Lewis Hamilton has taken victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix, making best use of a free pit stop to chase down Max Verstappen and take the lead in the closing laps of a race that saw every driver outside the top four lapped.
Verstappen had retained his lead after the first pit stops and fended off an attacking Hamilton as the pair picked their way through traffic. Running wide when attempting an overtake at turn four, Hamilton dropped back and the gap to Verstappen stabilised around the one-and-a-half second mark.
With a sizeable gap to the Ferrari duo in P3 and P4, Mercedes made the decision to bring Hamilton in on lap 49 for what was a free stop, switching him onto the medium tyres. He emerged some 20 seconds behind Verstappen and set about chasing him down, being told by his team that Verstappen would be down to “zero rubber” by the end of the race.
Sure enough, Verstappen reported on lap 64 that his tyres were dead, and Hamilton closed at a rate of almost two seconds a lap to make a move round the outside of turn one and take the lead with just three laps to go.
With Verstappen reporting that he couldn’t make it to the end of the race, he made a free pit stop on lap 68 to switch to the soft tyres and chase the bonus point for fastest lap.
Sebastian Vettel finished a distant third, overtaking team-mate Leclerc on lap 68. Vettel ran a very long first stint and only came into the pits on lap 40 to change onto the soft tyres. By the time he had caught up to his team-mate, Leclerc’s hard tyres were some 40 laps old, and this allowed Vettel to dive down the inside going into turn one and take the final podium position. With the gap to Hamilton at over a minute, Ferrari will certainly be hoping that the long straights of Spa and Monza will allow them to claw back
Carlos Sainz finished in an impressive fifth place for the second race in a row, with Gasly and Raikkonen behind in sixth and seventh respectively.
The other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas took himself out of win and podium contention on the first lap. Lock-ups going into the first two corners allowed Hamilton to slip past and take second, and then contact with Leclerc damaged his front wing and forced him to pit. Dropped to plum last on the road, it was a long day for the Finn and he eventually reached the chequered flag in eighth place.
The top ten was completed by Lando Norris – who was hampered by a slow pit stop – and Alex Albon.
Hamilton’s victory means he heads into the summer break with a 62-point lead in the championship. Two bad races in a row means that Bottas is now just seven points ahead of Verstappen in P2, and you have to think that second is now firmly in Verstappen’s sights going into the next half of the season.
Hungary was the fourth good race in a row this season following Austria, Silverstone and Hockenheim, but can the trend continue when the F1 circus reconvenes at Spa at the end of the month?
After an absolute stonker of a race in Germany and two enticing races before that in Austria and Britain, it would, unfortunately, be difficult to say the same drama awaits F1 when it arrives at the 4.3-kilometre-long Hungaroring circuit in Budapest for this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
What’s more, the absence of any threat of rain across the weekend allows for the conclusion to be drawn that a track not designed for close-quarter racing will not toss up the same exhilarating drama we have seen in recent weeks.
However, we always live in hope. This season has been a bit of a slow burner, so we can only plead to the racing gods that Hockenheim was not the abrupt culmination of what has been a superb run of entertaining races.
Mercedes enter this weekend with a point to prove. Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton both became familiar with the barriers in Germany, with the former crashing out and the latter ending up very lucky to score points. That was their home race, their celebration of 125 years of motorsport, and their 200th race in Formula One, so it probably goes without saying that Toto Wolff’s boys need a strong weekend in Hungary.
The positive for them is that not only do they get a shot at redemption straight away in the second part of a double-header, but they also travel to a circuit that – if technical form is anything to go by this season- should suit them over their main rivals Ferrari.
That leads us to two drivers who had very contrasting races last time out. Sebastian Vettel produced a scintillating performance to recover from 20th on the grid to a 2nd placed finish, while Charles Leclerc, who had one eye on a victory, soon had both eyes on the Mercedes sponsored barrier and the end of his race. While Ferrari can take advantage of the opening two straights in Hungary, the rest of the track is down to technical driving ability and aerodynamic efficiency, neither of which have been entirely consistent for Ferrari in what has been a frustrating season for them. They are yet to win a race as the first half of the season before the summer break begins to draw to a close.
