Round 12 of the 21-race season comes from the Hungaroring in Hungary, a circuit that has delivered many an exciting race over the years but is known for being a difficult track to overtake on. This year was no exception with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen providing the excitement up front as they battled it out for the lead in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Having secured pole position the day before, Verstappen led the start of the race with Hamilton overtaking his teammate who had qualified second and set off in pursuit of the Red Bull driver. However, it was the clever strategy by Mercedes that meant that Hamilton could overtake Verstappen just three laps from the end of the race on much fresher tyres and go on to secure his seventh win at the Hungaroring and put the previous weekend’s disappointing German Grand Prix behind him. Verstappen was then forced to put in a last-minute pit stop for fresh rubber just two laps from the end, emerging still in second place.
A late charging Sebastian Vettel managed to overtake his teammate at the very end of the race to take the third spot on the podium, with Carlos Sainz once again putting in a strong performance for McLaren, finishing fifth ahead of Pierre Gasly in his Red Bull and Kimi Räikkönen in the Alfa Romeo. Valtteri Bottas managed to recover somewhat from a nose cone replacement to take eighth with the second McLaren of Lando Norris taking ninth and Alexander Albon claiming the final point in his Toro Rosso.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport
Toto Wolff said after the race: “What an unbelievable comeback. This is why we love the sport, you are holding onto moments like this, where it’s an unexpected result and this is why it feels so great. We didn’t think it would go this way but the strategy team did so well and made great calls. There was a specific point in the race where we weren’t sure if Lewis would catch Max, but he got his head down and once the Red Bull was in sight, we knew he’d pounce. An incredible drive and a great result to head into the summer break with. On Valtteri’s side, it was a disappointing day. He was so pumped for the race and his Qualifying performance was great. But, the first lap didn’t go well and from there it was tough for him to fight back through the field. It has been a fantastic first half of the season, with 10 wins from 12 races. We will use the break to recharge our batteries – and hopefully return even stronger in Spa.”
Having initially questioned his team’s tyre strategy, Hamilton said at the end of the race: “Sorry I doubted the strategy, that was a tall order but grateful we did it. Whoohooo, oh man that feels so good!”
Red Bull Racing
Max Verstappen summed up his race by saying: “We gave it our all, but Lewis was clearly a bit faster than us today. It was nice to see that we had such a big gap to the others though and second is still a good result. It wasn’t our day in terms of pace but overall it was a good weekend and getting pole position was a great step. Of course, when you start at the front you want to win but you also have to be realistic and to finish second with the fastest lap was the most that we could do. I tried to keep Lewis behind when we were on the same tyres but because of the gap to third, he had the option to do a second stop which worked out for him. I was trying to survive out front and push on my tyres but when he was closing in by one or two seconds per lap there wasn’t much I could do. He closed so quickly on the fresh tyres that I wasn’t surprised he managed to get past. We then pitted to get the fastest lap, which is one extra point, and I’m of course happy to get that. No regrets and we tried everything we could. It was a good weekend for us and I go into the break with a good feeling as we’re getting closer all the time.”
Well at least he can console himself a little by getting an extra point for the fasted lap of the race at the very end on his new set of tyres.
Ferrari managed to get their eleventh podium of the 2019 season, and with a solid fourth place by Charles Leclerc, the team had an altogether better race at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel said: “We leave Hungary and for a few weeks we can console ourselves with the fact that we made it to the podium in a race in which we knew we were going to struggle. Today, we simply could not match the pace of our rivals. In terms of strategy, the idea was to come up with something different to try and do better than fourth. I managed to extend the first stint to 39 laps and that allowed me to fit Softs and have a stronger pace than Charles in the closing stages. Now we can recharge our batteries and prepare to battle once more in Spa and Monza, tracks where we ought to be more competitive. We know there is still some performance to come from the SF90 and we have to work on that, but I am convinced that there is a margin to get better results.”
Haas F1 Team
It proved to be a rather disappointing Hungarian Grand Prix for the Haas F1 Team, with Kevin Magnussen finishing 13th and Romain Grosjean forced to retire 19 laps from the end with a water pressure problem.
Team Principal Guenther Steiner summed up the team’s weekend by saying: “It was a pretty tough race for us. In the end though we showed some fight with some other midfield teams. A lot is in these tires, which makes these races so unpredictable, and weird almost. Kevin (Magnussen) put up a good fight, and unfortunately Romain’s (Grosjean) tires just died on him, then we had an issue with his water pressure. At the end, it’s a difficult situation to be, in dealing with these tires and getting them to work. We will keep on trying until something changes.”
The top 10 finishers are: Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Kimi Räikkönen, Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris with Alexander Albon picking up the final point for Toro Rosso. Max Verstappen took the extra point for fastest lap of the race on his fresh tyres, which is perhaps no surprise.
And so Lewis Hamilton heads into the summer break on 250 points well ahead in the championship lead with this hard fought win in Hungary behind him. Teammate Valtteri Bottas has 188 points with Max Verstappen chasing him down on 181 points in third.
The Formula One World Championship now takes its customary summer break before the next round at the Belgian Grand Prix on 1st September at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari Press Office, McLaren and Haas F1 Team