Hamilton storms to victory, Verstappen pips Bottas

Lewis Hamilton clinched his third consecutive win and eighth in total at the Hungaroring with an effortlessly dominating performance in the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix, putting him into the lead of the drivers world championship.

After going off on the way to the grid and damaging his car, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen nonetheless managed to hold on to second place despite being hunted down over the final laps by Valtteri Bottas, who had his own troubled start.

Lance Stroll confirmed Racing Point’s potential with fourth place ahead of Alexander Albon. However the Red Bull is under threat of a penalty – or even outright exclusion – in a post-race stewards investigation.

  • 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix – Race results

Hungary’s novel experiment with all-too familiar British summer-style weather had continued into Sunday. After showers just an hour earlier, the drivers found themselves heading out of pit lane on their way to the grid on a decidedly greasy track – and it badly caught out Max Verstappen, who slid off into the barriers at turn 12 leaving the Red Bull engineers scrambling to repair the damage in time for the race.

The rain had stopped well before the start and the sun was even attempting to break through the clouds overhead, meaning that the track had dried sufficiently for the cars to line up on intermediate tyres. Given that Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were on the front row of the grid, there were now very real concerns that Mercedes would romp away to victory from the Racing Points of Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez when the lights went out. While the start went to plan for Hamilton who immediately leapt away into the lead, it was anything but smooth sailing for Bottas who moved before the start, just stopped in time, only to be overwhelmed by the cars behind him when the race finally got underway.

It meant that Hamilton and Stroll were now in control of the proceedings, with Verstappen looking no worse for wear for his pre-race excursions and up to in third ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Behind them, teams were already starting to calling in their drivers to change to click tyres, with Bottas and Charles Leclerc among the first to respond and take on new sets of medium and soft tyres respectively.

Hamilton and Stroll were also in soon after with both opting for the medium compound, and on lap 5 Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo completed the impromptu series of early pit stops. The outcome saw Hamilton retain the lead by six seconds with Verstappen up to second, followed by the two Haas of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean who had both had the foresight to dive into pit lane before the start to make their own change to slicks. It meant that Stroll found himself down in fifth ahead of Leclerc and Bottas, with Vettel dropping to eighth place after losing time in his pit box when he was held up by traffic in pit lane. The top ten was rounded out by Alexander Albon and Sergio Perez.

While Bottas had escaped censure for a possible jump start, the news was less positive for Kimi Raikkonen who was given a five second penalty for being out of place on the grid. Nicholas Latifi was also on the wrong side of the stewards, similarly penalised for being released into the path of Carlos Sainz after his pit stop: the two cars made contact leaving the Williams with a puncture that saw him spin and limp home for another set of tyres, putting him a lap down. There was also a concern for Albon after reports that Red Bull had illegally dried his grid position using the leaf blowers intended to cool down his engine, which will be investigated after the race. And the situation was significantly worse still for Pierre Gasly: after a weekend already beset by technical problems, his troublesome AlphaTauri failed him again and he was forced to retire on lap 17 with smoke coming out of the engine bay.

More positively, Stroll had made progress and soon passed both of the Haas cars to climb to third place. Bottas also made short work of Magnussen and Grosjean to move up to fourth, but Leclerc hadn’t been able to stay with the Finn and remained mired in seventh – which he then promptly lost to a spirited attack from Albon. Vettel then also managed to force his way past his team mate for position, leaving Leclerc fighting for dear life to stave off Perez. His soft compound gambit had failed, and the Monegasque was now pleading with the team to be allowed to pit for a second time. He finally did on lap 21 and dropped to 15th after moving to the hard compound.

Ferrari had delayed the move in case a new batch of showers evident on the radar forced everyone back on to intermediates, but instead they clipped the track without bringing significant precipitation. However by lap 25, the majority of drivers including Hamilton, Verstappen and Stroll were all complaining about serious tyre degradation, while in the distance a whole new batch of inclement weather was brewing – leaving all the teams in a brand new quandary as to what to do. Vettel decided he couldn’t wait any longer and came in on lap 31, dropping him down to 12th but still three places ahead of his team mate who was having an epic battle to pass McLaren’s Lando Norris.

By lap 33, Hamilton’s lead was up to 17s with Verstappen holding a similar advantage over Stroll, who was less fortunate as he had Bottas breathing down his neck and in DRS range which soon took its toll with a reversal of positions for the pair. Magnussen was clinging on to fifth, but Albon was now right behind him having finally managed to pass Grosjean, albeit with the lightest of taps between the pair along the way. Perez and Ricciardo soon found their own way past the waning Haas which was down to ninth and struggling to stay ahead of Sainz – a battle Grosjean inevitably lost on lap 36.

With the latest threatened rain once again diverting away from hitting the circuit and opting to go shopping in downtown Budapest instead, teams started to roll their final strategic dice. Albon was the first of the leaders to pit for a concluding set of hard compound tyres, which was also the choice Verstappen a couple of laps later. Stroll pitted from third on lap 37 and opted for another set of mediums, which was also the choice of Hamilton and Bottas when they made their own stops in turn.

By lap 40, Hamilton’s lead had pulled out to 20s with Verstappen gradually slipping back into the clutches of Bottas. Stroll was running in a lonely fourth, with Ricciardo and Sainz yet to make their second stops and up to fifth and sixth as a result followed by Vettel, Albon, Magnussen and Perez. It meant that Leclerc was down to 11th and the last man currently on the lead lap, another sub-optimal showing from Ferrari. Leclerc was subsequently promoted back into the points when Sainz made his final pit stop at the end of lap 41, but Ricciardo was able to make his own stop on lap 45 and still remain ahead of the Ferrari.

Just when it was looking like he was well placed to strike at Verstappen, Bottas pitted again on lap 50. There was enough space for him to head back out without losing a position, but he was now a long way back from Verstappen meaning that Mercedes was relying on the Dutch driver having to pit again. Bottas immediately starting punching in fastest laps, but even catching at a rate of two seconds a lap it left him on a knife edge in terms of being able to catch the Red Bull in the time remaining.

After a few laps, the window on Verstappen making another stop was firmly closed. Meanwhile Hamilton was gazing covetously at Bottas’ hold on the extra point for fastest lap, and petitioning the Mercedes pit wall to make a ‘free’ extra stop to put him on soft compound tyres to give him a chance to have a go himself. He finally got his wish on lap 67, emerging in the lead ahead of Verstappen and Bottas but with his lead trimmed to five seconds by the manoeuvre.

Hamilton wasted no time in setting the fastest lap as well as securing the victory. Bottas meanwhile had a much bigger battle to claim second place, and ultimately he ran out of laps before he could pull it off leaving Verstappen narrowly ahead in second place at the line. It was almost 50 seconds before Stroll arrived to lay claim to fourth place ahead of Albon who was the last man on the lead lap at the chequered flag.

Vettel was sixth ahead of Perez and Ricciardo, while Magnussen had pulled out all the stops to convert that inspired pre-race pit stop to a points-paying ninth place ahead of Sainz. It left Leclerc empty handed in 11th followed by Daniil Kvyat, and there was no last lap banzai performance this week from Lando Norris who could only manage 13th.

Esteban Ocon finished in 14th followed by Grosjean and the two Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi. George Russell picked up 18th place while Latifi was last, having spun for a second time and ending up five laps off the leaders.

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