Lewis Hamilton heaped praise on Mercedes for the “bold” and “risky” strategy gamble which helped to win him the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The world champion took a giant stride towards closing out a sixth title by moving 62 points clear of team-mate Valtteri Bottas with his eighth win of the year.
Max Verstappen had looked on course to claim his third triumph from four races following a faultless display by the impressive young Dutchman.
But Mercedes caught Red Bull off guard when they switched Hamilton to an aggressive two-stop strategy, ensuring he would end the race on fresher rubber than his rival.
Hamilton was set the daunting task of wiping out Verstappen’s 21-second lead in 21 laps. But the fired-up Briton reeled the Red Bull car in and then passed Verstappen at the opening bend with three laps remaining to seal the 81st win of his career, strengthening his hold on the title race.
“It felt like a big gamble for us,” said Hamilton, who questioned his team’s strategy call on the radio.
“Before the second stop I felt I had the pace on Max and that I would have a few attempts at passing him.
“It felt like the steepest wall to climb, but you have to put complete faith in the team. I had to eliminate all doubt and question marks from my mind and go for the best laps I could do without dropping any time.
“It was bold and a risky strategy call, but collectively we made it happen. It was exceptional by the team.”
A day to remember. Thank you to everyone in my team for their unwavering support throughout these 7 years. Here we had our first win together in 2013 and today we did it again. To #teamLH I love you guys, so grateful for the constant unconditional love #grateful 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/KmzCpigv3x— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) August 4, 2019
Hamilton’s drive to glory was captured by the cameras of Netflix, who were provided access to the Mercedes garage for the closing stages of Sunday’s race.
After refusing to take part in the opening series of the Formula One documentary, ‘Drive to Survive’, Mercedes threw open its doors to Netflix at their home race in Germany last weekend.
But the Silver Arrows endured a horror show at a rain-hit Hockenheim, with Hamilton crashing from the lead. Bottas also failed to finish.
Mercedes had planned to allow Netflix access at just one race this year, but the film makers were invited in to the garage in Hungary to document Hamilton’s triumph, bookending a whirlwind week for the 34-year-old Briton and his team.
The behind-the-scenes footage will feature in the second season which airs next year.
Hamilton said: “I don’t like to look at today as redemption. I don’t make a lot of mistakes and the last race was a massive off-weekend for me.
“But going into the summer break, this win provides a great lift for the team, particularly after the difficult last weekend.”
Hamilton will now have four weeks to recharge his batteries ahead of the push to clinch a title that will take him to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record haul of seven. The action resumes at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps on September 1.
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.