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.

New schedule has Josef Newgarden seeing double (points) again in 2020

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Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske believes the latest revised schedule for 2020 will change his approach to the season.

The new schedule has the defending IndyCar champion looking at ways to double the possibilities for a second consecutive championship.

“When I look at the whole schedule they released now, I look at it as double-points as a whole in all of them,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com Monday. “Iowa is double points on a short oval. There are double points at the Indy GP because there are two races and a road course. Then double points at Laguna, which is a different road course than IMS. And there is double points in the Indianapolis 500.”

IndyCar announced to team owners two weeks ago that the season finale (once scheduled for Laguna Seca and now at St. Petersburg) will no longer be a double-points event. But Monday’s schedule revision essentially adds three double points-style races to the Indy 500’s double-points format, Newgarden said.

“Those are four events where you have to be quite strong,” Newgarden said. “They are all very different from each other. Each one is critical to get right. Iowa has a chance to be the most difficult. From a physical standpoint, it’s already a physical track for one race. To double it up on one weekend will be quite the toll for the drivers.

“It will be a very big test physically to see who will get that weekend right. You can bag a lot of points because of it.”

Just 12 days after the first schedule revision, IndyCar officials announced another revised schedule Monday because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The new schedule features doubleheader weekends at Iowa Speedway in July and Laguna Seca in September. There is an additional race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Oct. 3.

That race will be known as the IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix. It will be the second time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history that an IndyCar race is held in the fall. The only other time was the Harvest Auto Racing Classic, a series of three races won by Johnny Aitken on Sept. 9, 1916.

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix scheduled for May 30-31 will be dropped from the 2020 schedule. Michigan has a “Stay at Home” order that won’t be lifted in time to start construction of the Belle Isle street course.

Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles said the Detroit event will return in 2021.

The IMS road course essentially will have a doubleheader spaced out by nearly three months. The first race will be the GMR IndyCar Grand Prix on July 4, and the second will be Oct. 3 in the Harvest Grand Prix.

The extra doubleheaders combined with the loss of Detroit gives IndyCar a 15-race schedule for 2020. It started out as a 17-race campaign, but April’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the Acura Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the AutoNation IndyCar Classic at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) have been canceled. The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being revived as the season finale on a TBA weekend in October.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Newgarden also is excited about the chance to run at Indianapolis for three major races in one season. Of course, that all depends on how soon IndyCar can return to action because of the global pandemic.

“I’m continually excited about the thought of getting back to the race track,” Newgarden said. “We would love to be there now, but we can’t. With the current situation, everyone is trying to do the best they can to pitch in and do their part so we can get back to the track as quickly as possible.

“I’m excited to get back to racing at some point in the future. To see that is planned to start at Texas is still great. IndyCar has done a great job staying active and fluid with the ever-changing dynamics and current situation.

“We have three opportunities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There are a lot of chances to get it right at the Mecca of our sport.

“I have a lot of trust and faith in IndyCar and Roger, and they are doing their best to stay on top of the situation.”

The one downer to the revised schedule is the loss of the Detroit doubleheader, a very important weekend to Team Penske because Roger Penske also owns the Detroit race. It’s a chance to showcase the series in front of as “Motor City” crowd, which is also the home to the Penske Corp.

“It’s a shame that we miss any event this year,” Newgarden said. “As a racer, you look forward to each one of them. If any of them drop off, it’s a tough pill. Detroit is more so because it is such an important race for us at Team Penske. It’s in our backyard for Penske Corp. Also, our relationship with Chevrolet, how much they put I that event and try to get it right for everybody involved. It’s tough to not have a go at that this year.

“I think of the volunteers. The Detroit weekend is so well run and executed with such a positive momentum behind it for the last eight years that I’ve gone there. I’ve always enjoyed that weekend off the back of the Indy 500.

“It’s a shame we will miss that this year, but I look forward to getting back there in 2021 and getting it started again.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500