Hamilton Runs Down Verstappen In Hungary

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Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix. (Steve Etherington Photo)
Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix. (Steve Etherington Photo)

MOGYOROD, Hungary – Lewis Hamilton’s 81st career Formula One victory may go down as one of his best ever.

Hamilton and Mercedes played pit strategy to perfection on Sunday at the Hungaroring, turning what appeared to be a certain runner-up finish into the Briton’s seventh career Hungarian Grand Prix triumph.

After running second to polesitter and race-long dominator Max Verstappen for virtually the entire race, the Mercedes team gambled on a pit stop with 22 to go, putting Hamilton on fresh medium-compound tires in an attempt to give him the speed he needed to get around the Red Bull driver for the win.

Their risk paid off handsomely, as Hamilton chased down Verstappen – who pitted only once, for hard-compound tires at lap 25 – from 20 seconds back in the final 20 laps before making the decisive pass around the outside of turn one with four to go.

From there, Hamilton cruised home to victory, while Verstappen pitted again in an attempt to steal a bonus point for the fastest race lap and ended up 17.796 seconds adrift at the finish line.

Sunday’s master class was Hamilton’s seventh victory in Hungary, tying Michael Schumacher for the most Hungarian Grand Prix wins in F-1 history, as well as his eighth win in 12 tries this year going into the month-long summer break.

However, such a run also left Hamilton exhausted in parc ferme after he climbed from his car to celebrate with his team.

“Man, I’m tired after that one, which is as it should be,” said a breathless Hamilton. “I’m very, very grateful though, for this day and for my team. They’ve never stopped believing in me and continued to push things to the limit with everything we have. They took a risk and a chance on me when we joined up, and they took a risk and a chance again today to get this victory. Winning with them never gets old.

“We had brake problems all weekend … and I was a bit worried,” he added. “I was actually doing a lot of lifting and coasting, so I wouldn’t even touch the brake (pedal), all throughout that race. I was trying to save as much as I could, because I knew it would be difficult (to pass), and it was tough to get by Max.

“I didn’t know if I could catch him, but I kept pushing and we made it happen in the end.”

While he didn’t come away with the win, Verstappen did smash the race-lap record in the final circuits at the Hungaroring, turning in a 1:17.103 to garner an extra bonus point along with his runner-up finish.

“We were just not fast enough when it mattered most,” Verstappen said. “I tried everything I could on that hard compound to stay alive, but unfortunately it was just not enough. It’s still a second-place finish, with a (point for) fastest lap, so it’s a good weekend overall for us. Congrats to Lewis though, because he was pushing me very hard and I like that.

“We didn’t get the win, but we had a good day and we’ll come back even stronger after the break.”

The Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc finished third and fourth, respectively, as the last two drivers who finished on the lead lap. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz completed the top five, one lap down.

Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, the sister Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, the second McLaren of Lando Norris and Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon were the rest of the points-scoring drivers in the top 10.

The finish:

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris, Alexander Albon, Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen, Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, George Russell, Lance Stroll, Antonio Giovinazzi, Robert Kubica, Romian Grosjean.