Ferrari finished one-two at the Hungary Grand Prix after Sebastian Vettel managed a steering issue throughout the race to end ahead of a clearly faster Kimi Raikkonen.
Used as a buffer, Raikkonen held up a charging Lewis Hamilton who couldn’t find clean air to pass. Hamilton eventually gave back the third place to team-mate Valtteri Bottas honouring an agreement when the Finn let him past earlier in the race to hunt down the Ferrari’s.
Hamilton’s fourth place finish now has him 18 points behind Vettel heading into the four-week F1 summer holiday.
In fifth was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who overcame a collision with Ricciardo and a 10-second penalty to finish just 0.391 seconds adrift.
Alonso secured McLaren’s best finish of the season taking sixth, while Vandoorne was also in the points in tenth.
Vettel Sees Off Mercedes Challenge
Vettel and Raikkonen took an early lead at the Hungaroring and set about creating a gap to Bottas in third and Hamilton in fifth who was stuck behind Verstappen.
But a few laps into the race it appeared that Vettel was battling a steering issue and was visibly turning the wheel left even on the straight.
The Ferrari pit wall asked Vettel to stay off the curbs to manage the problem. It slowed down the German’s lap times and Raikkonen, who shadowed him for much of the race, was being pushed back into Bottas and Hamilton.
The tension escalated on lap 46 when Bottas pulled aside so that Hamilton could have 5 laps to attack the Ferrari’s. The previous world champion explained later: “My thought process is: ‘I am faster than the guy, I think I can have a chance of winning this race for you guys. Let me go. Give me that chance or we are just wasting potential points for the team.’ In my mind, I am: ‘If he lets me past and I can’t pull away then I will reverse it.’”
Hamilton quickly bridged the gap to Raikkonen within three laps using the more powerful ‘overtaking’ mode.
Raikkonen explained on the team radio that he was “not comfortable” being the buffer between Vettel and Hamilton. But Hamilton just couldn’t get the grip to overtake in the turbulent air behind Raikkonen and the Englishman was kept at bay much longer than was initially given by Mercedes.
Hamilton then needed to return the third place to Bottas but as the front three pushed forward the Finn was falling back as he conserved tires to withstand a late charge by Verstappen. It meant an uncomfortably close finish with Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen all crossing the line within just 0.814 seconds.
“But it showed I am a man of my word and also that I am a team player. I am just as much a part of the team as anyone in it. It shows unity,” said Hamilton.
On whether losing three points was worth a good relationship with Bottas: “I can’t answer that. I lose the world championship; I don’t know what I would say then if it is by three points or in that vicinity. But as I said I want to win it the right way.”
Tension at Red Bull
Red Bull may well need to install extra noise installation at their offices after an opening lap collision between their drivers eliminated Ricciardo from the race.
Both got a fantastic start to leap-frog Hamilton and Ricciardo overtook his team-mate on the outside to Turn 2. But Verstappen braked far too late and hit the side of Ricciardo braking the radiator.
Verstappen was given a 10-second penalty for the incident but Ricciardo was still clearly agitated after returning to the pits, saying: “That was amateur to say the least. It’s not like he was trying to pass, there was no room. I don’t think he likes when a team mate gets ahead of him. He had the whole race to repair the mistake. The pass wasn’t on – it wasn’t even a pass.”
The Dutchman got on the front-foot straight after the race apologising to his team-mate.
“Of course it’s never my intention to hit anyone, especially not my team mate – especially with the relationship I have with Daniel, it’s always very good and we can always have a laugh.”
“We could have scored good points here. I’ll speak to Daniel in private and we’ll sort it out.”