential brake temperature worries.
Mercedes faked numerous pitstops in preference of a longer first stint for Hamilton, but Verstappen’s pace on fresh rubber was too much for the reigning world champion to compete with and led to his first stop on lap 31 – rejoining in third, comfortably ahead of Leclerc.
At the other end of the order, Bottas’ fightback stuttered on the fringes of the points-paying positions behind the Renault F1 Team car of Daniel Ricciardo – who started on the hard tyres with the vision of utilising a very long opening stint from last on the grid.
Hamilton wasted little time in getting back on Verstappen’s tail, entering the DRS range for the first time in the race just four laps after his own stop with a string of fastest laps.
Verstappen was forced into a strong defence of his position on lap 39, having made a small error in the final sector the pervious lap behind backmarker Ricciardo, as Hamilton tried a highly adventurous move around the outside of the fast Turn 4 – running wide and ceding the place back to Verstappen.
With Bottas moved onto a two-stop strategy in a bid to reach Mercedes’ desired target of sixth place, and showing promising pace, Hamilton was brought into the pits with 23 laps remaining for another set of mediums and a 21 second deficit to Verstappen.
Despite expressing doubts over the plausibility of catching Verstappen, Hamilton set four fastest laps in succession – including three new race lap records – and started to reel in the now struggling Red Bull.
Verstappen asked why Red Bull failed to bring him in to the pits the lap after Hamilton and was told by his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase that there was not a sufficient gap to the Mercedes at any point.
Consistent pace from Hamilton launched him back to within striking distance of Verstappen with four laps to go, culminating in a move around the outside of Turn 1 for the race victory and a commanding 62-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship
Verstappen walked away from the Hungaroring with 19 points after a late switch to soft tyres granted him the fastest lap, moving him to within seven points of Bottas.
A long first stint for Vettel on medium tyres allowed him the chance to use soft tyres for the last 31 laps of the race, and a bold move on team-mate Leclerc at Turn 1 with three laps to go ensured that he backed up his second place one week ago at the German Grand Prix with another podium.
Carlos Sainz Jr. held fifth place for most of the race, holding off the close attentions of Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly for the entirety of the second half of the race – extending the McLaren F1 Team‘s advantage in fourth place of the Constructors’ standings.
Kimi Räikkönen also had to hold firm in the closing laps to prevent Bottas from moving up to seventh, finishing ahead of his compatriot by 0.736s for Alfa Romeo Racing.
Lando Norris‘s race was compromised by a slow pitstop, demoting him to ninth place ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso‘s Alexander Albon.
Albon survived a late collision at Turn 1 with Sergio Pérez while battling the Mexican for the final point.
Romain Grosjean was the only retirement, ending his race in the Haas F1 Team garage on lap 49 – he was ordered to let team-mate Kevin Magnussen through for fifteenth place moments beforehand.
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