BUDAPEST, Hungary, July 23 – Defending champion Lewis Hamilton produced a trademark triumph of pace and panache to win Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg and replace him as leader of this year’s world title race.
Hamilton outpaced pole-sitter Rosberg at the start and then controlled the 70 laps with a mixture of speed and flawless judgement in sweltering heat at the Hungaroring circuit.
His victory completed a hat-trick of successes in consecutive races, was his outright record fifth in Hungary, his fifth of the season and the 48th of his career.
“The start was everything,” said Hamilton. “I got a good start and one of the Red Bulls was inside me so I was pressurised a lot into Turn One.
“But this is a great result for the team. What a day! The traffic was difficult to navigate, but it was an amazing race. A special thank you to the fans – you make this such a great event.”
Rosberg came home second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari and teenager Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth in the second Ferrari ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren and Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso, Valtteri Bottas of Williams and Nico Hulkenberg who was 10th for Force India.
Hamilton’s win increased his points total to 192, six more than Rosberg as Ricciardo moved up to third.
“It was all down to the start in the end,” admitted Rosberg. “With Daniel on one side and Lewis on the other I was out of space and that was it really. It’s not possible to pass on this track.
“We have the next race coming up very quickly and it is my home race next weekend, the German Grand Prix, so bring it on,” he added.
– Hotly-contested start –
After the deluge in Saturday’s qualifying, the race began in searing heat with air temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius and a track temperature of 52 degrees.
Hamilton made a flawless start to pull alongside Rosberg while Ricciardo surged forward on the outside in the run up to Turn One.
Ricciardo attacked and briefly led before Hamilton responded as the front five squeezed through a sweeping trio of corners.
Rosberg, pushed back to third, fought back and emerged from the opening tussle back in second place ahead of the two Red Bulls, but struggling to match the pace of the defending champion.
By lap 15, Hamilton was 2.5 seconds clear and the two Silver Arrows were striding away.
Hamilton pitted shortly after, leaving Rosberg to lead, but the German came in a lap later as Hamilton returned to the front.
But Rosberg remained close behind with Ricciardo, third, only five seconds adrift, ahead of the two Ferraris, led by Vettel.
– Ricciardo threat subdued –
By lap 34, the leading ‘train’ had closed up and Ricciardo was threatening Rosberg, a scenario that forced Mercedes to warn the leader to go faster — or face the German pitting before him.
Unflustered, Mercedes stayed calm, Hamilton found extra pace and made his second pit stop on lap 42, followed immediately by Rosberg, with the duo retaining control ahead of Ricciardo.
A phenomenal and fast out-lap from Hamilton put him in charge with Rosberg in pursuit, trimming the gap as he made best use of his fresh rubber.
By lap 51 it was 1.8 seconds before Hamilton was held up when Esteban Gutierrez ignored blue flags. The stewards swiftly announced an investigation into the Mexican’s driving.
This left Rosberg only seven-tenths behind, but Hamilton responded with a fastest lap to re-open the gap to 1.1 seconds and soon extended it to 2.9 seconds.
Ricciardo was more than 10 seconds away in third ahead of Vettel when, after 57 laps, Raikkonen clipped Verstappen’s rear right wheel as he attempted to jink by him in vain, losing bits of his Ferrari front wing in a shower of debris.
With 10 laps to go, the chase was on, but Mercedes remained comfortably clear in their personal duel well ahead of Ricciardo’s Red Bull.