Hamilton wrestled the win away from Red Bull
In this race, Verstappen almost won again—if not for Hamilton. The two were wheel-to-wheel from start to finish, with the Red Bull racer leading in most laps. Hamilton victoriously snatched the lead when he saw his chance in the final laps and held on to it to the finish.
The Dutchman has clearly been posing a serious threat to Mercedes. His pre-race standing showed that he only needed a few points to put an end to the Silver Arrows’ overall two-horse advantage as he has consistently edged closer to Bottas. Experts recognize Verstappen’s ability to outperform the other drivers in this season.
He has been the breath of fresh air for this season—providing the excitement that has been lacking in the first half. Looking at how spectacularly Verstappen has repeatedly challenged the frontrunners, Helmut Marko’s 5-win forecast might not be entirely crazy after all.
However, Hamilton’s 63-point lead over the Dutchman after the Hockenheim race would be a tough one to surpass with only ten grands prix remaining including this round. Mercedes would have to mess up big time to not win the championship, and we don’t see that forthcoming. The realistic expectation with the competitiveness that Verstappen had been showing would be a runner-up title for him and a more exciting second half for F1.
Hot and tough Hungaroring for Round 12 of 21
After the wet and wild Round 11, the Hungaroring was warm and dry, with occasional light rain. The 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix, officially called the Formula 1 Rolex Magyar Nagydíj 2019, was held on August 4, 2019 at the Hungaroring located in Mogyoród, Hungary. The event this year marked its 35th running and the 34th time that it was included as a World Championship event since its inaugural season in 1950.
The Hungaroring is a 2.722-mile circuit ran for 70 laps in the F1 grand prix. It is known to be very exacting for the racers because of its tight and twisty tracks and especially notorious for its slow-speed corners in the final sector.
Verstappen grabbed his first ever pole
The qualifying rounds showed the Dutchman all fired up, beating all the other contenders to his first-ever pole! He also claimed the top honour of becoming F1’s 100th pole-sitter. The Red Bull driver registered a fast lap of 1:14.572, followed closely by Valterri Bottas at 1:14.590. Hamilton was third.
Excitement was up, starting from the practice rounds to the thrilling Quali—where Leclerc hit the barriers and Verstappen finally made true his promise of taking his career-first pole. Incidentally, this maiden pole also makes him the 4th youngest driver to become a pole-sitter. Too much excitement in there, but like the drivers kept saying—the real thing is winning the race.
Highlights of Round 12
When asked about the chances of Verstappen winning this round, Christian Horner said that they were optimistic about the trajectory that their team had been taking this season. The Red Bull boss was clearly proud about how the Dutchman has shown bullish performance and incredible maturity in the recent races. However, he acquiesced that Mercedes has the upper hand in slow-speed corners, which the Hungaroring has lots of, and thought that the Silver Arrows would be tough to beat. Let’s see how correct his forecasts had been in the race highlights below.
- The track temperature was up to 45-degree Celsius. All first six cars—Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull—started on medium tyres. The McLarens on 7th and 8th started with softs, and so did Haas’ Romain Grosjean on 9th and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen on 10th. Almost all the rest started on fresh mediums, except for Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo who started on hard tyres. It’s interesting to note that the 2014 Hungarian GP was won by Ricciardo (then driving for Red Bull), who in this race was P20 in the starting line.
- The orange car sped away cleanly as the lights went out. As early as Turn 1, the Silver Arrows were all around his back as expected. The narrow twists made overtaking almost impossible without an incident taking place. Before Lap 1 ended, a contact incident took place between Bottas and fellow Silver Arrow, and it cost the Finn his front wing! This was a chance for the rival Ferraris to overtake him.
- It was a good five laps before Bottas pitted in Lap 6 for a new wing and a set of hard tyres, losing several places when he rejoined seconds later. This was a costly pit stop especially in a track that makes overtaking very difficult.
- From Lap 12 to 17, Hamilton has closed the gap to 2s between him and the Dutchman but has yet to make a clean pass through the race leader. At this point, it’s Leclerc on 3rd and Vettel on 4th. The McLarens took the 5th and 6th but were separated from the Top 4, which have already pulled away from the rest. Ricciardo has advanced to P15 from his poor start, with Bottas trailing behind him on 16th.
- From Laps 21 through 25, Verstappen struggled with his grip, with Hamilton just 1s on his heels. The orange car finally pitted in Lap 26, which was exactly what Hamilton had been waiting for. Verstappen changed to hard tyres and flew right out of the pit to give Hamilton—who has yet to change to fresh tyres—a chase! In Lap 28, Leclerc has also swapped to hards.
- Hamilton was ahead of Verstappen for only 17+s, which was too close to attempt an overcut. However, he was no match to the two cars already shod with fresh rubber, so he had to replace his tyres any time soon. He finally made for the pit in Lap 31 and rejoined 2nd to the Red Bull car, with Vettel on 3rd and Leclerc on 4th. Ricciardo, on the other hand, has bested half of the runners before him and was on a battle with McLaren’s Lando Norris for the 10th.