Let’s not forget, though, that Ferrari may not be fighting for a win, and perhaps not even a podium, this time round. The Hungaroring is a track that will suit the Red Bull down to the ground, and Max Verstappen, fresh from his win in Germany, will be firmly focused on adding an eighth to his tally.
Further down the order, Renault will try and get both cars to the line this time after Daniel Ricciardo’s mechanical failure and Nico Hulkenberg’s crash last time out. They are embroiled in a closely contested midfield battle with the likes of Toro Rosso and Racing Point, who saw Kvyat score a sensational podium and Lance Stroll take fourth after a brilliant strategy call in Germany.
Haas desperately need to get the bottom of their race pace issues, so Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen not running into each other this time would be welcomed by boss Guenther Steiner.
Williams and Robert Kubica scored their first point of the season in Germany, but we can unfortunately expect them to return to the back of the grid this weekend.
At a circuit where Mercedes need to get back on track and Ferrari need to finally get a long-awaited win, the ominous threat of Red Bull and Max Verstappen looms large as we head into the final race before the summer break.
The last race before the teams could enjoy the summer break took place at the Hungaroring, on the outskirts of Budapest. The twelfth round of the season started very interesting with a spectacular wet qualifying. The starting grid was thus very shaken up, with Toro Rosso in P6 and P8. Carlos Sainz started from fifth, while Red Bull were disappointed with P7 and P12. Force India were disappointed as well, with neither driver making it to Q2. Lewis Hamilton took pole in front of his teammate, with Kimi Räikkönen following in third ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
A wet qualifying meant that all teams were free to choose on what dry tyre to start the race on. Both Mercedes drivers started on the ultrasofts, while Vettel chose the softs and Raikkonen chose the ultrasofts.
The start went well for Lewis Hamilton and he maintained the lead, while Bottas kept second. It was behind them where a change took place as Vettel overtook his teammate Räikkönen into turn two. By the end of the first lap there was already one retirement. Charles Leclerc was forced to bring his car to a halt after flying debris from contact between Ricciardo and Ericsson ahead of him damaged his radiator.
On lap six, Max Verstappen pulled over to the side of the circuit, telling his engineer over the radio that he had no power. He sounded very angry and disappointed, with the spotlight once again on Renault after yet another forced retirement. His expletive-filled message made sure that FOM had a busy time censoring it. It was reported that the problem lied within the MGU-K, meaning he might have to take a grid penalty at the Belgian Grand Prix.
On lap fifteen Kimi Raïkkönen was the first to make a pit stop. He went from the ultrasofts to the softs, which meant he was probably going for a two-stop strategy rather than a one-stop. The stop took a bit longer than normal, because there was some rubber stuck in the brakes that the mechanics had to remove. He emerged in sixth, in front of Sainz and Ricciardo.
Valtteri Bottas responded to Raikkonen’s stop by going to the soft tyre a lap after his fellow Finn. That same lap, Ricciardo finally got past Sainz, and he set about chasing down Raikkonen and claiming the fastest lap as he did so. Vettel was losing time to Hamilton, and by lap nineteen the gap had opened up to almost nine seconds.
On lap twenty-two Ferrari told Vettel over the radio that they had switched to ‘plan C’. He began to close the gap, but a mistake on lap twenty-three meant he lost all the time he had gained.
McLaren were struggling for pace, with Alonso and Vandoorne fighting for eleventh place. Hamilton stopped for new tyres on lap twenty-six, changing from the ultrasofts to the softs. Could he make it to the end on these tyres?
