Lewis Hamilton charged to his eighth victory of the Formula 1 season after hunting down Red Bull rival Max Verstappen on a two-stop strategy to win Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix, making up more than 20 seconds in the final 20 laps.

An inspired strategy call from Mercedes saw the team switch Hamilton to a two-stop strategy midway through a battle against Verstappen, leaving the five-time world champion to hunt down the race leader before making a pass with four laps to go.

The result sees Hamilton extend his championship lead to 62 points heading into the summer break after early damage for teammate Valtteri Bottas meant he could only recover to eighth place, losing yet more ground in the title fight.

Verstappen made a clean getaway from pole position to retain his advantage on the run down to Turn 1 ahead of the battling Mercedes drivers. Bottas locked up at both Turn 1 and Turn 2, the latter prompting Hamilton to sling his car around the outside to get the cutback for Turn 3.

As Hamilton drew his car onto the racing line, his left-rear wheel brushed Bottas’ front wing. A secondary touch with Charles Leclerc on the run up the hill left the Finn’s car with damage, causing him to drop back to fifth. Bottas stayed out until the end of Lap 5 before coming in for a new front wing, with the length of the repairs dropping him all the way down to last.

Bottas’ demise left Hamilton to fight Verstappen alone at the front for Mercedes, sitting around two seconds back from the Red Bull ahead through the opening stint of the race. Every time Hamilton turned in a fastest lap, Verstappen would react in kind, keeping the gap stable. The pair were able to ease clear of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel in P3 and P4, running around one second per lap quicker than the Ferrari drivers.

As the first round of pits stops neared, Hamilton began to chip away at Verstappen’s lead at the front. Verstappen reported on three occasions that he was losing grip, while Hamilton told the team that his tyres were in good shape, giving Mercedes the chance to extend his first stint further into the race.

Verstappen dived into the pits from the lead at the end of Lap 25, taking on a fresh set of Hard tyres. Red Bull had managed to get him back out ahead of the Ferrari drivers, albeit with some lapped cars ahead that he quickly dispatched, finding clean air once again.

Mercedes stuck to its strategy of keeping Hamilton out long, adding an extra six laps to his stint compared to Verstappen before calling him in at the end of Lap 31. Hamilton also switched to Hards, but a slow attachment of the front wheels cost him an extra couple of seconds to Verstappen. By the time the Mercedes exited the pits, Verstappen had already swept past, and was now sitting five seconds up the road.

With fresh rubber at his disposal, Hamilton wasted little time in carving into Verstappen’s lead. In the space of just two laps, Hamilton was able to wipe away the Red Bull’s advantage completely and put Verstappen firmly in his sights as the race hit half distance, sitting in DRS range as they scythed through traffic.

Hamilton managed to get a good run on Verstappen heading into Lap 39, going side-by-side with the Red Bull into the first corner. Hamilton tried getting the switchback through Turns 2 and 3, before gaining momentum on the uphill run to Turn 4, where he tried to hang his Mercedes around the outside of the left-hander. While ambitious, the move failed as Hamilton ran wide and off the circuit, leaving Verstappen to survive in the lead.

Hamilton dropped back to try and cool his tyres before launching another attack, closing up to within a second once again – only to dive into the pits at the end of Lap 48 to take a set of Mediums. A swift stop dropped Hamilton into clean air, putting the pressure on Verstappen in the race lead to make a decision.

Red Bull opted to keep Verstappen out, explaining to the Dutchman that he would have emerged behind Hamilton if they had pitted him, forcing him to go to the end if they wanted to win the race. Hamilton faced a 20-second gap to make up across the final 20 laps, with the Briton himself questioning the call before getting his head down and starting to carve into the gap at the front.

Verstappen was quick to react, turning up his engine and upping the pace with a series of personal bests to limit the time lost to Hamilton. Race engineer Pete Bonnington informed Hamilton over the radio that the forecast was for him now to catch Verstappen on the final lap, with the picture growing ever-bleaker as he struggled through traffic. 

But pocket of clean air gave Hamilton the chance to push again and find a second wind in the final 10 laps, gaining more than one second per lap as Mercedes told him to “give it everything” and not worry about his tyre life in the hunt. Verstappen meanwhile reported that his tyres were “dead”, as he started to lose more than two seconds per lap.

Hamilton closed up on the rear of Verstappen with five laps to go, gaining DRS as they crossed the line as he pulled alongside the Red Bull. Hamilton swung his car around the outside, and despite a deep run from Verstappen in a last-ditch bid to defend, the Mercedes got a better exit and shot into the lead.

Red Bull were quick to admit defeat as they brought Verstappen in at the end of the lap for a set of Soft tyres to go for a fastest lap push, easing any pressure on Hamilton at the front.

Hamilton crossed the line 17 seconds clear of Verstappen to record his eighth win of the season and extend his championship lead to 62 points heading into the summer break, and was quick to thank the Mercedes pit wall for its strategy call.

Verstappen picked up the bonus point for setting the fastest lap in the closing stages as he took second, while   Sebastian Vettel completed the podium for Ferrari. Vettel was put on a two-stop strategy compared to a one-stop for teammate Leclerc, eventually getting past with three laps to go. Vettel made the move at Turn 1 to get ahead despite Leclerc shutting the door late, but with the pair finishing a minute down on Hamilton, there was little for Ferrari to truly celebrate.

Carlos Sainz managed to top the midfield fight once again for McLaren by finishing fifth, making a good start to jump Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly and teammate Lando Norris before remaining clear of the duo through the race.

Gasly crossed the line sixth, more than a lap down on his teammate, while a slow pit stop for Norris caused him to drop behind Kimi Raikkonen in the midfield battle. The recovering Bottas made it back to eighth by the chequered flag, failing to pass compatriot Raikkonen on the final lap, while Norris and Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon rounded out the points-paying positions.

Sergio Perez took 11th for Racing Point ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, while Haas driver Kevin Magnussen took 13th after a late scrap with Hulkenberg’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo. Magnussen was the sole Haas driver to see the finish as teammate Romain Grosjean retired with 21 laps to go.

Daniil Kvyat finished 15th for Toro Rosso ahead of George Russell and Lance Stroll, with Lance Stroll, Antonio Giovinazzi and Robert Kubica propping up the classification.
 

 

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