LEWIS Hamilton continued on his winning way in Hungary on Sunday, so far in front of the pack that he was able to stop in the closing laps to fit soft tyres to his Mercedes — to post the fastest of the twisty circuit’s 70 laps.
Rain had fallen over the Hungaroring before the race and the sun was out at the start, but the track was slippery and Max Verstappen had the embarrassment of crashing his Red Bull into a barrier on his way to the starting grid.
But impressive work by a swarm of his mechanics had the car ready to run 30 seconds before the start — and the Dutch star went on to finish second.
It was a surprising race throughout, with the Racing Point team scoring its best qualifying session ever in filling the second row of the grid behind the Mercs and Lance Stroll pipping teammate Sergio Perez for the first time.
All but two of the drivers began the race on intermediate tyres, but the two Haas cars, which were last on the grid, popped into the pits on the formation lap to take on medium compound slicks in a last second decision to take advantage of a drying track.
It was a gamble that almost paid off.
Hamilton shot off into the distance at the start and was all of 7 seconds ahead of second placed Stroll after two laps, but most of the drivers made stops for tyre changes in the opening laps — and that catapulted the Haases of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean into third and fourth places.
They were later penalised 10 seconds for their unscheduled pre-race tyre swap, but Magnussen still finished 10th — and in the points.
Valtteri Bottas made a poor start, slipping from second on the grid to sixth, likewise Perez, from fourth to seventh, but Daniel Ricciardo and Williams driver Nicholas Latifi did well to surge from 11th and 12th to 7th and 8th.
Latifi’s good fortune didn’t last long.
He was hit by Carlos Sainz’s McLaren in pit lane, and sustained a punctured tyre which spun the Williams around at Turn 1 and into retirement a few laps later.
The Ferraris and McLarens were having a tough time with tyres, traffic and each other, with great dices between Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris for while, though both finished out of the points.
Bottas, meanwhile, was not having his best drive, but stopped for hard tyres with 20 laps to go and set off in pursuit of Verstappen.
He was rapidly catching the Red Bull but ran out of laps and finished less than a second behind, in third.
Lance Stroll was fourth, nearly a minute behind Hamilton, after failing to show the pace he had in the qualifying sessions.
Next came Red Bull’s Alex Albon, who started started 13th after a miserable time in qualifying.
Sebastien Vettel was trapped by traffic in the pits for a long time and eventually finished 6th, a lap behind Hamilton.
Sergio Perez, who radioed his pit saying ‘this is . . . I am struggling’ was next in the Racing Point, while Ricciardo settled in 8th — a place he’s had in every race so far this season.
“Overall, I’m happy with how it went,” he said.
“I gave everything I could and I felt we got the most from it today.
“Our start was good and we showed good pace and almost caught the top six at the end.
“I do feel we have the speed for more. We’re not far from top six finishes, it’s coming, and we know bigger points are around the corner.”
Lance Stroll said his 4th spot was a great result for the team, even if he felt he could have gone one better and made it on to the podium.
The young Canadian felt a strategy error cost him a podium spot.
“I definitely think the podium was possible today. We were staying out a bit longer towards the middle of the race.
“We were expecting some more rain so we were trying to drag out that stint a little bit longer and unfortunately that rain never came so he [Bottas] managed to simply undercut us.’
Next two grands prix are at Silverstone on August 2 and 9.
|2||33||RED BULL RACING HONDA||70||+8.702s||18|
|4||18||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||70||+57.579s||12|
|5||23||RED BULL RACING HONDA||70||+78.316s||10|
|7||11||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||69||+1 lap||6|
|9||55||MCLAREN RENAULT||69||+1 lap||2|
|10||20||HAAS FERRARI||69||+1 lap||1|
|12||26||ALPHATAURI HONDA||69||+1 lap||0|
|13||4||MCLAREN RENAULT||69||+1 lap||0|
|15||7||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||69||+1 lap||0|
|16||8||HAAS FERRARI||69||+1 lap||0|
|17||99||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||69||+1 lap||0|
|18||63||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||69||+1 lap||0|
|19||6||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||65||+5 laps||0|
Note – Hamilton scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Magnussen and Grosjean received 10-second time penalties for use of driver aids during the formation lap. The classification of both Racing Point cars is provisional, subject to the outcome of any decision concerning a protest over their legality from the Renault team.
CHECKOUT: Hamilton puts the hammer down