Lewis Hamilton passed Max Verstappen with three laps remaining to win the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Hamilton was within one second of Verstappen when he was called in for a second pit stop – Mercedes hoping that a switch to fresh tyres would provide the British star with a chance to usurp Verstappen.
The strategy move by Formula One’s all-conquering team proved inspired.
Hamilton left the pit lane 21 seconds behind Verstappen with 21 laps remaining, the Briton lighting up the time sheets before catching the back of Verstappen’s Red Bull.
The world champion then made the move for victory stick around the outside of Verstappen on lap 67.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished third ahead of his team-mate Charles Leclerc.
Hamilton will now head into the summer break with a mammoth 61-point championship lead over Valtteri Bottas.
The Finnish driver ended the race in eighth place after he had to stop for a new front wing following a collision with Leclerc on the opening lap.
“Wow, just wow, mate,” said Hamilton’s engineer, Pete Bonnington.
“What a drive. What a strategy.”
Hamilton replied: “That was a tall order but I am grateful you did it. That feels so good. I hope you are feeling it too.”
Verstappen has not been hot off the line in recent races, but the pole-sitter retained the lead with a near-perfect start on the long charge down to the opening corner.
Verstappen moved to cover off both Mercedes cars, but a sloppy start from Bottas – the Finn locking up twice in three corners – allowed Hamilton to blast around his team-mate on the outside of the left-handed third bend before making the move stick into turn four.
Verstappen and Hamilton raced off into the distance and when the former stopped for new rubber on lap 24, he was less than a second ahead of his rival.
Mercedes kept Hamilton out, and when he eventually stopped six laps later, he emerged six seconds down.
But Hamilton put his foot down and wiped out Verstappen’s lead in a handful of laps. On lap 39, Hamilton sensed his opportunity, and in a gung-ho move for victory fell off the track at the fourth bend.
Hamilton fell back, and started to reel Verstappen back in before Mercedes made the strategy call which won Hamilton the race.
Stopping for new rubber for a second time, Hamilton was way down on Verstappen.
“I don’t know if that was the right call, mate,” said Hamilton over the radio.
“Copy that, Lewis,” came the response from Bonnington.
“We think you have got the pace.”
And so it proved with Hamilton claiming his seventh win in Hungary and the 81st of his career.
“I feel tired which is how it should be,” said Hamilton. “To be able to push like that, I am telling you I was on the limit.
“I didn’t know if I could catch the gap but the team told me to keep my head down and I kept pushing. The laps were like qualifying laps. If Niki (Lauda) was here today he would take his hat off.”
Carlos Sainz finished fifth for McLaren ahead of Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly. Lando Norris crossed the line in ninth after a slow pit stop.
Max Verstappen held off the challenge from Mercedes to secure the first pole position of his career for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Just six days after his sublime drive to victory in the rain at Hockenheim, Verstappen thrilled his travelling orange army once more with another imperious display.
The 21-year-old lit up the time sheets with a Hungaroring track record, finishing just 0.016 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas with Lewis Hamilton in third, two tenths back.
Verstappen crossed the line first, his lap greeted with huge cheers from the main grandstand, and despite late improvements by both Bottas and Hamilton, the Mercedes duo were unable to usurp the Dutchman.
The Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel line up fourth and fifth with Verstappen’s team-mate Pierre Gasly sixth.
Leclerc hit the wall in Q1 after losing control of his Ferrari at the final corner. But swift repairs by his team allowed the Monegasque to carry on.
“The car has felt good all weekend and it was flying in qualifying,” said Verstappen, moments after capturing pole.
“I am very happy about today. There is still a race to do and that is the most important thing.”
Hamilton, who holds a 63-point lead over Verstappen in the standings, said: “We always target first, but it got away from me.
“We are in a good position to fight for the win so we will be pushing hard for the victory tomorrow.
“I am always down for a fight. It is a long way down to turn one. It is not easy to overtake but hopefully we can give them a run for their money.”
British rookie George Russell believes he is in contention to race alongside Hamilton at Mercedes next season.
The 21-year-old Englishman has impressed for the below-par Williams team this year, and here delivered both his and the British outfit’s best qualifying result of the campaign.
Russell finished 16th, putting his Williams above both Racing Points and the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo, too. He was also 1.3 sec faster than Robert Kubica in the sister Williams, extending his record over the Pole to a perfect 12-0 over one lap.
Russell is on the books at Mercedes and his impressive displays will provide team principal Toto Wolff with something to think about over the summer break as the sport’s all-conquering constructor determine whether to retain Bottas for another year.
The future of British motor racing is in safe hands. Following on from Russell’s display, Lando Norris finished seventh.
The 19-year-old, who has had the beating of McLaren team-mate Carlos Sainz all weekend, qualified one place ahead of the Spaniard.
Verstappen arrived in Hungary for the concluding round before Formula One’s summer break as arguably the sport’s pound-for-pound star.
The Dutchman, still only 21, has won two of the last three races, including his sublime drive to victory at the recent rain-hit German Grand Prix.
He has finished in the top five at the last 20 rounds. No driver outside of Hamilton’s all-conquering Mercedes team has scored more points than Verstappen in the last year.
Verstappen’s boss Christian Horner raised eyebrows when he said ahead of last month’s British Grand Prix that his driver would beat Hamilton if they were in identical machinery.
Former world champions Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg, old team-mates of Hamilton’s, have both since echoed Horner’s sentiments. Indeed, Rosberg claimed that Verstappen would be leading Hamilton in the championship if he traded in his Red Bull for a Mercedes.
“I don’t say anything about this and I don’t care,” said Verstappen, 63 points behind Hamilton in the standings. “For me, the most important thing is to perform on track.
“I made a big jump into Formula One and I made mistakes when I started. I am still getting better. I am only 21 and you learn how to become better through experience.”
Horner et al could be accused of jumping the gun. Verstappen has won seven races. Hamilton, 42 points clear of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, is this year closing in on his sixth world title. He has 80 victories, too.
Verstappen is Formula One’s youngest starter, controversially just 17, and without a road licence, when he made his debut. He is the sport’s youngest winner, at 18, when he triumphed in his first appearance for Red Bull in Spain in 2017.
Verstappen’s orange army follow him across Europe. Such is Verstappen’s pull that remarkably one million people have applied for tickets at his home race in the Netherlands next May. A ballot will be held for the 110,000 seats available at the Zandvoort race, Holland’s first grand prix in 36 years.
Mercedes are courting Verstappen and there has been a suggestion they could move for the Dutch star as early as next year, putting him alongside Hamilton in a blockbuster line-up. It seems unlikely with 18 months still to run on Verstappen’s £20million-a-year deal at Red Bull.
“I have not heard from Lewis saying he wants to join Red Bull,” Horner joked when asked if such a driver pairing would be good for the sport. “You can see positives and negatives in that scenario.
“Max is still a young guy. He has been driving at a very high standard and he delivered a phenomenal performance last weekend to keep his head in varying conditions. Max is arguably the most in-form driver on the grid. His situation with us is clear.”