- Max Verstappen recovers from pre-race crash to come second
- Pre-race anti-racism gestures in Hungary give muddled message
Giles Richards – The Guardian
Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the Hungarian Grand Prix for a record eighth time. Photograph: Leonhard Föger/AFP/Getty Images
There was, perhaps inevitably, a sense of deja vu as Lewis Hamilton took another consummate victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix. The world champion’s record at the Hungaroring is unparalleled. On Sunday he and his Mercedes team delivered again and this time with such overwhelming superiority that it put a palpable chasm between them and their rivals just three races into the season.
Hamilton took an untroubled win with another flawless run from pole, enjoying a pace advantage married to perfect execution that could not be matched. In unusually cool temperatures for Budapest in July, Hamilton barely appeared to break a sweat.
F1’s anti-racism stance in contrast was left looking altogether more chaotic, an issue the sport must resolve. On the grid most drivers were wearing “End Racism” T-shirts, with Hamilton and the majority also taking a knee before the national anthem. Yet it was a disorganised affair once more, with some drivers late or absent, and lacked a cohesive message. Hamilton is expected to address it with F1 again before the British Grand Prix on Sunday week.
On track it is unfair to class such a drive as routine but the level at which the 35-year-old Briton is now performing means he makes races like this look easy. He was aided on Sunday by a lack of competition from across the grid, even from his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who was third.
Hamilton now leads the world championship race with 63 points, in front of Bottas on 58. Yet there was drama behind Hamilton, not least for Max Verstappen, who remarkably took second place despite crashing his Red Bull on the way to the grid.
Hamilton insisted that his team were reaping the rewards of their effort and commitment. “We are working our arse off,” he said. “We are going to continue to do that. Would I like more of a battle from other teams? Absolutely. But it was a flawless effort from the team this weekend. In all areas we really delivered. It is difficult to compete against when you are bringing that 100%.”
The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, bluntly summed up the advantage they are enjoying. “The car and its engine are a bit of a beast, just what we needed,” he said. “It is a car the drivers like, it has good driveability, lots of power and lots of downforce.”
Hamilton enjoys racing in Budapest, as well he might. He has now won the last three grands prix at the track, is the race’s most successful driver and with his eighth victory in Hungary he has also matched Michael Schumacher’s record, scored at Magny Cours, of the most victories at the same circuit. This 86th career win puts him just five shy of Schumacher’s record. On this form it must be expected that he will surpass the German this season.
Hamilton delivered the calm, controlled performance from pole to flag that has defined much of his success. Having opened up a gap from the off he was unchallenged throughout, relentlessly building a lead that was insurmountable even by the midway point. The numbers are daunting: three seconds clear by the end of lap one, he went on to lead by margins of up to 26 seconds – a country mile.
Verstappen’s afternoon was an altogether more testing affair. Red Bull were enduring a difficult weekend in Budapest and he gave them a further headache before the race had begun. The Dutchman went off, locking up on a damp track on his lap driving to the grid 20 minutes before lights out, hitting the barriers and damaging his suspension. The team worked furiously to repair the damage and he was able to start the race. They did superbly: Verstappen made amends with an impressive drive to take second from seventh on the grid.
He was rightly thankful to his team. “They did an amazing job,” he said. “I was fired up to get back in the car and show them the effort was not for nothing. It was a crazy 10 to 12 minutes.”
He was, however, never in the fight for the lead. Mercedes have issued a definitive statement that they are in a league of their own this season. Dominant in Austria with its quick corners, they proved equally at home on the slow-to-medium-paced turns of the Hungaroring. Their strength across both types of circuit and the margin of advantage they have over their rivals are ominous indeed.
Certainly Ferrari have reached only the foothills of the mountain they have to climb. Hopeful of an improvement in form in Hungary, they were disappointed. Sebastian Vettel was sixth and will not have enjoyed being lapped by Hamilton with 12 laps to go. The team put Charles Leclerc on to the wrong tyres early in the race and the Monegasque came home in 11th.
Bottas, second on the grid, made what appeared to be a jump start in reacting to a light on his dash and in checking it went backwards to sixth. He was not penalised for the start but the day belonged to his teammate. At the end Hamilton had enough in hand to take a stop for the soft tyre to seal off the point for fastest lap, an indication of how seriously he is taking gaining every point toward securing his seventh title.
On this form he is well on the way, Hamilton was once more untouchable. He and Mercedes have grabbed the championship by the scruff of the neck in this opening triple-header of meetings. Wresting it from them will be a tough task indeed.
Red Bull faced an investigation by the stewards because they had
“artificially dried the grid box” of Alexander Albon’s car by using the
engine cooling air of their leaf blowers. A contradiction of the rules
stating no part of the track could be dried but the stewards took no
further action. Albon finished in fifth.
Lance Stroll was fourth for Racing Point with his teammate Sergio Pérez seventh, in front of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. Kevin Magnussen was ninth for Haas, with Carlos Sainz taking 10th for McLaren.