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Hamilton hot in Hungary

Hamilton hot in Hungary

FORMULA ONE: Lewis Hamilton cruised to a record-equalling eighth victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix yesterday (July 19) to take control of championship standings.

By Michael Lamonato

Monday 20 July 2020, 09:07AM

Hamilton dominated the race from start to finish and opened up a five point lead at the head of championship standings after his win. Photo: AFP

Hamilton dominated the race from start to finish and opened up a five point lead at the head of championship standings after his win. Photo: AFP

Hamilton was peerless all weekend in Budapest, setting a new track record to take his 90th career pole on Saturday and dominating the race yesterday.

His lead stretched to almost 30 seconds over the field before a late-race pit stop for fresh tyres to set the fastest lap, which he duly captured with a new lap record. The extra point took him to a five-point lead in the championship standings over teammate Valtteri Bottas.

It’s only the second time a driver has won eight races at the same circuit, with Michael Schumacher the only other driver to achieve the same, at France’s Magny-Cours in 2006.

“Honestly it was one of my favourite races to have raced,” he said. “While I was on my own for the race, it was a different kind of challenge. We had great pace … great pit stops, great strategy.

“Believe it or not I’m still pushing out there, obviously particularly for the fastest lap at the end.

“I want to say a huge congratulations to everyone back home at the factory, even more on the engine department - those guys have done such a fantastic job for developing and improving this year as whole.”

Max Verstappen finished second, but his podium finish came in dramatically different circumstances to Hamilton’s perfect weekend.

The Dutchman had been unhappy with his Red Bull Racing car from Friday, the RB16 badly balanced throughout the lap and the team unable to extract performance from its upgraded parts.

He qualified a disappointing seventh on the grid, and things got worse again before the race. With the circuit doused in rain, Verstappen crashed at turn 12 on his was out of pit lane to the grid, locking up his intermediate tyres and sliding into the barriers.

A broken front wing and suspension appeared sure to end his race before it had begun, but some quick work by his mechanics repaired the damage on the grid with only seconds to spare before the formation lap.

Immediately Verstappen paid them back for the work, leaping to third on the first lap and second after the early round of first pit stops when the field switched off their wet-weather tyres and onto slicks.

His car clearly wasn’t a match for Hamilton ahead, but with no challenger behind, he was able to cement an unlikely second place and second successive podium finish.

“I thought I was not going to race, so to be second is like a victory today!” Verstappen enthused. “It wasn’t how I wanted it in the beginning of course, ending up in the barriers, but the mechanics did an amazing job to fix the car - I don’t know how they did it, but incredible.

“To pay them back with the second place, I was very pleased for that.”

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Bottas seemed certain to take at least second place after Mercedes’s dominant qualifying performance on Saturday to lock out the front row, but his race was undone at light out with a poor start.

The Finn appeared to jump the start before going into anti-stall mode when he aborted — he later explained he mistakenly reacted to a light going off in his cockpit — and dropped to seventh on the first lap.

He had picked his way back up to third by half distance, and by lap 45 of 70 he was within a second of Verstappen in second when he made a third pit stop for fresh tyres to pressure the Dutchman to fall for the undercut trap.

But Verstappen stayed out, forcing Bottas to chase him down in a battle that went down to the wire. On the last lap they were separated by less than a second, but the Mercedes couldn’t find a way past and was forced to settle for third.

“It was pretty bad race, to be honest,” Bottas said. “Starting second, I aimed to win the race, but I lost it at the start.

“I was fighting til the end - I was very close with Max, but still good points.”

Lance Stroll finished fourth for Racing Point, one spot down from his starting grid spot, after picking his way through the busy first laps in slippery conditions.

Thai driver Alex Albon completed a strong recovery to fifth, up from 13th on the grid, in part with a sizzling start that promoted him to ninth.

However, his 10 points remain under threat of a post-race stewards investigation for his mechanics drying his grid spot before the race, which is outlawed under the regulations.

Sebastian Vettel finished sixth on a middling day for Ferrari, though the German fared better than teammate Charles Leclerc.

Both were running in the points early in the race, but a switch to the delicate soft tyres undid Leclerc’s race, forcing him into an early pit stop on lap 21 that dropped him permanently out of the points. He finished 11th.

Sergio Perez finished seventh in the sister Racing Point car ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

Kevin Magnussen finished ninth, clinging to two points after vaulting to as high as third on lap five as one of only two drivers to start on a dry-weather tyre, and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz rounded out the top 10.

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