Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes-AMG bounced back in terrific style to claim a stunning Hungarian Grand Prix victory. Barely a week after a disastrous showing on their home turf in Germany, the Silver Arrows shone brightly at the Hungaroring. A ‘win or bust’ strategic call and some imperious driving saw Hamilton overtake long-time race leader Max Verstappen for the race lead with just four laps to go.
Any criticism that fans have levelled at the sport should well and truly dissipate with the Formula 1 field delivering its fourth edge-of-the-seat race on the trot. The 70-lap race was a slow burner, with Verstappen converting pole position into the lead while Hamilton managed to jump teammate Valtteri Bottas for second after the pair ran side-by-side through the first three corners.
The Englishman shadowed Verstappen, never allowing the Red Bull Racing Honda to break away by more than a couple of seconds, despite concerns with rising brake temperatures. Verstappen was called into the pits for a change to Pirelli’s Hard tyres to see out the race until the chequered flag, while Mercedes opted to keep Hamilton out in the hope that he could build enough of a gap to jump the Dutch driver when he too pitted.
Verstappen used his fresher tyres well, pumping out a series of quick laps to deny Hamilton any chance when pitted at the end of Lap 31. Within three laps, however, Hamilton pulled right back up under Verstappen’s rear wing and mounter another attack.
Verstappen defended with all his might, with the pair racing side-by-side through the first four turns before Hamilton was squeezed onto the run-off at Turn 4 and forced to tuck back in behind the 21-year-old.
It was clear that Hamilton would struggle to find a way past and on Lap 48 Mercedes called him back into the pits for a set of fresh Medium tyres. Hamilton challenged his strategists’ decision – as he has done incorrectly on several occasions where he ultimate claimed victory – and rejoined the track with a 19-second gap to close in the 22-lap run to the finish.
Hamilton dug deep and immediately started to close the gap. Red Bull Racing was powerless to respond with their own pit stop to counter Hamilton’s, knowing that this would hand the lead to the championship leader, and so Verstappen was forced to remain out on track on fading tyres.
Hamilton whittled away at Verstappen’s lead; suddenly an unlikely win was looking like a reality. There was nothing Verstappen could do but pray for a miracle.
On Lap 66, Hamilton had closed to within DRS range. On the next lap, he simply out-accelerated Verstappen exiting the final corner and took the lead – there was nothing Verstappen could do but make his own late pit stop to claim the bonus point on offer for the fastest race lap. He duly obliterated Michael Schumacher’s race lap record which had stood since 2004, but a second place finish was a bitter pill to swallow.
It was a virtuoso performance from Hamilton and the Mercedes team, which had called the race to perfection and delivered one of the combination’s best wins of the season – no small achievement given they have won ten of the twelve Grands Prix this year.
“The guys are very calm when they talk about the strategy like the one today. ‘No, no, I truly believed you could do it,’ they told me. But I am sure they were nervous as hell that it wasn’t going to work. But collectively we made it happen,” he said, paying tribute to the team’s faith in him to deliver.
It was the five-time World Champion’s 81st career Grand Prix victory – putting him ten short of Schumacher’s seemingly unbeatable tally of 91 – with seven of these now occurring at the Hungaroring. With eight wins this season, he is in some of the best form of his career and now leading teammate Bottas by 62 points in the Drivers’ Championship standings only a major wobble could deny him a sixth title.
The rest of the field finished so far behind they barely featured in the show. The Ferraris pace in practice and qualifying deserted them, with higher fuel loads and the SF90’s poor low-speed handling through the corners seeing both red cars finish well over a minute adrift in the final reckoning.
That being said, there was an interesting intra-team strategic battle between its two drivers, with Sebastian Vettel mirroring Hamilton’s strategy to successfully overtake teammate Charles Leclerc with two laps to go for the final spot on the podium.
Carlos Sainz Jr. finished a fine fifth for the ever-improving McLaren Renault team, with the Spaniard making a great launch off the line and holding position for the rest of the race.
He finished ahead of Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly – who had a dreadful start and another underwhelming race – and the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Räikkönen, with the Finn picking up his eighth points’ finish of the season to-date.
His compatriot Valtteri Bottas should have been a podium challenger in the second Mercedes-AMG, but saw his race ruined just a few corners in when Leclerc sliced across his front wing on the opening lap while the pair battled for third place approaching Turn 4. Bottas tried to soldier on for a few laps with a damaged front wing endplate, but soon called into the pits for a new front wing and dropped to the back of the field. A steady charge back up the order ensued, but it was another damaging weekend points-wise at a time that he could least afford it amid speculation that Mercedes may not renew his contract.
The final points positions went to Lando Norris in the second McLaren, and Toro Rosso rookie Alexander Albon who overtook Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez late in the race for tenth place.
It was another point-less weekend for the factory Renault team. Nico Hülkenberg was beset by electrical gremlins with his power unit that limited him to a frustrating P12 finish, two spots ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
Following his poor qualifying result on Saturday, the Australian started from last place after taking a strategic power unit change and was always going to have an uphill battle getting back into the points. He climbed as high as fourteenth with some neat passing moves before coming up to the grid’s widest car – the Haas Ferrari of Kevin Magnussen – and could go no further.
|FORMULA 1 ROLEX MAGYAR NAGYDÍJ 2019 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (70 LAPS)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||70||1:35:03.796||25|
|2.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||70||+ 17.796||19|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||70||+ 1:01.433||15|
|4.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||70||+ 1:05.250||12|
|5.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||69||1 lap behind||10|
|6.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||69||1 lap behind||8|
|7.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||69||1 lap behind||6|
|8.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||69||1 lap behind||4|
|9.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||69||1 lap behind||2|
|10.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||69||1 lap behind||1|
|11.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||69||1 lap behind|
|12.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||69||1 lap behind|
|13.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||69||1 lap behind|
|14.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||69||1 lap behind|
|15.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||68||2 laps behind|
|16.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||68||2 laps behind|
|17.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||68||2 laps behind|
|18.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||68||2 laps behind|
|19.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||67||3 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||49||Water Pressure|
Points are awarded to the top 10 classified finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.
Max Verstappen is awarded an additional 1 championship point for posting the fastest lap of the race by a points’ finisher.
Images via Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Red Bull Content Pool and Scuderia Ferrari