Daniel Ricciardo meanwhile was fighting against Gasly. The Honda-powered Toro Rosso looked strong, but the Australian lunged down the inside at turn one and taking fifth place, although he had yet to make his pit stop.
Mercedes told Bottas that Vettel was probably going for another fifteen to twenty laps on his softs, and that the German was being held up by traffic.
After thirty-five of the seventy laps, Vettel was leading with a 12.5 second gap to Hamilton, who had a gap of twelve seconds to his teammate behind. Räikkönen was fourth, followed by Ricciardo, Gasly, Alonso, Vandoorne, Magnussen and Ocon completing the top ten.
On lap thirty-nine Ferrari mechanics brought Raikkonen in for a second pit stop, opting for another set of softs. A lap later Vettel pitted for his first stop of the race, choosing the ultrasoft tyres so he could try and attack the Mercedes duo. The pit stop was a bit slow, and he re-joined one second behind Bottas.
Daniel Ricciardo went to a set of ultrasoft tyres with twenty-five laps to go. He was sitting comfortably in fifth place, with a gap of fourteen seconds to Kimi ahead and twenty-two seconds to Gasly behind.
On lap fifty-one a yellow flag was brought out for Vandoorne, who had to retire the car because the gearbox was gone. This yellow flag resulted in a Virtual Safety Car, but Hulkenberg was the only one who used it to make another pit stop.
With fifteen laps to go the battle between Vettel and Bottas was heating up, as Vettel got into DRS range. Ferrari reported to Vettel that Bottas was struggling with his tyres, and to continue to put pressure on him.
In the closing laps it became a three-way fight for P2, with Raikkonen having joined the fray, although it was clear that Räikkönen was not allowed to make it difficult for his German teammate. Over the radio Vettel was asked by his engineer how fast he could go. In response, he said he could go half a second faster but it was impossible as he was still stuck behind Bottas.
On lap sixty-five Vettel tried the overtake on Bottas, going around the outside of the Finn at turn one to get a better exit. He was in front of Bottas going into turn two and closed the door. Contact between the two, as Bottas clipped the back of Vettel, damaged the front wing of the Mercedes. Replays suggested Bottas braked too late, and that it was no more than a racing incident.
Bottas dropped back as a result, and found himself fighting with Ricciardo for fourth. By lap sixty-eight Ricciardo was in DRS range and tried to overtake Bottas around the outside of turn one, but it once again ended in disaster as Bottas ran a bit wide, making contact with Ricciardo’s sidepod and pushing the Australian wide.
Mercedes advised Bottas to let Ricciardo pass in the hope to avoid a penalty afterwards. He did get a ten-second penalty after the race, but he kept his fifth place because the gap to Gasly was big enough. He also received two penalty points.
Up front, Hamilton took victory, with Vettel and Räikkönen completing the podium. Bottas finished in fifth place after letting Ricciardo pass. Behind him, Gasly, Magnussen, Alonso, Sainz and Grosjean completed the top ten.
Hamilton now leads the championship with 213 points, and Vettel follows with 189 points. Meanwhile a Finnish battle for third place is on, with Räikkönen on 146 points and Bottas on 132 points.
Now the summer break finally has arrived. In four weeks time Formula One will return to the Ardennes forests for the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, a fan-favourite track and loved by the drivers. Let the fight for the championship go on.
Featured image – 2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Steve Etherington
Let me take you back in time. In 1997, the reigning F1 champion was Damon Hill. He’d won the title when driving for Williams-Renault, but had lost his seat to Heinz-Harald Frentzen at the end of 1996.
Nineteen ninety-seven was tough for Damon, but there came a moment in that year’s 11th round in Hungary. He qualified 3rd on the grid with only Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve ahead. After qualifying, he was in a bullish mood and was clearly up to the fight for the win.
After the start, Michael and Damon were running first and second. Do remember that the Arrows were running Bridgestone tyres and most of the others were on Goodyear’s. From lap five to lap ten, Damon started to close the gap to Schumacher’s Ferrari, and at the start of lap ten, Damon pounced and took the lead at turn one.
