Championship leader Lewis Hamilton snatches victory from rival Max Verstappen with four laps to the flag following a strategy switch from the Mercedes Formula 1 racing team to defeat Red Bull.
Hamilton swapped to a two-stop tyre strategy in a bid to use fresh Pirelli to mount a late attack on Verstappen.
Verstappen held on until the start of lap 67, when Hamilton used DRS to attack on the outside into Turn 1 and Verstappen’s “dead” tyres left him powerless in defence.
A switch to soft tyres for the final three laps allowed Verstappen to at least score a bonus point for fastest lap, as Ferrari’s lead driver Sebastian Vettel completed the podium – though more than a minute behind race winner Hamilton.
Verstappen held onto the lead at the start as fellow front-row driver Valtteri Bottas locked up attacking on the outside and made light side-by-side contact with his Mercedes teammate Hamilton.
Bottas tried to defend from Hamilton into Turn 2 but locked up again, allowing Hamilton to cut back and went by around the outside into Turn 3 – compromising Bottas and letting Charles Leclerc to get ahead in his Ferrari.
Leclerc made contact with Bottas in the process and the Mercedes driver’s front wing was broken, which proved too problematic to continue with beyond lap five, triggering an early pitstop and destorying Bottas’s race.
At the front, Verstappen quickly established a two-second advantage but Hamilton fought back and was almost inside DRS range when Verstappen – complaining of losing grip – pit on lap 25.
Mercedes opted to extend Hamilton’s stint six laps beyond Verstappen’s, which dropped him 5.8 seconds behind when he rejoined but Hamilton’s pace on fresh tyres rapidly eliminated the gap.
He had DRS to attack Verstappen within five laps of rejoining, causing Verstappen to defend slightly into Turn 1 just as the race went past mid-distance.
Hamilton then took to the outside at Turn 4 but ran wide, slightly onto the run-off, which allowed Verstappen breathing space.
Verstappen requested more engine power in his bid to keep Hamilton out of DRS range but Hamilton was also suffering with brake wear, meaning another attack was not forthcoming.
Mercedes made the inspired strategy call by stopping Hamilton again on lap 48, a move Red Bull opted not to cover – giving Hamilton 20 laps to attack a 20-second gap to Verstappen on fresh tyres.
With six laps to go, and Hamilton just 5.5 seconds behind, Verstappen reported his tyres were “dead”, and two laps later Hamilton was within DRS range.
The Mercedes driver breezed by on the outside into the first corner with superior grip and braking performance, and with Verstappen unable to finish the race on his wrecked rubber the Red Bull dived into the pits.
Leclerc looked set to complete the podium after a difficult race from Ferrari, which faded from the lead battle swiftly and never looked like recovering.
However, Vettel switched to “Plan C”, which meant a long final stint on softs and a tall task up the time he lost to Leclerc by extending his first stint.
With just under three laps left Vettel caught and dived inside Leclerc at Turn 1 with an aggressive move to wrest the final podium position.
Carlos Sainz took advantage of Bottas’s nightmare race and a bad start for Pierre Gasly to steal fifth for McLaren, having also jumped his teammate Lando Norris on the opening lap.
Sainz ran in that position throughout the Hungarian Grand Prix and then withstood pressure from Gasly in the other Red Bull to finish fifth for the second race in a row.
Norris could have completed a 5-6 result for the Woking-based team but a problem with the left-rear meant a slow pitstop and dropped him behind Gasly and the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen.
He was too far behind to catch or pressure Raikkonen, who matched his best result of the season with seventh.
Bottas’s recovery was limited to eighth position, passing Norris late on, despite Mercedes predicting he could make it back to sixth.
Toro Rosso driver Alex Albon caught and passed teammate Daniil Kvyat and the Racing Point of Sergio Perez in the final third of the grand prix to complete the top ten and score another point.
Romain Grosjean was the race’s only retirement.
The Haas driver ran inside the top ten early on but slipped back after a long first stint did not pay off, and his car was wheeled into the garage with a water pressure problem with more than 20 laps remaining.
So congratulations to Lewis Hamilton in winning his seventh Hungarian Grand Prix and such a brilliant fightback in chasing down Max Verstappen. Kudos to Mercedes in making the inspired pit crew to pit Hamilton for fresh set of tyres, giving a great chance in grip and performance.
As for Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. This is racing. After the highs of Hockenheim a week earlier and that qualifying performance, second position is still a solid result.
Hungarian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:35:03.796
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda +17.796s
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +61.433s
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +65.250s
5 Carlos Sainz McLaren-Renault +1 lap
6 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda +1 lap
7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
8 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +1 lap
9 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault +1 lap
10 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda +1 lap
11 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes +1 lap
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault +1 lap
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari +1 lap
14 Daniel Ricciardo Renault +1 lap
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda +2 laps
16 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +2 laps
17 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes +2 laps
18 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo=Ferrari +2 laps
19 Robert Kubica Williams=Mercedes +3 laps
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari DNF