Lewis Hamilton took a fifth career Hungarian Grand Prix victory ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to rise above the German in the Drivers’ Championship standings for the first time this season.
Hamilton seized the lead from pole sitter Rosberg at the race start, making a better getaway than his team-mate and attacking down the inside as they made their way into Turn One. Rosberg, meanwhile, was coming under pressure from a fast-starting Daniel Riccirado and as the Red Bull driver made a move around the outside and Hamilton took up space on the inside, Rosberg was forced to lift. Ricciardo stole into second place but Rosberg managed to retrieve the position as the pair went through Turn Two.
Hamilton, though, was away in the lead and across the next 70 laps the defending champion put in a controlled performance, managing the gap back to Rosberg with ease to eventually claim his fifth Hungarian Grand Prix win. The victory makes him the most successful driver ever at the Hungaroring as he passes the record he held jointly with Michael Schumacher.
“The start was everything,” said Hamilton. “I got a good start. I had one of the Red Bulls was on the inside of me, so I was pressured quite a lot into Turn One. But the team did a fantastic job with the strategy, preparing the car as always, the guys back at the factory continuing to push flat out, so a huge thank you to them, because this is a great result as a team, so yeah, what a day!
Of his own start, Rosberg said: “I lost out a little bit and then into Turn One, with Daniel on the outside, Lewis on the inside, I ran out of space, so I had to bail out. That was it really. I was happy to take Daniel back in Turn Two and from then I was trying to put all the pressure possible on Lewis but of course it’s not possible to pass on this track.”
The win leaves Hamilton six points ahead of his team-mate as the season heads towards Rosberg’s home race, next weekend’s German Grand Prix, the final race before F1’s summer break.
The race could prove a crucial one in the battle for the Constructors’ crown too. While Mercedes top the manufacturers’ standings by a considerable margin, the battle for second is a tight one between Ferrari and Red Bull Racing and third and fifth places this afternoon for Red Bull ahead of Ferrari’s fourth and sixth places means the Milton Keynes team now heads to Germany just a single point adrift of their rivals from Maranello.
Both Red Bull drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, had to battle hard to hold on to their final places however.
In the closing stages Ricciardo came under pressure from Sebastian Vettel, and though the gap between the two at the chequered flag was just 0.6s, the Australian always looked assured of his third Hungarian Grand Prix podium finish in a row.
“It’s great to have another podium this year. Obviously the first one [in Monaco] was a bit bittersweet but this one I can definitely enjoy and for sure the smile’s back. Super happy to be here today. It’s three years in a row I’ve been on the podium at this circuit. It’s been good to me.”
Verstappen, though, had a real fight on his hands in the final quarter of the race.
The Dutch driver made his final pit stop, for soft tyres, on lap 39 and slotted in behind Kimi Raikkonen who was on a different strategy and who had made impressive progress from 14th on the grid. Raikkonen then pitted on lap 50, taking on a set of supersofts tyres. He rejoined behind Verstappen but armed with fresher, faster tyres he soon closed the gap to the Red Bull driver and began to put the youngster 18-year-old sensation under intense pressure.
As he had done to the Finn when taking his maiden win in Spain, however, Verstappen defended expertly, gapping the Finn in the final sector to eradicate the influence of DRS and the making his car as wide as possible through the opening corners to keep the Ferrari man at bay until the flag.
With Raikkonen sixth, seventh place went to Fernando Alonso, who took the place at the start by passing Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz. The six points earned by Alonso will be welcomed by McLaren but it might have neen more had eigth-on-the-grid Jenson Button not suffered a loss of hydraulic pressure early on. He soldiered on but an oil leak eventually led him to retire form P19 after 60 laps.
The Briton was also incensed by a drive-through penalty applied for an unauthorised radio communication. The 2009 champion questioned the sanction as he insisted that his message that his brake pedal was “going to the floor” and the response it elicited was a safety issue.
Sainz took a solid eighth place and four points, a useful return on a day when chief Constructors’ Championship rivals Force India managed to take just one point, with Nico Hulkenberg finishing behind ninth-placed Valtteri Bottas.