The reason for Michael’s lack of pace? Well, the Goodyear tyres were blistering in the relentless hot weather that day in Hungary.
So, what happened next? Well, after 15 laps, Damon had a 7.9 second lead over Jacques. He was in the groove! On lap 19, he lapped his teammate, Pedro Diniz who was in 19th place. Twenty-two laps into the race, and the gap between Damon and Jacques was 5.1 seconds.
Lap 23, and Jacques and DC in his McLaren pitted for new tyres and fuel. Damon pitted at the end of the same lap. All the other teams made their stops and Frentzen was in the lead at the start of lap 27, but heading into lap 28, he would start to get a problem with his car, which was highlighted with flames coming out of the rear. At the end of this lap he made his stop for tyres and fuel, but the team would retire the car.
Damon was back in the lead at the start of lap 30, with 47 still to go. Pole sitter Michael was down in 4th. Jacques, David and Michael were running together, 33 laps into the race, contesting 2nd, 3rd and 4th.
However, Michael pitted at the end of that lap, leaving JV and DC to fight.
At the start of lap 36 Damon’s lead over the remaining Williams Renault was now over 12 seconds. The top five was now, Hill, Villeneuve, Coulthard, Herbert, Schumacher. Into lap 40 and the lead was now 18 seconds. Just a remarkable drive from the reigning champion.
Lap 44, and Damon’s lead was now 21 seconds over JV, who was continuing to fight to keep David behind him. Such was Damon’s dominance, he even lapped Jean Alesi during this lap.
Over the next few laps, the lead would grow larger between Damon and JV. Damon and Jacques would make their second pitstops on lap 51. The lead that Damon had was now 26 seconds. To explain how big this lead was, Damon was already turning into the first corner, whilst Jacques and DC were in the penultimate corner.
Fifty-three laps down, and Jacques was 27 seconds down on the leader. We started to believe that we would witness a famous victory. What could stop Damon and Arrows-Yamaha?
Just as JV and DC lapped Pedro Diniz, Damon’s teammate retired from the race. Lap 57 and Damon was now 29 seconds ahead of second placed Jacques, with DC keeping him close company. How far back was Michael? 54 seconds! Just incredible.
We were in the final stages of the race and there were around 17 laps to go. Brothers Michael and Ralf were fighting over fifth position and Johnny Herbert was ahead of them both in 4th place. Damon’s lead was now over 30 seconds.
On the 65th lap, David retired from the race. Johnny in his Sauber was promoted to 3rd place. With twelve laps to go, the top five was, Hill, Villeneuve, Herbert, M. Schumacher, R. Schumacher.
Damon’s lead had increased again and was now 32 seconds. In fact, it continued to grow with each lap. On lap 72 the lead was now 35 seconds. There were just five laps left. Fourth to seventh was covered by just a few seconds with Michael leading Ralf (Jordan), then Eddie in the other Ferrari and finally Nakano in the Prost Mugen-Honda. Just three laps remaining! I remember thinking, this is it. Damon’s going to do it!
He started lap 75….. He started having problems accelerating and you could see the car was visibly slower. The car had suffered hydraulic failure and it was stuck in fifth gear.
Jarno Trulli unlapped himself at the end of lap 76. Then Gerhard Berger as well, who was in 8th position.
The Arrows was still moving though and it was the last lap. After turn three Jacques took the lead in spectacular style, putting two wheels on the grass! The dream of victory was over for Damon and Arrows. Now it was all about making sure he finished on the podium. JV crossed the line and celebrated his victory, Damon finished in second place and Johnny Herbert third for Sauber. Jacques winning margin in the end was 9 seconds.
It was a remarkable race, which will always remain in my memory and shows just how good Damon was at developing a car. This would also be the last time a driver from Arrows would stand on a podium.