Hamilton again the master as he matches Schumacher’s record of 8 Hungarian GP wins

Lewis Hamilton again proved the class of the field as the Englishman backed up his dominant Styrian Grand Prix victory with an equally impressive win at the Hungarian Grand Prix, matching the great Michael Schumacher’s tally of 8 victories there.

There is a lot to compare the duo, both drivers recognised as a class apart when the great driver leveller of precipitation hits race day. Of course, there is also the small matter of Hamilton going after the German’s seemingly untouchable tally of seven F1 drivers’ titles. And on Sunday, a the Hungaroring, it was perhaps fitting that Hamilton equalled Schumacher’s tally, winning from the brilliant Max Verstappen and teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Racing Point’s Lance Stroll backed up his solid performance throughout the weekend by taking a deserved fourth from Alexander Albon, Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez as Daniel Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Sainz rounded out the top ten.

“Believe it or not, I was still pushing out there, particularly for the fastest lap at the end but what I want to say is a huge congratulations back home to everyone at the factory, even more for the engine department, those guys have done such a fantastic job for developing and improving this year,” a jubilant Hamilton told Sky Sports’ Martin Brundle afterward. “Honestly it was one of my favourite races to have raced, whilst I was on my own for the race, it was a different kind of challenge. Of course, we had great pace, but it couldn’t have been without these guys.

“Great pit stops, great strategy, and right at the end because I was managing those mediums for a long, long time, right at the end it was perfect to get on that fresh tyre and get the extra point. Round 1 was multiple different punches that I perhaps wasn’t ready for, but I refocused, which is what I try and do between every race, and the last two have been fantastic and I think this weekend, just on point throughout the weekend so I need to try and keep this up.”

They used to call the Schumacher the ‘Regen Meister’, which translates into English as the ‘Rain Master’. And with rain falling on the circuit before the start of the race before the start, the majority of runners opted to begin on intermediate tyres.

When the lights went out, it was a disastrous start for Bottas, as Hamilton led from Stroll, Vettel and the fast-starting Leclerc. It could have got worse for championship leader Bottas who clearly seemed to jump the start, but was absolved as he jammed on the brakes, costing him the equivalent places.

A rapidly drying circuit then led to a flurry of early pitstops for slick tyres, Bottas donning mediums with Leclerc opting for the red-banded softer compound. And the early surprise package were the Haas duo of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean who, with nothing to lose, opted to start on slicks and ran strongly in the top five as the others recognised the errors of their ways.

It was during these early stages that advantage of Mercedes’ innovative DAS system really became noticeable, the drivers altering the front geometry of the car to warm the tyres up in damp conditions.

When the dust settled and the rain abated, it was Hamilton who led from Verstappen on the medium tyre, the Red Bull mechanics doing an incredible job to get the Dutchman onto the grid after he went off on his installation lap, before somehow making it back to the grid. Other casualties included the Williams of Nicholas Latifi, who limped back to the pits with a puncture after a pit lane collision, Sergio Perez also running wide and losing several places.

With both Ferraris dropping back after struggling on their soft compounds and having to pit early for mediums, it now developed into a question of whether or not Bottas could get past Stroll and Verstappen to seal yet another Mercedes 1-2.

Bottas was first to roll the dice, pitting on lap 34 for his final set of medium compound Pirelli rubber as Stroll followed on lap 36 and Verstappen a lap later for hards to take him to the end of the race.

With Bottas reeling in Verstappen at a rate of knots, it made for an exciting finish, the Finn pitting on lap 50 and leaving Red Bull with no option to stay out and either grab a superb second or comfortable third.

Such was the superiority of Hamilton, he even had a comfortable stop up his sleeve should he decide to go for the fastest lap and extra point that goes with it. And the champion made his move with three laps to go, emerging comfortably ahead and dialling in the fastest lap of the race as Verstappen held a charging Bottas at bay.

“It was not how I wanted it at the beginning, of course, ending up in the barriers with a lap to the grid, but the mechanics did an amazing job to fix the car,” said Verstappen, arguably the driver of the day. “I don’t know how they did it, but incredible, so to pay them back with second place very pleased with that. The first lap was very crucial and from there on tactically we had the right calls and good pace, so we kept doing our own thing and of course to be able to split the two Mercedes cars is good for us.”

Victory for Hamilton was his 86th in F1, only five short of Schumacher’s outright record of 91 wins in F1. And now, it is surely only a matter of when, not if, he surpasses more records that even a few short years ago seemed unsurpassable.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.

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