LEWIS HAMILTON regained his momentum in the drivers’ world championship with a memorable strategic victory yesterday when he overcame young rival Max Verstappen to triumph in a tense and thrilling Hungarian Grand Prix.
The 34-year-old defending five-time champion started third on the grid in his Mercedes and, after stalking the 21-year-old Dutch tyro for most of a fascinating tactical contest, finally swept into the lead on lap 67 of a stirring 70 laps.
Hamilton’s record seventh win in Hungary and 81st of his career wrecked Red Bull’s hopes of turning Verstappen’s maiden pole position into victory and increased his lead in the title race to 62 points before the sport’s European summer break.
Verstappen, who led most of the race before his tyres faded, came home 17.796 seconds behind in second and clocked a record race fastest lap for the Hungaroring after a late pit-stop.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was third for Ferrari ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz of McLaren and Pierre Gasly in the second Red Bull.
Kimi Raikkonen was seventh for Alfa Romeo ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas who had been forced into an early pit-stop after a first lap incident.
British rookie Lando Norris was ninth in the second Mercedes and Alex Albon 10th for Toro Rosso.
“What a drive, what a strategy,” said Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington. “Only you could make that work today.”
Mercedes matched Red Bull’s strategy until gambling with a late additional pit-stop that left Hamilton with 20 laps to make up a 20-second deficit on fresh tyres – a move that worked with Verstappen complaining to his team before he lost the lead “my tyres are dead”.
“They rolled the dice and it worked for them, unfortunately,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Verstappen.
“But you drove your heart out.”
A week after his forlorn error-riddled exit from a tumultuous German Grand Prix, won by Verstappen, Hamilton had bounced back in style.
“It feels like a new win for us,” he said.
“I didn’t know if I could do it and I am sorry I doubted our strategy – it was brilliant.” — SuperSport