- Ricciardo, who was still on his initial tyres, dropped to 12th in Lap 33.
- Hamilton registered several fastest laps before Lap 35. His teammate has also lapped faster and was now in P11. He kept up the chase, coming so close to Verstappen but not close enough to overtake, until well into Lap 41 when he eased back to cool his car down.
- In Lap 44, Hamilton was at it again to put the pressure back on Verstappen. Meanwhile, Ricciardo was still pushing hard on his aged tyres and has yet to pit.
- Lap 48 was finally pit time for Ricciardo, who changed to softs. Bottas also pitted for the second time, but so did Hamilton! Now both silver cars were on fresh mediums. Hamilton pitting again was entirely unexpected, and it was obvious that the Mercedes team was cooking something up! Clearly, they had their eyes on P1 for Hamilton and P6 for Bottas. With 20 laps to go, Hamilton was on Verstappen’s heels again, closing in at less than 20s behind, while Bottas made a go for P8.
- Though known as a taxing circuit, Hungaroring must be a very forgiving one—the first retirement occurred in Lap 52—Grosjean’s Haas encountered a problem on water pressure and had to be retired. The orange car was still leading a good 20s, and Hamilton could only hope to lessen the gap further and force Verstappen to commit a mistake.
- The best that the silver car could do was close down the gap to 15s well into Lap 58. In Lap 59, Hamilton set another fastest lap, bringing the pace difference down to 13.4s—still not good enough to oust the Red Bull leader from the top.
- In the last 7 laps, the gap between the two frontrunners was down to 7s. The Briton pressured the Dutch driver some more until the gap was no more than 2.4s in Lap 65. All eyes were on the duel between the orange and silver cars—expecting a gripping last 5 laps to the win!
- As early as Lap 64, Verstappen has already complained of dead tyres, and this showed in Lap 67, which turned the race in favour of Hamilton. With fresher tyres on the predator, it was a rather easy maneuver. The silver car finally took the lead after a long chase.
- Two final laps in a tight track—it seemed a forgone win for Hamilton. End of the game, many would say. But no—these drivers didn’t sit back and watched the last two laps pass them by. They knew they owed their supporters a well-fought race, and that was what the last two laps were all about.
- Verstappen changed to fresh tyres. At two laps to the finish? Well why not? There was Hamilton’s fastest lap to outdo, and that he did in Lap 69, gaining him an extra point. Vettel, too, wasn’t calling it a day yet and surprised Leclerc as he came from behind and stole the final podium position from the younger Ferrari driver.
- Hamilton grabbed his 7th Hungarian GP win! Verstappen was 2nd, Vettel 3rd, and followed by Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Räikkönen, Bottas, Norris and Albon, in that order. This shouldn’t go unnoticed—it’s Sainz’s second Top 5 win this season!
Hamilton won Hungary for the 7th time
The Mercedes driver has the most number of wins in the Hungarian GP. This race showed that while it’s the driver who’s down there actually racing, it’s the team that sees the bigger picture. Hamilton wondered for a moment if the strategy was the right call. It was not an easy order to take, but trusting his team definitely paid off.
Final result of the Hungarian GP, Top 5
The top 2 leaders were almost 1 lap ahead of the two Ferraris that came after them, lapping the rest of the cars behind them. It simply shows how hard-fought this race was for both Hamilton and Verstappen.
Team and Number
Red Bull, #33
Carlos Sainz Jr.
Championship standings before and after the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix
The race results have further established Hamilton in the lead position. Verstappen, who came out to be his most challenging opponent, remained at a safe distance of 69 points behind.
Team and Number
Points before the 2019 F1 Hungarian GP
Points after the 2019 F1 Hungarian GP
Red Bull, #33
Steamy final race before the summer break
After the race, the month-long summer break would be a timely respite for most of the racers. Hamilton, for instance, would relish some time off to enjoy his victory. Verstappen has shown that he is in a class of his own—and some people were already calling him the future of Formula One. The summer break would be much needed for him to take stock of himself, be in the best form, and prepare for upping his game some more.
For some, though, it would be an agonizing period to mull on their losses. Bottas may need another rebooting, like he said he did before. Like Hamilton, however, after his tragic loss in Germany (and lackluster performance Austria), he bounced right back to win Hungary (and won France after Austria). He looked like he simply set aside his loss and started fresh, setting his eyes on another victory. Whatever path the teams would take eventually, they have almost a month before the next race begins again.
We’re not taking a break at Carpart.com.au, though. Throughout the rest of the summer break, we will be looking at some of the races we’ve missed for this season. So keep yourself posted with our post-race articles on the grands prix held in Australia, Bahrain, China, and Azerbaijan during the earliest parts of the season. That should keep us in sync till the next race in Belgium come September 1st.
By Patrick Lumontod