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Hamilton claims record win and top spot in title race

  • Published at 08:26 pm July 19th, 2020
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car to win the F1 Hungarian GP race at the Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod near Budapest, Hungary Sunday AFP

The defending six-time champion, who won at the Hungaroring in 2018 and 2019, enlarged his overall total of Hungarian triumphs to eight, drawing level with Schumacher’s eight wins at the French Grand Prix, the most by any driver at a single race venue

Lewis Hamilton equalled one of Michael Schumacher’s many records on Sunday when he delivered a classic drive to become the first driver to complete a hat-trick of Hungarian Grand Prix victories.

The defending six-time champion, who won at the Hungaroring in 2018 and 2019, enlarged his overall total of Hungarian triumphs to eight, drawing level with Schumacher’s eight wins at the French Grand Prix, the most by any driver at a single race venue.

Driving with exemplary concentration and aplomb, Hamilton controlled a tactical race from lights to flag, making light of changing conditions to deliver his 86th win, five short of Schumacher’s record total of 91.

It was Hamilton's second win this season, following victory at the Styrian Grand Prix a week earlier, and lifted him to the top of the drivers’ championship by a single point ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas who won the opening Austrian Grand Prix.

“Round One was multiple different punches that I wasn't ready for,” said Hamilton, referring to the defeat in the season opener.

“But I have refocused and we’ve just been on point here right through the weekend.”

Max Verstappen was a remarkable second for Red Bull after his crew repaired severe damage to his car’s suspension on the grid caused when the Dutchman had crashed before the start. He held off a late attack by Bottas to stay second by fractions of a second. 

"It wasn’t how I wanted it, of course, but the mechanics did an amazing job to fix the car so to pay them back with second place is great,” said Verstappen.    

Bottas came home a frustrated third, just metres behind, but ahead of Lance Stroll’s Racing Point, Alex Albon in the second Red Bull and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.

"It was a pretty bad race, to be honest,” said Bottas. “I lost it at the start. I reacted to a light on my dash that went off – instead of the start lights so I had to do the start again.”

Sergio Perez was seventh in the second ‘pink Mercedes’ Racing Point ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Renault, Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Carlos Sainz of McLaren. 

After an intense burst of pre-race drama, in which Verstappen crashed on his final lap to join the grid and a seemingly rushed ‘end racism’ gesture by many of the drivers, Hamilton was coolness personified.

Starting from the 90th pole of his career, he pulled clear to lead by three seconds on the opening lap, ahead of Stroll and Verstappen, all of them running on intermediate tyres in the tricky conditions.

Bottas jumped the start and was then bogged down and fell to sixth.

The champion pitted for slicks at the end of the second lap returning in fourth and was back on top by lap five with the two Haas cars of Magnussen and Grosjean in pursuit after a well-judged switch from wets to slicks.

After a fine start lifted him to fourth, Vettel followed Hamilton into the pits, but a tentative release by Ferrari cost him at least five seconds and dropped him to ninth.

By lap 20, Hamilton led Verstappen by 11 seconds and Stroll by 27 with Bottas fourth ahead of the two Haas men and Albon.

Bottas pitted on lap 34 shortly before Hamilton, 19 seconds clear of Verstappen, reported the first drops of anticipated rain. The Finn’s immediate speed enabled a perfect under-cut of Stroll who, after pitting, emerged in fourth.

Verstappen came in for hards and then Hamilton for fresh mediums on lap 38, staying ahead by 19.418 with Bottas closing on the Dutchman by lap 40.

Bottas then pitted and clocked a fastest lap, heaping pressure on Red Bull’s strategists: to stick or twist?

With 12 laps to go, Hamilton lapped Vettel’s Ferrari, leaving only three men behind him on the same lap. "These tyres don’t feel good," he had complained only seconds earlier.

Offered hard tyres at his final pit stop, Hamilton requested softs in a bid for fastest lap. "What’s going on," he asked his engineer Peter Bonnington. "Standby, Lewis, while I found out myself," came the reply as his crew ran into the pit-lane and back again.

Eventually, he pitted on lap 66, re-joining with a lead of 4.7 seconds in pursuit of fastest lap. He clocked it with 1:16.627 for a precious extra point and leadership of the championship

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