Lewis Hamilton says his decision to chase the fastest lap late in the Hungarian Grand Prix was made with the drivers’ championship in mind.
The six-time world champion was dominating the race and had little more than a pit stop in hand with 10 laps remaining when he started discussing a late stop for soft tires. At the time, teammate Valtteri Bottas held the fastest lap, but Hamilton stopped for a third time with five laps remaining, taking on softs and setting a new lap record on the final lap to ensure he took maximum points away from the Hungaroring.
“You have to weigh up the risks and I didn’t push so much that I was going to make a mistake and go off — it was a controlled lap,” Hamilton said. “I’ve lost the world championship in the past by one point, so I know how crucial it is to maximize every moment.
“We’re in a year where you don’t know what reliability is going to be like, you don’t know how long the season is going to be… Valtteri had a great particularly first race, at the time he had the fastest lap, I had the gap, I felt it was necessary to just get that point with the gap that I had.”
The lap came as Hamilton bookended an impressive race with dominant statements, having also pulled over three seconds clear of the field on the opening lap in wet conditions.
“Every time you do those starts, sometimes other people are on your tail and you feel like you’re on the limit but obviously you’re slightly within, or the other person is finding more grip. And sometimes you just pull these gaps and the other are caught sleeping or not as comfortable.
“For me personally it was very, very slippery on those laps to the grid but it really helped me gauge where the track was, but when we started that lap it had dried quite a lot. There is this balance of going over the limit and easily risking it. The race is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, so you’ve really got to be cautious not to throw it all away.”
Hamilton says it’s a victory he takes huge satisfaction from despite spending much of it without company, as he moves to within five wins of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 victories in F1.
“Believe it or not, it’s still pushing out there, obviously particularly for the fastest lap at the end, the management. What I wanted to say was huge congratulations to everyone back home… even more at the engine department at HPP — those guys have done a fantastic job of developing and improving this year.
“While I was on my own for the race it was a different kind of challenge. We had great pace but it couldn’t have been without these guys that were working. We did great pit stops, great strategy and right at the end there because I was managing those mediums, was perfect to get on mediums and get the fastest lap.”