Sebastian Vettel took his fourth victory of the season at the Hungarian Grand Prix ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen to establish a 14-point lead over Lewis Hamilton as the Briton finished fourth, behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
While the result reflected the quartet’s starting positions, the 70 laps were not without drama, however. Midway through, race leader Vettel began to report handling problems and his pace flagged. Raikkonen, in second, was forced to sit behind the slower Vettel and act as a bulwark to Mercedes as the Silver Arrows attacked during the second half of the race. Third-placed Bottas moved aside to allow Hamilton a chance to pass Raikkonen, but the Finn proved resolute and on the final lap Hamilton handed third back to Bottas as Ferrari’s pragmatic approach paid maximum dividends.
Pol position man Vettel got away comfortably in the lead at the start, with Raikkonen slotting into second ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton though was under pressure from both Red Bulls. Max Verstappen got past the Briton as they exited Turn One, while Daniel Ricciardo snuck down the inside of the Mercedes to take P5 as the field streamed towards Turn 2. Ricciardo attacked his team-mate on the outside but Verstappen had a small lock-up and that caused him to momentarily lose control. He slid into the side of Ricciardo’s car and the Australian went off track.
Ricciardo tried to rejoin but the side and rear right of his car were too damaged and he spun in the middle of the track, causing the following cars to take evasive action. The Safety Car was deployed.
When racing resumed Vettel held his lead in front of Raikkonen and Bottas. The stewards though had placed Verstappen under investigation and as the racing began again he was handed a 10-second time penalty for causing the collision with his team-mate.
At the front, Vettel began to carve out a gap and 15 laps into the 70-lap race he was 2.9s ahead of Raikkonen and just over six seconds clear of Bottas in third.
The race then settled as the gaps at the front stabilised. That situation changed on lap 26 when Vettel began complain that his steering was “hanging to the left”. Raikkonen closed to within 1.3s of his team-mate as the pit stop window opened. Bottas was the first of the front runners to stop, at the end of lap 30, and he emerged in fifth after taking on soft tyres. Hamilton followed a lap later and then Vettel pitted from the lead to take on soft tyres.
Raikkonen was the next in and he almost managed to pass his team-mate in the stop. The Finn rejoined just behind his team-mate and was quickly on the radio to lament the fact that he felt he had the pace to stay out and carve out time that might have put him in front of the German after his stop.
The situation began to become pressing the race neared the lap 40 mark, with Raikkonen questioning Vettel’s pace and warning that Bottas was getting closer. He was told Vettel had a handling issue. Meanwhile, championship leader Vettel was told to avoid hitting kerbs.
By lap 44, Bottas was 1.8s behind Raikkonen, with Hamilton also in hot pursuit, just 1.1s behind his team-mate. At the front Vettel was 1.5s clear of Raikkonen.
On lap 46 Bottas pulled over in Turn 1 to allow Hamilton through to attack Raikkonen and on lap 51 he got to within DRS range of the Finn. Bottas, meanwhile, was told that if his team-mate could not pass the Ferrari that Hamilton would make way for him to retake third place.
The Briton was given five laps to make a move and then, when Raikkonen proved difficult to follow, he was handed another five to pass the Finn. By lap 63 he was still trailing the Finn and awaiting “a mistake” from the Ferrari driver.
It didn’t come, however, and as the final laps counted down Hamilton drifted out to more than two seconds behind Raikkonen.
Further back Verstappen was closing in on Bottas and with a few laps remaining was right on the Finn’s tail. The threat from the Red Bull suggested that Hamilton might not be asked to cede third back to Bottas but on the final lap Hamilton pulled across and allowed Bottas to slip through to third. Verstappen almost pounced on the move but in the end Hamilton crossed the line in fourth place, just 0.3s behind the Mercedes man.
Fernando Alonso took a superb sixth place for McLaren with Carlos Sainz a very solid seventh for Toro Rosso. Eighth place went to Force India’s Sergio Perez, who had climbed from 13th on the grid, while ninth place went to the Mexican’s team-mate Esteban Ocon. The final point was taken by Stoffel Vandoorne in the second McLaren.
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