Hungarian heaven for Hamilton in his first Mercedes win

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Lewis Hamilton has won the Hungarian Grand Prix following a brilliant display at the Hungaroring that saw him finish ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, claiming his first win for Mercedes and his fourth Hungarian Grand Prix victory.

Hamilton’s pace throughout the race was highly impressive, making his strategy work as Vettel – the pre-race favorite – got stuck behind Jenson Button for 12 laps and ended up losing a great deal of time to Hamilton before eventually falling behind Raikkonen during the final part of the race.

Off the start, Hamilton proved that he had learned from his mistake in Germany by holding the lead into turn one from Vettel and Grosjean, but the Lotus quickly came under pressure from Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari driver could not quite pass Grosjean after being forced wide, allowing Rosberg to attempt a pass. However, the Mercedes was touched by a fast-starting Felipe Massa, causing Rosberg to run off the track at turn five and drop down to 12th place. On the medium tire, Button and Webber both made good starts to try and get in the running with their alternative strategies but they could not match Hamilton’s pace out in front. The Briton began to open up a lead over Vettel as Grosjean quickly reeled in the Red Bull, although he could not quite pass using DRS. Just nine laps into the race though, Hamilton elected to pit for fresh tires, releasing Vettel and Grosjean at the front but Red Bull soon pitted Vettel in reaction to Mercedes’ tactic. As a result, Lotus had their drivers P1 and P2 with the plan being to two-stop as their rivals would have to pit one extra time. However, the high tire wear meant that both Grosjean and Raikkonen had to pit, handing Mark Webber the lead on the medium tire.

The race slowly began to move away from Vettel as he got stuck behind Jenson Button and unable to get past, allowing Romain Grosjean to catch him up and, more worryingly, Hamilton to open up a five second lead over the Red Bull. Knowing he had to find a way through, Vettel tried to pass Button on the inside of turn two but instead made contact with Button, causing damage to his front wing and allowing Grosjean and Alonso to close up as Button pulled away. After dropping back, Vettel drew Button back in and made a fine pass on the inside of turn four, with Grosjean making contact on his way past the McLaren. At the front though, Hamilton took the lead once Webber pitted and enjoyed a 13 second lead over Vettel, putting the Mercedes driver in the box seat to claim his fourth win in Hungary.

Lotus took the decision to pit Grosjean in order to get the undercut on Vettel, and the Frenchman pulled off a great overtake on Massa in order to stop himself from being held up. Hamilton soon followed the example of the Lotus, coming out ahead of Raikkonen to hand Vettel the lead once again. However, the Briton soon disposed of Webber and re-took the lead when Vettel and Alonso pitted, with Vettel re-emerging behind Jenson Button once again. This time though, Vettel soon passed the two-time Hungarian GP winner but the gap to Hamilton now stood at 15 seconds.

Romain Grosjean’s race soon took a turn for the worse after the stewards handed him a drive-through penalty for the pass on Massa after putting all four wheels outside of the white line, ending his chances of a maiden grand prix victory. His teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, put himself in a position to two-stop following a long run during his second stint. Mark Webber had also been pushing hard to make his strategy work, coming back out in P3 after his second stop, and he was ahead of Hamilton when the race leader made his final pit stop. However, Hamilton made a brave move on the inside of turn three to re-take second place, now just 7 seconds behind Vettel who still had one more stop to make. The German driver looked to open up the gap to Hamilton, but he was soon forced to pit and dropped to 4th behind Hamilton, Webber and Raikkonen.

Vettel quickly set about catching Raikkonen and began to pressurize him for 2nd place once Webber had pitted for the final time. Mercedes gave Hamilton the call to cool his engine, with the 11 second cushion to Raikkonen allowing him to ease off in the final ten laps of the race. Vettel was forced to back off from Raikkonen in order to cool his car down, but he then began to push once again and was on the rear wing of the Lotus with just five laps remaining.

Mercedes’ near-perfect afternoon took a turn for the worse when Nico Rosberg pulled over at turn four following a sizeable engine failure, causing the engineers to become concerned about the condition of Hamilton’s car. This did elevate Maldonado into the top ten, handing Williams their first point of the season come the checkered flag. Vettel once again closed on Raikkonen, complaining when he wasn’t given enough room to make a pass on the Lotus, and the defending world champion could not find a way past on the last lap. Out in front though, Hamilton managed to keep it on-track to take his first win for Mercedes since joining the team and his fourth in Hungary crossing the line ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel, Webber and Alonso.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.