Hamilton wins from Vettel in Hungary as Bottas fades

Image by Hone/LAT

Hamilton wins from Vettel in Hungary as Bottas fades

Formula 1

Hamilton wins from Vettel in Hungary as Bottas fades

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Lewis Hamilton took a comfortable victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix as teammate Valtteri Bottas helped hold back a charge from Ferrari until the closing laps.

Ferrari had opted for a different strategy with Sebastian Vettel as the German was starting from fourth, and Vettel — on softs — jumped teammate Kimi Raikkonen at the start before inheriting the lead after the two Mercedes drivers pit to get rid of their ultrasofts. But a slow pit stop prevented Vettel from emerging ahead of second-placed Bottas and left him stuck behind the Finn until a dramatic closing few laps.

Raikkonen had pit early to switch from ultrasofts to softs, with Mercedes covering the move with Bottas on lap 15. Ferrari then brought Raikkonen in again on lap 38 — one lap before Vettel made his one and only stop — but Bottas stayed out and a slow left rear ensured Vettel rejoined behind him in third place.

Sebastian Vettel’s slow stop put him behind Valtteri Bottas.  (Image by Dunbar/LAT)

Mercedes opted to leave Bottas on track rather than pit in response to Raikkonen once again, and for a number of laps Vettel was kept at bay despite being on the quicker ultrasoft tire. All the time, Hamilton was able to pull away in the lead, with the pole-sitter building an advantage of 20 seconds.

Such was the performance difference between new and old soft tires, however, Raikkonen erased a similar margin in the second half of the race and cruised up to the back of Bottas and Vettel. As the Mercedes started to struggle with its rear tires, Vettel attacked and appeared to cleanly get ahead five laps from the end on the exit of Turn 1. But Bottas wasn’t willing to yield and tried to get his nose down the inside of Turn 2, hitting the rear of the Ferrari.

Bottas ran wide with a broken front wing as a result, but Vettel was fortunate to escape damage and was able to continue as Raikkonen followed him through into third place. Bottas was extremely slow due to the damage and saw Daniel Ricciardo close in, but understeered into the side of the Red Bull as Ricciardo tried to overtake around the outside of Turn 1 two laps later.

Despite Ricciardo picking up damage in the collision — which is under investigation — he was able to catch Bottas once again and took fourth place on the exit of Turn 1 at the start of the final lap, with Bottas limping home 50 seconds behind his teammate and over half a minute behind Vettel.

It was a dramatic end to what had been a strategic race at the front until the pit stops, when Vettel — planning to chase Hamilton on ultrasofts in the second stint — suffered his slow stop. From that point on, Hamilton was untroubled, having made it to lap 25 before switching to softs.

Behind the top five, Pierre Gasly delivered an impressive top-six result for Toro Rosso, finishing where he started. The Frenchman got ahead of Carlos Sainz on the opening lap when Sainz was compromised by Max Verstappen’s strong start, and then pulled away from Kevin Magnussen with relative ease.

The only driver to pass Gasly for position was Ricciardo, with the Australian delivering a number of clean outbraving maneuvers into Turn 1 as he rose from 16th at the end of lap one to finish fourth. It was an excellent recovery from Ricciardo, who also went around the outside of Magnussen at Turn 2 to show he could overtake in more than one place on the tight Hungaroring circuit.

It was a less successful day for Verstappen, who was running a competitive fifth (after gaining two places at Turn 1) when he retired just six laps in with a power unit problem. Verstappen was livid with the issue — his fourth DNF of the year — as he vented his frustration over team radio: “Can I not just keep going? I don’t care if this f***ing engine blows up… What a f***ing joke, all the f***ing time with this s***. Honestly. Argh!”

Magnussen was unable to get on terms with Gasly but came home seventh to give Haas six more points in the fight for fourth in the constructors’ championship, as Renault could only score two points with Sainz.

Sainz had started from fifth on soft tires but dropped back to eighth on the opening lap when Verstappen overtook him on the inside of Turn 1, and then saw an excellent McLaren strategy demote him to ninth at the flag.

McLaren ran long in the opening stint, having also started on soft tires with both drivers, and by finding clean air to show strong pace both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne rose into the top ten before making their stops. Having switched to medium tires on consecutive laps to get to the end of the race, the pair were running in eighth and ninth respectively, but Vandoorne — impressing just behind his teammate having started 15th — was then forced to retire with a gearbox issue.

That promoted Sainz to ninth and Romain Grosjean to tenth, with the Renault able to hold off the faster Haas and Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso in the closing laps.

Aside from Verstappen and Vandoorne, Charles Leclerc was the only other driver who failed to finish, with the Sauber rookie stopping at the end of lap one after colliding with the two Force Indias at the first corner.

Hamilton’s victory — the 67th of his F1 career and second in succession — extends his lead over Vettel in the drivers’ championship to 24 points, with Raikkonen 43 points further back in third place.

Mercedes edges ten points clear of Ferrari in the constructors’ championship despite Bottas fading late on, with Renault now 16 points ahead of Haas in the fight for fourth place.

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