Lewis Hamilton drove an imperious race to take his first victory with Mercedes GP at the Hungarian Grand Prix, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.
It is his 22nd career win – matching Damon Hill – and a record equalling fourth at the Hungaroring.
It was an entertaining race from start to finish, with an action packed opening lap and a tense duel at the end for second place between Vettel and Raikkonen. Vettel, on much fresher tyres, made a move on Raikkonen in the closing stage but the Finn rebuffed him, firmly and fairly.
Vettel complained on the radio at the time, but afterwards accepted that there was nothing to complain about,
“I told him – but he only laughed!” said Vettel. “In the heat of the moment it was quite tight going into there. I nearly lost the car but that is racing.”
Raikkonen looked disappointed with the result, but this was more due to a difficult qualifying session, which meant he started in sixth place. Had he qualified where Grosjean did in third, he felt a challenge for the win was possible.
“I knew that my tyres were OK and good through the last sector so was pretty sure there was no chance to overtake me into first corner,” said Raikkonen, of the Vettel incident.
“But Turn 2 was a bit more tricky for me all race. He got a run once before and the second time I defended and then moved right. It was a bit tight but I kept him behind.”
Hamilton’s first victory for Mercedes could not have come in a more faultless manner. And the fact that Mercedes has now managed to win a race in intense heat, as well as on a high loading circuit like Silverstone indicates that they can master their tyre management and thus can be competitive anywhere. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said after the race that his team was taking the challenge from Mercedes very seriously indeed.
There were many strategies at work, but all required the drivers to deal with traffic and it was here that Hamilton excelled; getting himself quickly into clear air to make the most of the new tyres and to keep the temperatures under control.
As his rivals, especially Vettel, found themselves dropped into traffic following their pit-stops and struggled to pass, Hamilton was able to make quick work of the slower cars and allow himself a comfortable advantage throughout the Grand Prix.
Starting from pole, the first glimpse of race victory came following the first set of stops, when Hamilton pitted two laps earlier than Vettel and was able to dispose of a longer running Jenson Button. Vettel could not find a way through with such ease and lost even more time after hitting the back of the McLaren on lap seventeen.
The Red Bull was eventually able to make its way past Button on lap twenty-four as the Briton’s degrading tyres could not keep the train that had now formed behind, including Romain Grosjean and Fernando Alonso.
After pressuring Vettel for second place in the opening phase of the race, Grosjean came under investigation for gaining advantage from leaving the track in two incidents and was handed a drive-through penalty after being deemed to pass Felipe Massa outside of the track limits. This seemed pretty harsh as his move on Massa was the kind of bold move around the outside in a high speed curve which used to be celebrated in the days of Mansell and Senna.
His first incident came prior to that; colliding with Button at the turn six chicane. This incident is to be investigated after the race but could see the Frenchman with a grid penalty heading to Spa, a circuit which is infamous for him last year.
Grosjean came home in sixth place where a fourth place finish or better had been on the cards.
At the front, Hamilton’s ruthless overtaking maneuvers were critical to his victory today. A DRS-pass on Button in to turn one was bettered by an outside pass on Webber around turn three.
When in clear air, he managed his car temperatures and his tyres to maintain an eleven second lead and lift his and Mercedes’ Championship hopes in a much stronger position. He is now within fourteen points of Raikkonen in second place, and sees his team extend their second place lead over Ferrari to twelve points in the Constructors’ Championship.
Red Bull remain clear at the top of the standings with a seventy-one point lead.
That points lead was helped greatly by a strong drive from Mark Webber. Starting in tenth place, the Australian found himself in seventh in the opening laps and brought himself in to contention as he started on the medium tyre.
As the first set of stops were made, Webber took the race lead and was able to have a clear run for the majority of the GP. The level of traffic for Grosjean and Alonso allowed him to make a late stop for the soft tyre and bring the car home in fourth place.
Alonso and Grosjean completed the top six, and will have differing opinions on today’s race. Alonso made the best of the equipment he has at hand to maintain his third place in the Drivers’ Championship, but he didn’t have the pace once again and the Ferrari is now clearly the fourth fastest car.
His team’s inability to match the Red Bull, Lotus and Mercedes race pace will put them under pressure heading in to the second half of the season.
Button, in seventh, and Sergio Perez in ninth were split by the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa. McLaren had improved race pace, but are still some way off where they expect to be. Their points haul today sees them close to within two points of Force India, who had a forgettable race.
Both Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta ended the race in the pits after technical failures.
Nico Rosberg also had a difficult day and saw his race come to an end in the closing laps with an engine blow. This handed Pastor Maldonado tenth place and Williams their first point of 2013.
HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX, Budapest, Race, 70 Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 70 laps 1hr 32m 09.143s
2. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus +00m 10.9s
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +00m 12.4s
4. Mark Webber Red Bull +00m 18.0s
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +00m 31.4s
6. Romain Grosjean Lotus +00m 32.2s
7. Jenson Button McLaren +00m 53.8s
8. Felipe Massa Ferrari +00m 56.4s
9. Sergio Perez McLaren +1 lap
10. Pastor Maldonado Williams +1 lap
11. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber +1 lap
12. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +1 lap
13. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso +1 lap
14. Giedo van der Garde Caterham +2 laps
15. Charles Pic Caterham +2 laps
16. Jules Bianchi Marussia +3 laps
17. Max Chilton Marussia +3 laps
Rtd Paul di Resta Force India
Rtd Nico Rosberg Mercedes
Rtd Valtteri Bottas Williams
Rtd Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
Rtd Adrian Sutil Force India