There was late drama in the Hungarian Grand Prix as Britain’s Lewis Hamilton nicked victory from rival Max Verstappen to tighten his grip on the Driver’s Championship In what turned out to be an incident packed race, followers of the sport were treated to a fantastic renewal of one of the most popular fixtures on the F1 calendar.
Hamilton, in his Mercedes flying machine, looked destined for a silver medal finish on the back of a poor outing at the German Grand Prix at the end of July, but he showed his class to eat into the lead built up by Dutchman Verstappen before catching and then passing the Red Bull favourite in the final few laps. Formula 1 has been accused of being boring in recent times but that certainly wasn’t the case on Sunday.
Hamilton is in danger of becoming a victim of his own success and one of the main reasons critics say the sport has lost its spark is because the Englishman is dominating title races, winning Grand Prix’s without too much competition and making a bit of a mockery of the season. He’s just too good at the minute and his Mercedes car looks head and shoulders above the competition. That’s not the driver’s fault, of course, but he certainly did his bit to make headlines and keep things interesting in Hungaroring, the story of the race plastered all over the back pages the following day.
Third to First for Hamilton
The final result showed Lewis Hamilton as winner after starting third on the grid, the world champion collecting 25 points and opening up a gap at the top of the championship table. He recorded a fastest time of 1.18.528 and a race time of 1.35.03.796. That places him ahead of runner up Max Verstappen in his Red Bull. The Dutchman went off first on the grid but failed to protect his position, claiming 19 championship points when a full house looked more likely. His fastest lap was an impressive 1.17.103 but his race time was 0.17.796 more than that of Lewis Hamilton.
Third place was given to Sebastian Vettel who pushed himself up the championship leaderboard after collecting 15 points and that ensures he remains a danger, although there’s plenty of work still to be done if he’s to have any chance at worrying Hamilton who has a comfortable advantage over the chasing pack and if showing no signs of slowing down. Vettel in his Ferrari started fifth on the grid and improved a couple of places thanks to a fastest lap of 1.19.786 and a race time of +1.01.433.
The German Grand Prix that had taken place the week before was won by Max Verstappen ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Daniil Kvyat. That result saw the major players close the gap on Lewis Hamilton and the title race would’ve got a whole lot more interesting had Hamilton failed to win on Sunday. Vettel has been below par so far this season but finished on the podium in Hockenheim before repeating the feat in Hungary. Is he still a title contender or is it a case of too little too late for the former champion? All will be revealed in the coming weeks and months but it’s certainly a big ask and there won’t be many sports bettors taking a chance in opposing Hamilton with any driver, let alone one that is yet to win a Grand Prix this season.
It was a tactical race in Hungary and the win was as much due to the Mercedes team than it was their driver. Hamilton was brave from the first lap, deciding to go on the attack early and he almost squeezed through into the lead when racing through Turn Four at 150mph, looking to take Verstappen on the outside. It didn’t pay off, but viewers got a taste of what was to come that afternoon. The Dutchman was in the mood for a battle and wasn’t going to be taken out by speed alone, his Ferrari more than capable of holding its own in a shoot-out.
That placed the race in the hands of the tacticians and the Mercedes team came up with a move that looked dangerous at the time. In such a tight contest they adopted to make an extra pit stop and although that seemed crazy to those looking on at the time, it had the desired effect and was a major factor in them winning the race. Hamilton was hauled in for a tyre change, giving him much quicker tyre and it certainly paid off. The Briton immediately began eating into the 20second gap and it took him less than 20 laps to go past Verstappen and take the lead, hitting the front with just three laps to go. It was then up to Lewis to hold his nerve and see out the win. Having worked so hard to get himself into the lead it was no surprise to see him fight tooth and nail to hold onto it.
Lewis Hamilton is seen by many lovers of Formula 1 as the best driver of this age but we got a feel for what the future could hold as Max Verstappen is viewed as a bit of a golden boy in this sport and a man who will win a world title when Hamilton finally retires from F1. That’s not a given, of course, and there are plenty of talented young drivers coming through who will lay claim to the leader of the next generation, but from what we saw on Sunday Max will take all the beating. As he matures and gains vital big race experience, he will only get better. There are many shrewd punters already with their cash down on Verstappen to win a world championship within the next five years and they are guaranteed a real run for their money.
Hamilton put Through the Wringer
Speaking to the press at the conclusion of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton said he was tired but believes that should be the case after putting his body on the line during the race. He pushed himself to breaking point to get the win and that’s the mark of a champion driver. Is he beginning to feel the strains of a career spent at the top of the game or was it simply a tough afternoon at the office? We’ll find out, maybe at the end of this season, certainly by the conclusion of the next campaign. Lewis added that he was grateful to the Mercedes team in continuing to believe in him and he credited the guys at the factory for making the win possible.
Max Verstappen was refreshingly honest in his media chat, telling reporters he just wasn’t fast enough on the day. The youngster congratulated Hamilton and pointed out the tyre change as the main difference between the two but he did take confidence from his performance, finishing second, recording a fastest lap and a strong weekend overall.
He’ll be back for more when we return to action on the opening day of September for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps although he’ll know the pressure is on to start turning good performances into wins if he’s to make Hamilton work for another championship medal that looks destined to end up in his possession. Max may not win the title this year but if he is able to finish second that would send out a real message of intent to his rivals.
A check on the betting shows Lewis Hamilton is favourite to win the Belgian Grand Prix, as you would expect, and that will come as no surprise to those with their finger on the pulse of the F1 season. The Briton is 7/4 favourite at bet365 and that’s market best price. That places him ahead of Sebastian Vettel at 11/4 with the same firm, Charles Leclerc completing the top three at 11/4 with Ladbrokes. Max Verstappen is enjoying the best form of his career at the minute and that makes it a surprise to see him carry an 8/1 price tag for the Belgian Grand Prix, best price when getting your cash down at William Hill. Each-way backers will get 1/3 the odds a place 1-2, meaning you need the Dutchman to finish in the top two for a second race on the bounce to see a return on your investment. That also guards against another late show from Lewis Hamilton and a piece of tactical brilliance from the Mercedes team.
The outright betting has Hamilton nailed on to win the driver’s championship and he’s no better than 1/20 at Betfair. There’s no real value in that price but it’s not worth opposing him in his current state of mind. Max Verstappen is seen as the main danger and has been priced as a second favourite but bet365 are confident enough to offer a whopping 14/1 price tag and that tells the story of what traders expect to see in the second half of this season.
The constructor’s championship is dominated by Mercedes, of course, and they are priced like losing isn’t an option. Ferrari are second favourite but carry a price tag of 150/1, which gives an idea of what is to come after the summer break. They’d need to win and finish second in the majority of remaining Grand Prix’s and have Mercedes crash out more times than they finish and that’s just to make things interesting.