Sebastian Vettel extended his Formula 1 drivers’ championship lead with a hard-fought victory in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, nursing a handling issue through the majority of the race to lead Ferrari to a one-two finish.
Vettel fended off a stiff challenge from Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen and championship rival Lewis Hamilton through the closing stages to take his fourth win of the season, snapping a two-month victory drought for the Italian marque.
However, it was not without contention as Raikkonen was left frustrated by Ferrari’s tactics, having felt he had the pace to pass Vettel and take his first win since Australia 2013.
Vettel made a clean start from pole to retain his lead from Raikkonen despite the Finn’s advances around the outside of Turn 1, while Hamilton slipped back into the clutches of the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
As the pair jostled for position, a lock-up for Verstappen caused him to run straight into Ricciardo, putting the Australian into a spin and out of the race. Ricciardo vented his frustration over team radio, saying: “If that’s who I think it was…” Verstappen was quickly hit with a 10-second time penalty for his involvement in the clash.
Vettel and Raikkonen were able to perfect the restart on Lap 6 to pull away from the chasing pack, quickly forging a healthy advantage over Valtteri Bottas, who ran third for Mercedes ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton through the early part of the race.
Vettel was able to retain his advantage over Raikkonen through to the first round of pit stops, albeit with a reduce gap when the German was hit with a minor steering issue, causing his pace to drop marginally.
Mercedes moved to put pressure on Ferrari at the front by pitting Bottas early in a bid to get the undercut, the Finn swapping to the soft compound tire at the end of Lap 30.
Ferrari waited two laps before bringing Vettel in from the lead of the race in order to curb the threat from Bottas, with Raikkonen coming in soon after. Raikkonen was able to cut the gap to Vettel marginally through the stop, but now had Bottas less than four seconds behind, Ferrari’s position was far from secure.
Bottas and Hamilton began to make serious inroads on Vettel and Raikkonen as the former’s handling problems continued, with five seconds covering the quarter as the race passed half-distance. Vettel was told to avoiding heavy kerbing in order to avoid making the issue worse, leaving Raikkonen frustrated all-the-while as his mirrors became filled with the silver cars.
Hamilton began to up his pace, telling the Mercedes pit wall that he needed the opportunity to try and catch the Ferraris at the front of the pack. The Briton was waved past Bottas in third, agreeing he would let his teammate re-take the position if he couldn’t pass the Ferraris ahead.
Hamilton wasted little time in catching Raikkonen, crawling all over the rear of the Ferrari. Raikkonen was left to play rear-gunner for Vettel, who was still unable to escape as he stayed off all of the kerbs in order to avoid making the problem worse.
Raikkonen told Ferrari that he felt uncomfortable holding station and not making an effort to try and catch Vettel, prompting the Finn to up his pace and get to within DRS range of Vettel. Hamilton was able to tag along, setting up a close chase between the trio heading into the final 15 laps.
Hamilton’s car soon began to overheat while running in Raikkonen’s dirty air, prompting him to drop back on multipe occasions before closing once again. As the laps ticked down, Vettel was able to slowly up his pace and open up a gap to Raikkonen, creating some breathing room.
Vettel ultimately crossed the line nine-tenths of a second clear of Ferrari to extend his championship lead and enter the summer break on a high, heading up a one-two finish for the Prancing Horse.
Despite taking his penalty during his pit stop, Verstappen was able to close up on Bottas through the closing stages, putting pressure on Mercedes as it considered swapping positions back.
Hamilton honored the deal and let Bottas past at the line, giving the Finn third place. Hamilton edged just three-tenths ahead of Verstappen in fourth. The points gap stands at 14 points heading into the summer break.
McLaren charged to its best result of the year as Fernando Alonso defeated Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. in a close battle to finish sixth, with teammate Stoffel Vandoorne picking up his first point of the year in P10. The result lifts McLaren to ninth in the constructors’ championship ahead of Sauber.
Force India continued its solid season by taking another double-points finish with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon in P8 and P9, capitalizing on a no-score for Williams.
Kevin Magnussen narrowly missed out on points for Haas, finishing 11th, while teammate Romain Grosjean retired early after being released from the pits in an unsafe manner.
Daniil Kvyat took P12 for Toro Rosso ahead of Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, while Lance Stroll was 14th for Williams ahead of the Sauber pair of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.
Nico Hulkenberg retired late on for Renault, as did Paul di Resta, whose F1 comeback saw him be forced to park it in the garage with 10 laps remaining.
F1 now embarks on its summer break, returning with the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August.
HUNGARIAN GP RACE RESULT