Hamilton Cruises To A Sixth Victory At The Hungaroring
Graham Read, Formula 1 Correspondent
After the high drama in Germany just a few days ago Formula 1 moved on this weekend to the Hungaroring circuit, just outside the attractive Hungarian capital Budapest, for the last F1 Grand Prix before the summer break and it proved to be Lewis Hamilton who ended up cruising to a comfortable victory for his Mercedes team.
The Ferrari flags were flying at half mast in the paddock following the death last week of Sergio Marchionne, its Chairman and CEO until just days ago when serious ill-health had forced him to step down. The Ferrari cars wore black bands as a mark of respect, as did both drivers for the iconic Italian team.
In Friday’s opening free practice session Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo went fastest, outpacing Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari by just eight hundredths of a second, with both ahead of the other Red Bull of Max Verstappen and Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari. Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas completed the top six.
Following the subsequent afternoon practice period Vettel topped the timesheets ahead of Verstappen, Ricciardo and Räikkönen, with Hamilton and Bottas again fifth and sixth quickest after making errors on their potentially fastest laps. As earlier in the day, the honours for being best of the rest went to Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
Meanwhile, after a hearing at the High Court back in London on Friday evening the financially troubled Force India team went into administration as it sought to avoid a potential winding-up order. Their actions did at least allow the Silverstone based outfit to continue to operate whilst efforts are made to agree a deal with a potential new owner or backer.
One such person may be Canadian Lawrence Stroll, the wealthy father of Williams F1 driver Lance, and if a deal occurs it is probable that Lance would move from Williams, who are having a difficult season ontrack, to Force India.
Back at the Hungaroring Vettel was again quickest in Saturday’s final free practice session with Bottas his closest challenger, but all was to change in the subsequent qualifying hour when, as in the German race a week earlier, the weather gods intervened with variable but increasingly wet conditions.
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At a race where Red Bull had high hopes for success Verstappen could only manage the seventh fastest time in the final part of qualifying and Ricciardo would line up for the following day’s Grand Prix down in a by his own high standards lowly 12th position after being compromised by the crashing Williams of Lance Stroll earlier in the qualifying process.
Come race day the weather was again hot, dry and sunny and when the lights went out at the start of the Grand Prix Hamilton led the sprint down to Turn 1 from Bottas. Vettel had opted to start on the harder Soft Tyres compared to the Ultrasofts of those around him, but still managed to move up from fourth to third ahead of Räikkönen at Turn 2.
Reigning champion Hamilton was soon extending his lead out front as second placed Bottas started to hold up the two Ferraris, but worse was to follow for fifth placed Verstappen on lap six as a Renault power unit failure forced his Red Bull into retirement, triggering a brief Virtual Safety Car period.
When racing resumed Hamilton led from the other Mercedes and the Ferraris plus Gasly’s Toro Rosso and the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. To their rear Ricciardo was making progress through the field though and upto eighth by the 14th tour.
One lap later Ferrari called Räikkönen in for a surprisingly early pit stop to switch from Ultrasoft to Soft tyres and Mercedes responded by instantly pitting Bottas to do the same. Before long the charging Ricciardo was upto fifth position after starting from the sixth row of the grid.
On lap 25 the leading Hamilton stopped to move onto the Soft tyres and rejoined the race in second place behind Vettel, who had yet to stop. As the Grand Prix progressed the German remained out front, but the time advantage he held over Hamilton was far less than what he would lose when making his own stop even if it was set to allow him to jump Bottas.
The race reached a pivotal moment 14 tours later when Vettel pitted to change to Ultrasoft tyres, but the stop was slow due to a problem with the left rear tyre going on. Two extra seconds were lost and this meant the Ferrari’s previous lead became third place behind Hamilton and Bottas when Vettel rejoined the track.
As the Grand Prix progressed towards its closing stages Hamilton was well clear at the head of the field on his way to a dominant victory and Vettel and Räikkönen found themselves stuck behind second placed Bottas on a circuit where traditionally it has always been difficult to overtake.
Eventually Vettel edged past Bottas at Turn 2 with five laps remaining, but the latter nudged the former as they started to exit the corner. Vettel escaped without damage, whereas Bottas hurt his front wing and dropped to fourth position. The stewards subsequently decided the contact was a racing incident and not in need of any further penalty. A correct call in my opinion.
There was more drama involving Bottas though just three tours later when he understeered his damaged Mercedes into Ricciardo at the first corner whilst the Australian was in the process of passing him round the outside for fourth position. This forced Ricciardo off the track and dropped him back behind the Finn before Mercedes instructed Bottas to hand the position back.
The stewards rightly took a dim view of Bottas’ behaviour and after the race awarded him a 10 second time penalty and two penalty points on his licence. His 23 second lead over sixth placed Gasly meant he still retained his fifth place finish
So Hamilton, Vettel and Räikkönen made it a Mercedes/Ferrari/Ferrari podium and the British driver’s victory meant he extended his Drivers’ Championship lead over his German rival to 24 points, whilst Ferrari closed the gap to Mercedes on the Constructors front.
Everyone in the travelling F1 circus is now looking forward to a break before the action resumes at the iconic Spa Francorchamps circuit, one of my personal favourites, for the Belgian Grand Prix in four weeks time.
2018 Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1hr37m16.427s
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +17.123s
3 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +20.101s
4 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +46.419s
5 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +1m0.000s
6 Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +1m13.273s
7 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) Lapped
8 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) Lapped
9 Carlos Sainz (Renault) Lapped
10 Romain Grosjean (Haas) Lapped
11 Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) Lapped
12 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) Lapped
13 Esteban Ocon (Force India) Lapped
14 Sergio Perez (Force India) Lapped
15 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) Lapped
16 Sergey Sirotkin (Williams) Lapped
17 Lance Stroll (Williams) Lapped
18 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) Retired
19 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) Retired
20 Charles Leclerc (Sauber) Retired
2018 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship (after 12 of 21 Grand Prix)
1 Lewis Hamilton 213
2 Sebastian Vettel 189
3 Kimi Räikkönen 146
2018 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship (after 12 of 21 Grand Prix)
1 Mercedes 345
2 Ferrari 335
3 Red Bull 223
Hamilton Cruises To A Sixth Victory At The Hungaroring, 30th July 2018, 9:44 AM