Lewis Hamilton takes first victory for Mercedes at Hungarian Grand Prix

With his first win for Mercedes now under his belt, Lewis Hamilton has now emerged as a serious title contender, taking a commanding victory in Hungary.

After his pole position yesterday, the Brit remarked that it would be a “miracle” if he could cling onto the lead by Lap 2. He did more than that though, stretching out a lead to his rivals during the race, and eventually cruising to the chequered flag.

At the start, Lewis got a clean start, while Sebastian Vettel was pressurised by Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg. Romain was squeezed off the racing line by the Red Bull, while Nico swiftly went backwards – clipping Felipe Massa’s front wing at Turn 5, and falling to 12th place. Grosjean then firmly held off Fernando Alonso, almost shoving him off the road to hold his position.

Up front, Hamilton and Vettel toyed with the DRS zone, but the Mercedes’ straight-line speed was enough for now. Grosjean kept the pressure on Vettel in the opening laps, but couldn’t get close enough to make a move.

It was expected that Mercedes would be forced to pit first, and there were few surprises when Hamilton pitted on Lap 10. He emerged behind Jenson Button, who would turn out to play a massive role in the development of the Grand Prix. Not wanting to be held up by his former teammate, Lewis executed a pass on the McLaren the following lap – which probably won him the race.

Like the race leader, Vettel also emerged behind Button, who had started on the prime tyres. However, Sebastian’s poor straight-line speed was to cripple his chances for victory, as while Hamilton sped away up front, the Red Bull languished behind an increasingly lacklustre McLaren. The same fate befell Grosjean, and the two could only watch as Lewis pulled out a 10 second gap.

A tense battle began to form, with Grosjean stalking Vettel, who in turn was watching Button’s pace carefully. Sebastian pounced first – on Lap 23, he pulled a brave move on Button at the unlikely spot of turn 4. Grosjean was eager to also put a move on Jenson, but whacked his wheel off the McLaren’s in the process, earning him an investigation by the stewards. Fernando Alonso, who by now had caught up to this battle, swiftly passed Button one turn later to continue his charge.

With possible wheel damage, Romain pitted on Lap 25 to check for any issues. He emerged behind Felipe Massa, and wasted no time trying to pass the Ferrari. While he pulled a fantastic move around the outside of turn 4, he had put all 4 wheels off the track while doing so, and suddenly he was under investigation again.

A few laps later, the Lotus driver was handed a drive-through for the Massa incident, while the Button clash would be investigated after the race. This scuppered any chances of a race win, but handed the advantage to his teammate, who had executed a 2-stop strategy plan to perfection.

Amidst the tense battles between Vettel, Grosjean, Button and Massa, Raikkonen had quietly used a longer second stint to leap into second place. He wasn’t the only one either – Mark Webber started on primes, and despite not making a single notable pass all day, he had crept up to 5th place, after temporarily leading the race earlier.

Annoyed after losing so much time, Vettel was forced to chase Raikkonen for second. But there was more than a slight chuckle heard in the Lotus garage soon after, after Vettel pitted from his second stop, and emerged behind Button yet again. Luckily, Jenson pitted within 2 laps, but even more damage had been done to the Red Bull’s chances.

After Vettel’s third pit stop of the day, he was left with 15 laps to close the gap to Kimi. With the advantage of fresher tyres, he quickly caught the Lotus, but passing it was another matter. Another tense battle ensued, with Sebastian having a look almost every single lap, but not being able to complete the pass. He had one final shot with 2 laps to go, trying to go around the outside of Turn 4, but Raikkonen slammed the door in Vettel’s face. In Kimi’s mind, this was payback for Sebastian beating him to the line in Germany the race before.

While it was mostly plain sailing for Hamilton in the second half of the race, there was a huge scare with 6 laps to go. Nico Rosberg, who had never really recovered from his first-lap shenanigans, suffered an engine fire and retired from the race. Worried faces were aplenty on the pit wall, but Lewis was unfazed, and took the chequered flag for the first time in 2013.

Raikkonen took second, as he does every time Hamilton wins in Hungary. Vettel was disappointed with 3rd, while Fernando Alonso just didn’t have the pace to keep up with the leaders in 4th. Romain Grosjean put the Ferrari under pressure in the final stint, but was held back. A 20-second time penalty for hitting Button negated any gains he would have made anyways.

Webber was 6th, Button 7th, Massa 8th and half a minute behind his teammate, Perez 9th, while Pastor Maldonado took the first point for Williams this season, although he was helped by Rosberg’s late retirement. Nico Hulkenberg was handed a drive-through penalty for pit lane speeding, so he could only manage 11th. Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t convert a good qualifying position into a result, and finished 15th.

The championship battle is now more interesting than ever. While Vettel now has a slightly better lead over Raikkonen and Alonso, he now must deal with the threat of Hamilton and Mercedes in time. The question is, can Lewis recover the 48-point deficit in time?

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One response to “Lewis Hamilton takes first victory for Mercedes at Hungarian Grand Prix

  1. jc12oc July 29, 2013 at 19:15

    I think it may be too late for Lewis to go for the title but it is still great to see him winning again, proving he made the right move! To keep the championship interesting we need Vettel to have a DNF along with a couple of poor results, but I cannot see that happening!

    I have also published a post on the Hungary GP, feel free to check it out.

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