This was it. The final Formula One weekend before the teams and drivers head off for summer break. Around the many corners of the Hungaroring, the circus put on a fitting show; a bookend to the first half of the season.
Lewis Hamilton defied the odds of 2018 to bring home another win for Brackley in the W09. Commanding the race from the beginning, it was a return to form for Hamilton. With it, the Brit extends his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel by 24 points — 213 to 189.
It’s interesting to note there are a few things working against Hamilton here. The last time he headed into the summer break with a winning streak, he lost the title by season’s end. Moreover, none of his championship wins have come from the same year of winning in Hungary.
Sebastian Vettel secured second for Ferrari, despite late race contact with Valtteri Bottas. Kimi Raikkonen slipped into third in the second Ferrari. The Finn’s podium was his ninth in Hungary, a record for the venue despite only winning here once in 2005.
Off the line, Hamilton got off to a fantastic start to maintain his position. In fact, all four of the front-runners started things with nary a scratch through the first corner. Heading into Turn 2, Vettel was able to make the move on his teammate for third.
At the same time, Carlos Sainz in the Renault, got off on the right foot from fifth. He also challenged for fourth but fell into the clutches of Max Verstappen through Turn 1. The Dutchman lunged down the inside of Sainz, snatching fifth. As a result, the Spaniard fell down the order to eighth.
By the end of the first lap, the order was Hamiton, Bottas, and Vettel. The Brit, making a run of things, had already built a one second cushion between his teammate in second. While Verstappen looked to be a major threat for the drinks team, his day would be short-lived.
On lap 6, the Red Bull driver complained of no power. Dejected, he pulled off to the side through Turn 8, prompting the Virtual Safety Car. The second retiree at this point, Verstappen joined Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, who retired on the second lap with a mechanical issue.
Raikkonen was the first to pit on lap 15 for a change to soft tires. The slow stop, thanks to trouble with the left-rear tire, saw him rejoin the race in sixth. Bottas was quick to react, coming in the following lap for new tires as well. Bottas resumed the race in fourth behind Vettel and Toro Rossos’ Pierre Gasly.
Those in the top three were now Hamilton, Vettel, and Gasly. On lap 18, Bottas would retake the final spot on the would-be podium from the Toro Rosso, more than 25 seconds behind Hamilton. The leading Silver Arrow pitted on lap 25 for fresh rubber. With only Vettel to contend with, Hamilton would come out in second and well ahead of Bottas.
At this point, Vettel had assumed the race lead thanks to a long stint. It all fell to the wayside however, before the German would eventually come in for service on lap 39. Traffic knocked a decent amount of time off of his leading pace, and a slow stop didn’t help matters. With Hamilton in the lead, it wouldn’t be until lap 65 where Vettel would make a decisive move. It was here that the frenzied race finale would play its part.
What looked to be a Mercedes 1-2 fell apart in the final moments of the race. With six laps remaining, Vettel was able to overtake Bottas heading into Turn 1. Looking to retake the position, Bottas locked up and clipped Vettel’s car heading into Turn 2.
While Vettel was able to continue, Bottas fell down to fourth with a damaged front wing. With Raikkonen behind his teammate, he too slotted past Bottas following the incident.
On lap 68, the ailing Mercedes would soon come under threat from a charging Bull. Daniel Ricciardo sought to have a go at the Silver Arrow on the main straight. Heading into Turn 1 the Red Bull had the advantage, but thanks to a lack of front grip on the Mercedes, the two touched. With Race Control taking note of both incidents, the team hopped on the radio and instructed Bottas to give the position back to Ricciardo.
The Bull overtook the Silver Arrow through Turn 1 on the final lap. It was an impressive result for the Honey Badger, who began the race from 12th. While a 10s penalty would follow Bottas for his late race bad luck, it was in fifth he would remain.
While not on the podium, Gasly crossed the line in sixth for Toro Rosso. Kevin Magnussen finished in seventh for Haas, the first time he’s scored points in Hungary. Behind him is the McLaren of Fernando Alonso in eighth — a welcome result for the Spaniard celebrating his 37th birthday.
It’s a shame then that teammate Stoffel Vandoorne couldn’t make it a double-points finish. The Belgian retired from ninth with a gearbox issue on lap 51. Carlos Sainz and Haas’ Romain Grosjean round out the top 10. Sainz, who finished in ninth, has brought home points in the last three outings around the Hungaroring.
Grosjean ended the first half of the season on a high note for Haas. With his tenth place finish, it’s the second time in 2018 both cars have finished in the top 10. It will be interesting to see how the team fairs in the next race.
Next on the docket is the Belgian Grand Prix at the fan favorite Spa-Francorchamps. Before then, a two-day post-race test in Hungary is all that stands between the teams and the summer break. The circus returns on August 24.