Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a peerless run to his eighth Hungarian Grand Prix victory, winning out over the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, as he tied with Michael Schumacher’s record for most number of wins at a single venue.
Starting from pole, Hamilton quickly surged into a comfortable lead in the early laps, before managing his pace over his rivals in the encounter at the Hungaroring, eventually taking the flag 8.7s ahead of Verstappen to seal his third win in a row at this race.
Verstappen himself overcame a poor qualifying that saw him start P7, and then an embarrassing crash into the Turn 12 wall on his lap to the grid that required some urgent repairs, to claim P2, the Dutchman holding off an attack by third place Valtteri Bottas in the final stages of the race.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll couldn’t convert his P3 grid position into the team’s first podium of the year as he came home a distant fourth. A late pass from Red Bull’s Alex Albon on the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel gave Albon – who started 13th – P5, although Red Bull were summoned to the stewards after the race for allegedly drying Albon’s grid spot ahead of the race start.
Vettel held off the second Racing Point of Sergio Perez in the final laps of the race, as the Mexican finished seventh, having started fourth, while Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo made a monster 42-lap stint on mediums work to take eighth.
With the track greasy ahead of the race start but the rain having stopped falling, an inspired strategy from Haas helped Kevin Magnussen take the team’s first points of the year, with Magnussen and Romain Grosjean pitting for slicks at the end of the formation lap as their rivals started on intermediates on the drying track, with the Dane eventually taking P9 after a fine race.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz rounded out the top 10, thanks to a late-race pass on the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, who ended up 11th.
Rain had fallen over the Hungaroring in the hours leading up the race. And though that rain had abated in the minutes leading up to the race start, it left behind a treacherously slippery track. Max Verstappen found that out the hard way, as he slipped off the circuit and into the Turn 12 barriers – as he was making his way round to the grid.
It certainly wasn’t the Dutchman’s finest hour, but some smart work by his mechanics meant Verstappen was able to take the start with no grid penalties. Eighteen of the 20 drivers then began the race on intermediate tyres, but the two Haas cars cleverly boxed at the end of the formation lap to take on medium compound slicks having spotted that the track was drying. A smart move as it would turn out.
Off the line, polesitter Hamilton got away sweetly, but Bottas alongside him made an initial movement, stopped and then moved slowly off the line, dropping from P2 to P6 (but avoiding any penalty), while Perez was another faller, slipping from P4 to P7.
Verstappen put his pre-race embarrassment behind him to surge up to P3 behind Hamilton and Lance Stroll, while the Ferraris were strong at the start too, Vettel and Leclerc jumping up a position each into P4 and P5. At the back of the grid, meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen was deemed to have been out of position on the grid, and handed a five-second penalty.
The smartness of Haas’ switch to slicks was proven on Lap 4 when leader Hamilton – having opened up a near 8s lead – led a flurry of pit stops as the whole field changed onto slick rubber, with Vettel hurt by the influx of drivers into the pit lane as he was forced to stay in his pit box for 9.2s as the traffic filed past.
Carlos Sainz, meanwhile, tagged Nicholas Latifi’s Williams as the Canadian was released from his pit into Sainz’s path, the McLaren puncturing Latifi’s tyre and leading him to spin at Turn 1.
With Verstappen having passed Stroll in the pit stops, by the time the field had settled down on Lap 5 of 70, it was Hamilton from Verstappen, Magnussen and Grosjean, with Stroll, Leclerc and Bottas behind. Bottas passed Leclerc on Lap 10, two laps after a failed attempt hat saw him run wide at Turn 2, while Stroll and Bottas then cleared the Haases to sit third and fourth.
By Lap 18, Leclerc was struggling for pace on his “rubbish” softs, and after being quickly passed by Albon and his team mate Vettel, decided to ignore the advice about expected rain from the Ferrari pit wall – which eventually failed to show, despite some menacing black clouds looming over the track – pitting again for hards on Lap 21 and emerging P15 behind the McLaren of Lando Norris, who’d fallen down the order both at the start and then after getting caught in traffic during his pit stop.
Lap 38 of 70, and with the top four having made their second stops, Hamilton enjoyed a 21s lead over Verstappen, with Bottas behind in P3, having jumped fourth place Lance Stroll in the pit stops and closing in quickly on Verstappen.
With the Finn around a second adrift of Verstappen, Mercedes rolled the dice, bringing Bottas in for hard tyres with 20 laps to go and setting up a potential repeat of the strategy that gave Hamilton the win over the Red Bull driver last year, with Bottas instructed to lap in the 1m 18s to nab second place.
Ultimately, however, the Finn simply ran out of laps, and as Hamilton made a stop four laps from the end to switch onto softs before clocking the fastest lap of the race on his final, victory-clinching tour, Verstappen just held off the second Mercedes behind him.
Considering he’d been buried into the Turn 12 wall half an hour before the race start, it was quite the turnaround for Verstappen, who described the second place as feeling “like a win”.
Impressive as it was, though, it was Lewis Hamilton who once again demonstrated his dominance in the class-leading Mercedes W11, as he drew equal with Michael Schumacher for the most number of victories at a single venue – while his 86th win puts him within five of Schumacher’s record of 91 victories.
The loss of the bonus point for fastest lap to Hamilton, meanwhile, added to team mate Bottas’ dejection after a “bad race” from the Finn, in his own words, as Hamilton took over the lead of the drivers’ championship for the first time this year.
Behind the podium sitters, Stroll would have had mixed feelings about his P4, as he finished nearly a minute down on Hamilton, while never showing the pace to get on terms with Verstappen, who he’d comfortably outpaced in qualifying.
A second great Red Bull recovery saw Alex Albon take fifth (having started 13th) thanks to some great pressuring of Vettel in the final laps, although that position was in danger post-race as the stewards called Red Bull in to explain an alleged drying of Albon’s pit box on the grid.
Vettel’s strong race saw him do enough to take sixth – the German’s best finish of the year – over the second Racing Point of Sergio Perez, who capped off a slightly underwhelming day for his team by ending up seventh, ahead of the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo in eighth.
Meanwhile, that smooth work from Haas on the formation lap paid dividends for Kevin Magnussen as the Dane withheld pressure from the McLaren of Carlos Sainz to wind up P9, as Haas got off the mark in 2020 – with Sainz ending up P10, having passed future team mate Leclerc with 10 laps to go, the Monegasque ending up 11th having struggled with tyres all race long.
Unfortunately for Williams, the points potential suggested by their double Q2 appearance on Saturday failed to materialise, as they wound up last in P18 and P19 – AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly having retired with an issue on the new power unit fitted ahead of the race – with Latifi behind George Russell, having spun on his own on Lap 43 for good measure.
With the first of 2020’s triple headers now done and dusted, Formula 1 will reconvene at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix on July 31-August 2, followed a week later by the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at the same track. Can anyone stop six-time Silverstone winner Lewis Hamilton from adding a couple more wins to his tally?