Lewis Hamilton seized the lead of the Formula 1 world championship with an emphatic Hungarian Grand Prix victory in Budapest. The Briton was totally unchallenged starting from pole, achieved with a new Hungaroring track record, and lapped all but the top five drivers on his way to the checkered flag.
His advantage grew to 27 seconds late in the race until a pit stop to claim a bonus point for fastest lap with fresh rubber — which he won with a new lap record — capped off a glittering weekend for the reigning world champion.
“Honestly, it was one of my favorite races,” he said. “While I was on my own for the race, it was a different kind of challenge. We had great pace … great pit stops, great strategy…
“I want to say a huge congratulations to everyone back home at the factory. Even more on the engine department … those guys have done such a fantastic job for developing and improving this year as whole.”
Pre-race rain presented a potential curveball to Hamilton’s charge. By the time the field took the grid the full undercard of support races had been run, turning the track tantalizingly close to being dry enough for slicks.
But the circuit — doused several times in oil during the weekend, including by a venue maintenance vehicle — was slick from the rain, and all but two drivers were brave enough to dry rubber from light out.
The first lap was suitably frenetic, but Hamilton was supreme in the conditions. By the end of the first lap he was already more than three seconds clear of the field, allowing him to comfortably switch from his intermediate tires and onto slicks without pressure after three laps.
The same couldn’t be said for Max Verstappen. The Dutchman qualified poorly to start seventh on the grid, but his race appeared to turn for the worse on his reconnaissance lap from pit lane to the grid. At the greasy Turn 12 he slid off the circuit and smacked into the barriers, snapping his front wing and breaking his left-front suspension.
He limped back to the grid, where amazingly his team managed to complete repairs to the car in approximately 15 minutes to ensure he could take his place in the race. The work immediately paid dividends with a sizzling start, taking him to third, and delaying his move to the slick tire until Lap 4 promoted him to second.
He didn’t have the pace to match Hamilton, but with the midfield roiling behind him he was able to build a buffer to secure the position to the end of the race.
“I thought I was not going to race, so to be second is like a victory today,” Verstappen said. “It was not how I wanted it in the beginning of course, ending up in the barriers.
“The mechanics did an amazing job to fix the car. I don’t know how they did it, but incredible. To pay them back with a second place, I was very pleased for that.”
Valtteri Bottas was odds-on to finish second having qualified P2, but a bad start — to the eye a jump start, but the stewards found no fault in his early movement — dropped him to seventh in a matter of corners.
He could make up no ground after his stop off the intermediate tire, but fortunately the dominant car that took him to a tenth of a second off pole was equally as quick in race trim, enabling him to pick his way back onto the podium by half distance.
By Lap 45 he was within a second of the Dutchman but on a track around which passing is difficult, the Finn made a third pit stop for fresh tires. The call was right on the line, and Red Bull Racing opted to leave Verstappen and challenge Bottas to earn the position back on track.
The battle went down to the final lap, with Bottas closing to within half a second at the first corner, but he ran out of laps to get the move done and was forced to accept third.
“It was a pretty bad race, to be honest,” he said. “Starting second, I aimed to win the race but I lost it at the start.
“I as fighting til the end. It was very close with Max, but still good points.”
Lance Stroll was happy to finish fourth, one place down from his grid position, having kept himself tidy in the chaotic opening few laps. The Racing Point driver fell behind both Haas cars after switching to the slick tire — both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean started the race on slicks and rocketed up the order as a result — but picked both off cleanly to cement fourth.
Neither Haas driver was able to maintain their lofty places in the order the longer the race continued in dry conditions, with Magnussen slipping down to ninth by the flag and Grosjean out of the points in 15th.
Alex Albon was another big winner from the mixed weather, leaping from 13th on the grid to ninth after the first stops and beating his way past the two Ferrari cars to finish fifth. However, Albon faces a post-race stewards investigation after TV footage emerged showing his team using leaf blowers to dry his grid spot before the race.
Vettel managed to cling onto sixth from the charging Thai driver, but teammate Leclerc fared less well. Ferrari switched the Monegasque onto the soft tire at his first stop anticipating more rain to come, but red-striped slick suffered extensive graining quickly, and his race was ruined by the time he was forced into an early second stop on Lap 21. He finished 11th and out of the points.
Sergio Perez finished seventh in the sister Racing Point car, recovering from a dreadful start the left him 10th, down from fourth, by Lap 5. The Mexican kept Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo at bay by just 0.9s at the flag.
Magnussen finished ninth ahead of Carlos Sainz, who scored the final point of the race for McLaren.