BUDAPEST, Hungary 30th July – Lewis Hamilton delivered a flawless drive from pole position to the chequered flag to win Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix for McLaren and revive his challenge for this year’s Formula One drivers’ world championship.
Hamilton’s win was his second of the year and the 19th of his career.
Raikkonen pushed hard to find a way of passing Hamilton in the closing laps, but the Englishman resisted despite having to fight to preserve his worn tyres.
Raikkonen finished a strong second ahead of his Lotus team-mate, Frenchman Romain Grosjean, and defending world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.
Current world championship leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari came in fifth, with Hamilton’s McLaren team-mate Jenson Button finishing sixth.
Alonso stays on top of the drivers’ standings, but Hamilton closed the gap and his victory in the much improved McLaren boosted his team’s hopes of mounting a challenge for the title in the second half of the season following the annual summer break.
After 11 of this year’s 20 races, Hamilton is back in fourth place with 117 points behind Alonso on 164, Webber on 124 and Vettel on 122.
As they climbed the podium, a grinning Hamilton said to Raikkonen: “It’s just like old times, Kimi.”
Hamilton added: “An amazing day, fantastic work by all the team and the fans have been fantastic. Thank you for having us.
“I am looking forward to the continuation of the championship. There’s a long way to go and a lot of work to do but we have shown we can compete. It is very, very close but we are going to give it all we can.”
A less than ecstatic Raikkonen said that a problem with his car’s kinetic energy recovery system (Kers) was partly to blame for his inability to catch Hamilton.
“We came second, it’s not enough, but we had some problems with the Kers,” said the Finn.
“We had some speed and we’ll try to win the next race. At least we are up there all the time and we put ourselves in a good position but we are not happy until we win.”
His teammate Grosjean added: “It was a fantastic race and we were fighting for the win but we wanted to get back onto the podium with the two cars and that’s what we did.”
On another hot day at the Hungaroring, where the air temperature was 32 degrees celsius and the track temperature 45 degrees, Hamilton had stayed cool at the start when, after one aborted effort because Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes failed to start, he pulled away from pole position and into the lead.
Behind him, with the race reduced from 70 laps to 69 because of the aborted first start, Schumacher started from the pit lane and collected a drive-through penalty for speeding when he came in for an early tyre change.
Schumacher ended a dreadful day in 24th and last place, seven seconds adrift of compatriot Timo Glock of Marussia.
Hamilton went on to build up a lead of 2.1 seconds ahead of Grosjean, but that lead was cut down to less than a second as the Frenchman, on used softer tyres, closed on Hamilton, running on harder medium tyres.
In the searing heat, tyre-wear and management was a major factor and Hamilton’s teammate Button made a second pit stop after 35 laps to change to soft tyres.
McLaren had changed to a “plan B” for Button, understood to be a three-stop strategy instead of two, although Hamilton stuck to a two-stop plan.
As Hamilton pitted again, Raikkonen enjoyed a spell in the lead before making another stop of his own in the hope that his fresher tyres would give him an advantage in the closing laps.
Hamilton’s lead increased to 4.4 seconds from Raikkonen and Grosjean with 20 laps remaining and, although the rapid Finn ate away at that gap, Hamilton battled successfully to preserve his tyres and win the race.