Hamilton dominates Hungarian GP to take F1 championship lead

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Lewis Hamilton moved into the lead of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship for the first time in 2016 after dominating Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix and picking up his fifth win in six races.

Hamilton started second at the Hungaroring, but never looked back after passing Mercedes teammate and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg into the first corner, leading all but two laps en route to victory.

Despite expecting to face a challenge from Red Bull and Ferrari in Hungary, Mercedes eased clear at the front of the pack to easily score a one-two finish.

The margins between Hamilton and Rosberg were fine in the closing stages, but the Briton did enough to take a record-breaking fifth victory in Hungary, pulling clear of Michael Schumacher in the record books.

Off the line, Hamilton made a slightly better start than Rosberg to dive down the inside at the first corner and seize the lead of the race. Rosberg dropped back to third behind Daniel Ricciardo after the Australian swooped around the outside at Turn 1, but reclaimed the position at the next corner to sit second behind Hamilton at the end of the first lap.

Rosberg tried to stick with Hamilton through the first stint of the race on the super-soft tire, but struggled to match his teammate’s pace. By the time the first round of pit stops came around, Rosberg trailed his teammate by 2.5 seconds, but was able to cut the gap by pitting one lap earlier and getting the undercut, drawing to within a second of Hamilton.

In the battle just behind, Ricciardo managed to retain third despite coming under pressure from Sebastian Vettel after both made their first stop. Max Verstappen had been running fourth behind Ricciardo before pitting, but lost a place to Vettel on the undercut. The Dutchman emerged from the pits stuck behind the prime-shod Raikkonen, causing him to lose more ground on the other Ferrari.

Not long into the second stint, Hamilton reported over the team radio that he was “struggling for pace” as Rosberg drew nearer at the front. Third-placed Ricciardo was given the hurry-up by Red Bull as he lapped almost one second quicker than the Mercedes drivers, allowing him to work the gap down to just over five seconds.

With Ricciardo catching and traffic also hindering Hamilton and Rosberg, the Mercedes pit wall was eager to respond. Hamilton was given the hurry up, being told that unless he went quicker, Rosberg would be given precedence at the next pit stop for fear of putting the win in jeopardy. Hamilton duly responded by going fastest, with Rosberg following suit.

Red Bull looked to pounce on the concern at Mercedes by bringing Ricciardo in for his second and final stop on lap 33. The Australian made the switch to the soft tire, hoping to get the undercut on Rosberg. Mercedes did not respond as it looked to drop Rosberg into clean air, its cause being aided by Ricciardo hitting traffic while trying to go a lap up. Once Verstappen had pitted from P4 and Ricciardo’s fresh tires began to lose their initial perkiness, a gap was clear for Mercedes.

Satisfied that Hamilton had upped his pace, Mercedes brought the race leader in first at the end of lap 41. The Briton emerged on a fresh set of softs well clear of Ricciardo, with Rosberg following suit one lap later. The Mercedes drivers were back running first and second, meaning Red Bull’s undercut had failed.

Hamilton’s lead over Rosberg looked comfortable heading into the final stint, only for Esteban Gutierrez to play a part in wiping away his lead. With less than 20 laps to go, Hamilton’s advantage over Rosberg stood at just under two seconds, but when Gutierrez failed to get out of the way in the final sector, the gap fell to just six-tenths. Hamilton gave Gutierrez a wave when passing, with the stewards then handing the Haas driver a five-second time penalty.

Hamilton reacted well to the increased pressure from Rosberg, opening the gap back up again. Traffic caused Rosberg to drop back further, cooling his hopes of a breakthrough victory in Hungary.

The result was that Hamilton could manage his pace through the closing stages of the race, before crossing the line to score his fifth victory in six races despite suffering a scare when he ran wide with eight laps remaining. The victory was Hamilton’s fifth in Hungary, taking him into the lead of the drivers’ championship for the first time in 2016.

Rosberg was forced to settle for second, two seconds behind, leaving him with a six-point deficit heading to his home grand prix in Germany next weekend.

Ricciardo faded in the final stint after his early second stop, causing him to drop into the clutches of Vettel in the final few laps. However, the Red Bull driver did enough to hold on and complete the podium, with Vettel finishing narrowly behind in fourth place.

The battle for fifth went down to the wire as Spanish GP adversaries Verstappen and Raikkonen renewed their fight. Raikkonen got close heading into Turn 2 before clipping the rear of the Red Bull, sustaining front-wing damage in the process. Raikkonen was able to continue, remaining latched to Verstappen’s gearbox through the closing stages, but was left to settle for sixth at the line behind the Dutchman.

Fernando Alonso was McLaren’s sole point-scorer in seventh, while compatriot Carlos Sainz Jr. followed in eighth for Toro Rosso. Valtteri Bottas had a quiet race en route to ninth for Williams, while Nico Hulkenberg crossed the line 10th to score the final point for Force India.

Sergio Perez was left disgruntled in P11 after the Force India crew was not ready for his final pit stop, costing him a chunk of time. Esteban Gutierrez crossed the line 12th, but dropped to 13th due to his time penalty. Haas teammate Romain Grosjean was P14 ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat, while the Brazilian pair of Felipe Nasr and Felipe Massa had quiet races in 17th and 18th.

Pascal Wehrlein ended up 19th despite making a stunning start for Manor, finishing ahead of Marcus Ericsson and Rio Haryanto.

The contentious rule restricting radio communications came into play once again when Jenson Button was handed a drive-through penalty for an “unauthorized radio message”. Button reported an issue with his brake pedal and was told not to shift gear on his car – the same message Rosberg was penalized for at Silverstone.

Although the problem resolved itself, Button was forced to come into the pits and take his penalty, much to his chagrin. “So the brake pedal going to the floor isn’t classed as a safety issue?” Button asked his team over the radio. “That’s quite interesting. I think someone needs to read up on what is a safety issue and what isn’t.” Button was the only driver to retire in Hungary, parking up with nine laps remaining.