Budapest: Lewis Hamilton strengthened his push for a fifth world title by increasing his championship lead to 24 points on Sunday as he claimed a convincing victory for Mercedes in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The defending world champion came home 17.123 seconds ahead of title rival and fellow four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari after the German had survived a collision with Valtteri Bottas, in the second Mercedes. That came on lap 65, of the 70, when Vettel finally passed Bottas, the Finn’s right front wing touching his rear left tyre under braking, wrecking Mercedes’ hopes of a one-two finish.
Kimi Raikkonen finished third, his fifth podium finish in a row, in the second Ferrari ahead of Daniel Ricciardo who surged from 12th on the grid to fourth for Red Bull ahead of Bottas, who finished fifth after a late pit stop.
It was Hamilton’s record sixth win in Hungary, his fifth this season and the 67th of his career. "We came here knowing that the Ferrari would be really quick this weekend," said Hamilton, adding, "but to come out with these points, we'll definitely take as a bonus. What a beautiful day and a great crowd — and a great job from the team."
Hamilton now has 213 points to Vettel’s 189 after the 12th of 21 races this year and before the championship takes a European summer break. "P2 is not what we really wanted, but the maximum we could get today," said Vettel.
The race, preceded by a minute’s silence for former Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne, began in sweltering conditions with a track temperature of 57 degrees Celsius and air at 34.
After Saturday’s rain-lashed qualifying, the teams had a free choice of tyres, which saw Ferrari split their strategy — Vettel, like Sainz, choosing softs, while Raikkonen and the rest started on ultra-softs. The Mercedes men made perfect getaways, Hamilton streaking clear and Bottas staying close to resist attacks as Vettel swept inside into third. Verstappen, who had moved up to fifth, made an early exit, his Renault engine grumbling into retirement on lap six.
After one lap under Virtual Safety Car (VSC) conditions, Hamilton resumed his charge. He was 4.5 seconds clear of Bottas by lap 10 and 5.7 by lap 14 when Raikkonen pitted, followed immediately by Bottas, both switching to softs. This left Vettel in pursuit of Hamilton, but despite some swift laps, he remained seven seconds adrift of Hamilton before the champion pitted after 25 laps. He rejoined second between the German and Bottas.
In clear air, Vettel pushed to extend his lead to more than 12 seconds by lap 36, with Bottas further adrift and, in turn, ahead of Raikkonen by just 1.2 seconds. Held by traffic and still on his original worn softs, Vettel began to struggle and his lead tumbled to 9.5sec by lap 39 when he pitted. A slow stop cost him two seconds and he emerged third behind Bottas.
Raikkonen had pitted a lap earlier, falling to fifth behind Ricciardo, who had yet to stop. For Ferrari, it was not an encouraging position given their raw speed advantage in practice. The Australian pitted, finally, after 44 laps, switching to ultras.
By lap 45, Hamilton led Bottas by 10 seconds with Vettel a further three seconds adrift and making little impact, despite fresher tyres. On lap 51, Stoffel Vandoorne slowed and retired from an encouraging ninth at Turn One. A VSC was deployed. On resumption, Vettel closed to within a second of Bottas, but despite tyres that were 24 laps younger, he was unable to find a pass as Raikkonen closed in.
For Hamilton, it was a dream scenario and, with 10 laps to go, he was 18 seconds clear of the unyielding Bottas, who had both Ferraris bottled up behind him, within a second, until Vettel lunged by with five laps to go.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Jul 29, 2018 21:52:52 IST