After having dominated almost every session of the weekend, it looked like he might just lose the main race to the Lotuses. But it was not to be. Taking his 19th career victory in a lights-to-flag finish, the McLaren driver held off Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean in an interesting duel at the Hungaroring at Budapest.
Behind them, Sebastian Vettel fought his way to fourth from Fernando Alonso in fifth and Jenson Button in sixth. Bruno Senna matched his best finish so far in seventh from Mark Webber, Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg.
This win puts Lewis on 117 points, a fighting fourth in the championship table behind leader Alonso who is on 164, Webber on 124 and Vettel on 122. There’s a three-week break until the next grand prix at Spa, Belgium and there’s nine races still to be run this season. Although we had surprise winners in the first half of the season, it looks clear now that McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull are the teams to beat.
At the start, Hamilton took the lead but could not shake off the Lotus of Grosjean. Teammate Button held off Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen and Webber. 15 laps later Button pitted, followed in the next lap by Vettel and Alonso. A little later Hamilton and Grosjean pitted too. Kimi drove on till lap 20, which later helped him leapfrog the front-runners.
McLaren put on mediums for Lewis whilst Lotus put on softs for Grosjean. This enabled the Frenchman to bring down the gap to Hamilton to just 0.9 secs in lap 31. But Hamilton maintained that gap.
In the second set of pit stops all the front-runners switched to mediums as well and this handed the advantage to Hamilton. Only Kimi looked like a major threat as he managed to nurse his soft tyres for much longer than the pack. When he came out of his second pit stop however, he ran wheel to wheel with teammate Romain Grosjean at Turn 1. This was an exciting dice to watch as the Finn managed to squeeze his sister car onto the dirty side of the track and steal P2!
Now, the Lotuses are known to be gentle on their tyres. This meant that in the next 20 or so laps Raikkonen could theoretically reel in Hamilton. And that’s exactly what he did. Eating away chunks into the Englishman’s gap, he was soon within a second of the McLaren. But that was as far as he got. He later admitted he hoped Lewis’ car would suffer from rear tyre degradation but the McLaren held on.
And Lewis held on to a much-needed win.
Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari was completely outclassed by McLaren and Red Bull this time around proving again how unpredictable this season is turning out to be albeit among the top teams. Michael Schumacher endured the pains of yet another DNF. He was troubled right from the start as his Mercedes brought out the yellow flags and an extra formation lap for the grid.
While Mercedes, Caterham, Toro Rosso, Marussia and HRT ponder their strategies and fortunes Lewis Hamilton and McLaren can head into the summer break pleased with their records from Hungary. Both are truly back in the hunt for the title this year.