Image: Lewis Hamilton

By Nicola Kenton

  • Lewis Hamilton won his fifth race of the 2018 as he held onto a comfortable victory in Hungary
  • Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen finished the race in second and third place
  • The Brit now has a 24-point lead in the drivers’ championship, as F1 has a four week summer break
MOGYOROD, HUNGARY – Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in the drivers’ championship to 24 points with a comfortable victory at the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix.

 

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Comfortable victory for Hamilton in Hungary

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This weekend was not meant to be easy for Mercedes. Ferrari have the fastest car and the circuit suited Red Bull but once again it was Lewis Hamilton in his silver arrow who came out on top. The wet weather during qualifying played into the Brit’s hands, as he put his car on pole position while team-mate Valtteri Bottas joined him on the front row.

Sunday saw Hamilton complete a comfortable victory – his sixth at the Hungaroring. The Brit began the race on the ultrasoft tyres and was able to extend his stint to 24 laps. After Sebastian Vettel had pitted, Hamilton returned to the lead and never relinquished it. By the end of the Grand Prix, the four-time World Champion had a 17 second lead over Vettel – his most dominant winning margin since Barcelona.

Last year, Vettel went into the summer break with a championship lead over Hamilton but this year the tables have turned. The Brit has a 24 point lead over the German, while Mercedes have a ten point lead over Ferrari in the constructors’ championship. The Brackley based Mercedes are usually very strong in the latter stages of a season and Hamilton will be hoping this continues when the racing returns.

 

Bottas’ disappointing end to the race

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It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for Valtteri Bottas at the Hungarian Grand Prix. During the wet qualifying on Saturday, the Finn performed extremely well to secure second position and guarantee Mercedes a front-row lockout. However, within five laps on Sunday the Finn had already dropped to 3.5 seconds behind his team-mate.

Kimi Räikkönen pitted quite early from fourth place and Bottas followed his fellow countryman in to the pits to avoid the undercut. This worked well with Bottas coming out in front but also later on, as when Vettel stopped for new tyres he emerged behind the Mercedes driver and was unable to pass him for a number of laps. When Räikkönen pitted for the second time, Bottas stayed out on track with his role to fend off Vettel for as long as possible.

Bottas managed to keep Vettel at bay until the final few laps when the Finn began to run out of rubber. The German managed to get ahead but the two came into contact at the second corner when Bottas drove on the grass, locked his tyres and was unable to control  the car. A few laps later the Finn clashed with Daniel Ricciardo and was given a ten-second penalty and two penalty points. Bottas managed to hold onto fifth place, despite damage to his car from both incidents, but will want a better performance when returns from the summer break.

 

Ferrari need to keep up in the development race

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It was not the Grand Prix that Ferrari were hoping for this weekend. The Prancing Horse is the fastest car on track, something which Mercedes have admitted, and this showed during the practice sessions when Vettel topped the timing boards in FP2 and FP3. However, in a weather effected qualifying the Ferrari pair could not get in front of the Mercedes duo and had to settle for third and fourth.

Ferrari used different strategies during the race with Vettel starting the Hungarian Grand Prix on the soft compound tyre while most of his rivals were on the ultrasoft. The two Finns pitted first leaving Hamilton and Vettel out on track, the Brit eventually pitted on lap 24 leaving Vettel in the lead. It was another 15 laps until the German stopped for new tyres and as a result of traffic, plus his rivals being on fresher rubber meant that he returned in third position. Vettel managed to get past Bottas, even though some contact was made but could not close the gap to Hamilton. The Brit finished seventeen seconds clear of his championship rival

The four-time World Champion told BBC Sport, “We know if it is like this consistency is the key, scoring points. I did not do myself a favour last week but it is part of racing, so stuff happens. Last year, we lost the championship because our car was not quick enough to be a match in the final part of the season, despite what happened with the DNFs. I think this year showed so far our car is more efficient and stronger and still has a lot of potential to unleash. So I am quite confident with what is sitting in the pipeline we can improve and it should be an exciting second half of the year.”

 

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Reliability issues for Red Bull again

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Another weekend and another engine issue for Red Bull Racing. Earlier this season, the team made the decision to switch to Honda from next year and they will be hoping that this season can finish sooner rather than later.

Max Verstappen had to retire in the opening laps of the Hungarian Grand Prix due to an engine failure and the Dutchman did not hold back on his feelings. The radio transmission of the Red Bull driver, who was trying to reset his engine before being informed to retire, was broadcast and featured many expletives. Verstappen has since apologised for his outburst.

The Hungaroring is usually a circuit where Red Bull thrive and can capitalise on a big points finish because the track is not power-dominated. However, with Verstappen’s retirement from the race it was a disappointing final Grand Prix before the summer. Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth place and the team sit third in the constructors’ championship.

Team Principal Christian Horner was scathing about Renault’s engines. He told BBC Sport, “We pay multi-millions of pounds for these engines and for first class, or state-of-the-art products, and you can see it’s quite clearly some way below that. I’ll let Cyril [Abiteboul, Renault’s team boss] come up with the excuses afterwards.”

 

Force India’s future under doubt

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Before qualifying on Saturday morning, it had been announced that Force India were put into administration by the High Court the previous evening. The team are currently being looked at by potential buyers including two consortiums. On Saturday, driver Sergio Perez confirmed that he had begun the administration proceedings.

The Mexican told BBC Sport, “The team asked me to do it. Otherwise, it would have been very bad. “It was very tricky and difficult. Every day really counted and I was told to help the team, to secure those jobs and that is the main reason behind it. It was a very difficult decision for me because I am in the middle of it, but the picture will look bigger in the near future. The bottom line is that we did it, or the team goes bust. Emotionally and mentally it has been really tough. I haven’t been able to focus on being a racing driver.”

Perez has been a driver at Force India since 2014 and brought sponsors to the team with him. However, he has not been paid his retainer and therefore wanted to try and save the team by taking them to court. In 2016 and 2017 the Silverstone based team finished as ‘the best of the rest’ by claiming fourth place in the constructors’ championship.

Force India have had a slow start to the 2018 season but have worked their way up the constructors’ table to joint fifth before this weekend. The off-track problems potentially impacted the team’s result as Perez and Esteban Ocon finished outside of the points and the team slipped to sixth in the championship. The summer break provides an opportunity for some of the issues to be resolved and for the team to restart their championship campaign at the end of August.

Formula One now takes a four week summer break and returns at the end of August with back-to-back races. First up is the Belgian Grand Prix on August 24th-26th followed by the Italian Grand Prix on August 31st – September 2nd.

 

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