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2019 Hungarian Grand Prix: Hamilton Wins in Intriguing Strategic Battle

The Hungarian Grand Prix had quite the race to follow up, considering that the German Grand Prix was very much still fresh in our minds. I have to say that whilst it wasn’t quite as exciting as last week, we still had an interesting race that was exciting right until the finish.

We were hoping on lap 1 that we would get some rain that would spice up the race as it did in Germany. However, the overcast weather sadly never came to anything which meant that we had another dry race. However, with a slightly mixed up order, it meant we were in for a good race. Max Verstappen started on pole and got away well off the line. He was followed into turn 1 by both Mercedes drivers, battling away for position. Lewis Hamilton was able to pass Valtteri Bottas into turn 3, however, Bottas was pushed wide. The Ferrari of Charles Leclerc was then able to make a move on the Mercedes into turn 4 due to Bottas’ lack of momentum. However, Bottas suffered heavy front wing damage on Leclerc’s rear tyre. Further down the field, Kimi Räikkönen got a good start and moved himself into 8th from 10th.

Bottas seemed to be in big trouble. His front wing was flapping about, and he had fallen down to 5th after Sebastian Vettel overtook him. Despite the lack of pace, Mercedes waited all the way until lap 6 to stop him, and put him on hard tyres. He looked set for the end of the race. If he could look after his tyres he would be set. Meanwhile, at the front, Verstappen was increasing his lead over Hamilton to around 2.3 seconds. The race was quickly turning into a 2 horse race, as Verstappen and Hamilton streaked ahead of the Ferraris. Despite Bottas having good pace on the hards, he was 49 seconds off the leaders, and realistically had no chance of catching them. This along with the Ferrari’s lack of pace though created a fantastic two way fight for the lead.

Daniel Ricciardo had started last in his Renault due to replacing the power unit in his car. This meant that we got to see a masterclass from Danny Ric, as he manoeuvred his way past slower cars. On lap 10, he was able to move into 16th place, after holding his car around the outside at turn 2 and then moving past Lance Stroll as the track curved to the right. Classic Ricciardo. I do love seeing him at Hungary as he seems to overtake out of nowhere. Bottas after his mishaps at the start of the race was also starting to cut his way through the field. By lap 14 he had made his way past Antonio Giovanazzi’s Alfa Romeo into 18th.

Battles were unfolding up and down the grid and whilst it was short lived, one of the highlights was between two teammates. Alex Albon and Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat tried going around the outside of his teammate at turn 1, but Albon defended bravely. They then ran wheel to wheel all the way down to turn two and three. Finally at turn 4, Kvyat made the move stick on Albon. It was lovely to see two teammates getting so close together on the racetrack. Especially when they didn’t make any contact. I’m sure Gunther Steiner would have been wishing that his two drivers were battling like that.

Meanwhile, on lap 19 the pitstop window for those on mediums was starting to open. Some like George Russel and Stroll had already stopped. However, at the front, everyone was still out. Verstappen was struggling on his tyres which meant Hamilton could close the gap. And he closed it dramatically, taking 4 tenths out of Verstappen most laps. Verstappen needed to wait so that he could pit and stay out ahead of the Ferraris. By lap 26, he was able to stop and he did come out ahead of Leclerc. This meant Hamilton needed to find pace and try and close the gap to Verstappen. However, this was always going to be hard as Verstappen was on fresh tyres. Hamilton did his very best over multiple laps, but just couldn’t match Verstappen’s pace. So Hamilton stopped finally on lap 32. He came out 5 seconds behind Verstappen and we all thought that could be Hamilton’s chance out of the window. He was struggling a lot with the dirty air in the previous stint.

However, out of nowhere, Hamilton closed right in on Verstappen and started to put the Dutchman under pressure. However, he couldn’t stay right behind him for long and Hamilton had to back off. Once again, dirty air spoiling Mercedes’ plans. Verstappen defended bravely all the way from lap 35 until lap 49. He really showed his talent in this defence. While dirty air certainly helped out, he equally didn’t make any errors.

Lap 49 saw everything change however, Hamilton was able to stop without losing a position to Leclerc behind due to the Ferrari’s lack of pace. Hamilton put on fresh mediums, and it meant that he had to gain 20 seconds in as many laps over Verstappen. Red Bull couldn’t have stopped Verstappen due to the fact he’d come out behind Hamilton.

So at this point, Verstappen led but was in big trouble with Lewis Hamilton rapidly chasing him down. Charles Leclerc was 3rd with Vettel in 4th. However, a battle was about to unfold there. Vettel was on fresh softs and chasing down his teammate for the last place on the podium. Räikkönen was keeping up the good work for Alfa Romeo in 7th place. However, teammate Giovanazzi was down in 19th. Sadly, another tough race for Gio. Kvyat and Albon’s Toro Rossos were 10th and 11th respectively and the Haas cars of Grosjean and Magnussen were 14thg and 16th. Grosjean however would later retire, making it his 6th retirement of the year.

Meanwhile, up front, Hamilton was bringing the gap down to Verstappen at a rate of knots. He was setting lap record after lap record and, before we knew it, by lap 60 he was only 12 seconds off the lead. However, whilst gaining 8 seconds in 10 laps was a great effort, Hamilton now had to gain 12 seconds in 10 laps. However, Verstappen’s tyre situation was critical and his pace was really starting to drop off. Hamilton was gaining by 2 seconds a lap on Verstappen. Lap 67 of 70 and Hamilton made his move. Around the outside of turn 1. Verstappen had no defence.

That was the fight for the lead over, however third was still up for grabs. Vettel made  smooth dive up the inside of Leclerc at turn 1 and squeezed him out to claim his spot on the podium.

So Lewis Hamilton took a great win in Hungary, followed by Max Verstappen and then Vettel in 3rd. Leclerc was 4th with the McLaren of Carlos Sainz 5th. Räikkönen was 7t, putting in another solid performance for the Alfa Romeo team. In 10th Alex Albon also picked up a good finish for Toro Rosso. Haas once again struggled, with Magnussen in 12th and Grosjean’s retirement. Then Kvyat and Giovanazzi both had tough races, in 15th and 18th respectively.

So that’s it folks. F1 is finished for summer. We now have the long wait until September for the Belgian GP. I have to say, The racing this year has been spectacular. But sadly, Lewis Hamilton is running away with the championship. The summer break for Ferrari will not be a break as such. More a debrief and a plan to improve for the second half of the season.

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