Hungarian Grand Prix: The power of love triumphs again as Hamilton takes another surprise victory

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Flying high: Lewis Hamilton celebrates his impressive victory at the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix
Flying high: Lewis Hamilton celebrates his impressive victory at the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix

Last weekend, Lewis Hamilton said of his victory in Germany: ‘Love conquers all.’

Well, it happened again.

The Mercedes driver ends the first part of the 2018 season with a 24-point lead over Sebastian Vettel, after a weekend in which Mercedes grabbed all the opportunities and Ferrari just couldn’t maximise their apparent advantage.

And there was reason to be cheerful for Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly too…

No one wants to be Goose

In the weeds: Valtteri Bottas was less than happy to be described as a ‘Wingman’ by his boss, Toto Wolff, after the Hungarian Grand Prix – where he was, indeed, an excellent wingman to Lewis Hamilton
In the weeds: Valtteri Bottas was less than happy to be described as a ‘Wingman’ by his boss, Toto Wolff, after the Hungarian Grand Prix – where he was, indeed, an excellent wingman to Lewis Hamilton

Goose, the doomed wingman in Top Gun, comes out second-best in a ‘flat spin’ and the audience gets emotional at his sad demise.

Valtteri Bottas, the wingman in Mercedes, comes out second-best in yet another race and he gets emotional at his career’s sad demise.

READ MORE: Hamilton wins in Hungary to extend F1 lead

READ MORE: Red Bull boss blasts F1 engine supplier Renault

READ MORE: Bottas ‘hurt’ by Mercedes’ boss Wolff ‘wingman’ comment

Bottas played a crucial role at the Hungaroring, holding up Sebastian Vettel and allowing team-mate Hamilton to build an unassailable lead.

Mercedes pitted him very early, reacting to Ferrari’s decision to pit their No.2, Kimi Raikkonen, and from then on Bottas was destined to be a rear-gunner, whether he wanted to or not.

To his credit, he made his Soft compound tyres last to the end of the race but his lack of grip proved costly in the closing stages as he tangled firstly with Vettel – who moved across a tad early after overtaking the Finn, damaging the Merc’s front wing – and then Ricciardo, who was bumped off the circuit in the process.

From a Mercedes perspective, Bottas had played a blinder, and team boss Toto Wolff described the Finn as a ‘Sensational wingman’.

Well, that compliment turned out to be double-edged as Bottas said: ‘First of all, “Wingman” hurts. Second of all, I don’t see any positives in this race.’

Then he added: ‘We (Wolff) need to speak after this race…’

Oh dear. Ink barely dry on his new one-year contract and Bottas is already hacked off that he has to play bridesmaid to Hamilton.

Hamilton avoids the F1 danger zone

Staying out of danger: Hamilton leads Bottas into the first corner of the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix … the race was his from then on
Staying out of danger: Hamilton leads Bottas into the first corner of the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix … the race was his from then on

What a result this was for Hamilton. Mercedes were expected to struggle for the whole weekend, perhaps even be overhauled by Red Bull as well as Ferrari.

But Hamilton made the most of damp conditions in qualifying to nail an unexpected pole position, and then fought off Bottas at the start to control the whole race and take victory.

Following on from his equally surprising result in Germany, he now goes into F1’s summer break with a handy 24-point lead over Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship, when the smart money was predicting Vettel would be ahead, only a couple of weeks ago.

Hamilton has now taken maximum points from a couple of races where he was expected to struggle, after his relative disappointment at Silverstone.

On both occasions, he has grabbed unexpected opportunities and driven flawlessly while others have made mistakes.

And, significantly, it’s generally accepted that the Ferraris are slightly faster F1 cars these days – so Hamilton’s wins are all the more significant… particularly if you are called Vettel.

Vettel loses that winning feeling

Coming off second-best: Vettel and Hamilton on the podium after the Hungarian Grand Prix
Coming off second-best: Vettel and Hamilton on the podium after the Hungarian Grand Prix

After crashing out of the German Grand Prix, this was a great opportunity for Vettel to regain the F1 initiative, and he was favourite for the win.

But it wasn’t to be.

Starting fourth, Vettel quickly passed team-mate Raikkonen into third, and aimed to make the most of his durable Soft compound tyres – the Mercs were on more fragile Ultra-Softs.

Hamilton managed to make those tyres last until lap 25, when he pitted, and the lead passed to Vettel.

Within four laps, the German had enough of a lead over Bottas to be able to pit for new tyres and still rejoin in the lead.

But the Prancing Horse looked this gift horse in the mouth, leaving Vettel out until 39, by which time he had lost almost all of that advantage – thanks partly to being stuck behind Carlos Sainz, who ignored blue flags and cost the German a couple of seconds.

Then, in the pits, Vettel’s front left wheel proved a bit recalcitrant and another couple of seconds were lost as a result.

Meanwhile, Bottas had found new speed, lots of it and, as a result, Vettel rejoined the race behind both of the Mercedes.

That was that for the Ferrari. Bottas’ problems in the closing laps promoted Vettel to second but that was scant consolation, on a weekend when Ferrari were tipped to finish on the top two steps of the podium.

Gasly takes my breath away

Cooking with Gasly: Pierre Gasly on his way to an impressive sixth-place finish for Toro Rosso in Hungary, Formula One, Formula 1, Mercedes AMG, Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel, motorsports,
Cooking with Gasly: Pierre Gasly on his way to an impressive sixth-place finish for Toro Rosso in Hungary, Formula One, Formula 1, Mercedes AMG, Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel, motorsports,

In many ways, the driver of the weekend was Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.

He capitalised on the changeable qualifying conditions to start sixth, and that’s where he finished as well, after a relatively uneventful but genuinely impressive drive – his second top-six finish this season, in a car that isn’t top-six material.

He was helped by the retiral of Max Verstappen, who was left raging as his Renault power unit failed again. Daniel Ricciardo, in the other Red Bull, drove a classic Ricciardo race, charging through the F1 field from a lowly start in 12th place to finish behind Raikkonen, in fourth.

Kevin Magnussen also had a good day, finishing seventh, one place ahead of Fernando Alonso in that troublesome McLaren.

It’s been a pretty good first part of the 2018 F1 season, with more than a few nail-biting races.

Now F1 takes the best part of a month off, to allow teams to regroup and drivers to refresh their social media feeds with pictures of holidays and ‘exercise’ in the sun.

Then it’s on to Spa Francorchamps in Belgium, and Monza in Italy – two classic circuits which, hopefully, will produce classic results as well. Enjoy the break…

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