Hamilton outsmarts Verstappen with pit strategy for Hungarian GP win

In what looked liked it was going to be all Max Verstappen going for his second win of the season, Lewis Hamilton passed the Red Bull Racing driver for the race win with three laps to go in Turn 1. Hamilton pitted on Lap 49 for fresh tires and made up a 20-second deficit to score his seventh Hungarian Grand Prix win.

“Tired, which is how it should be,” Hamilton said in regards of making up 20 seconds for the win. “I’m really grateful for the day and really for the team for believing in me, and continuing to push to the limits, taking the risks and the chance. We’ve been together for seven years, it never gets old, it always feels brand new. A new win for us. If it wasn’t for all these boys here and back at the factory, this wouldn’t be possible, so I’m grateful to be apart of it.”

After sitting on the pole Saturday afternoon for Formula 1’s 1,000th career race, Verstappen got out to a blistering pace right off the start. It was an action-packed Turn 1 on Lap 1 with the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas as he had lots of tire smoke by locking up and then eventually making slight contact with teammate Hamilton.

Bottas dropped to the fifth position after the disastrous start, where on Lap 6 he made a pit stop for a new front wing and hard tires. He returned to the track after the incident in last place and had a lot of ground to make up.

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Meanwhile, things started to quiet down with Verstappen continuing to check out on Hamilton. However, Hamilton stayed within car lengths of Verstappen by two seconds.

The closest Hamilton got to Verstappen is 1.4 seconds right before the round of pit stops began. With the leaders now in pit stop window, mind games began to take place between the top two leaders. Hamilton was supposed to pit on Lap 27, but stayed out on the track and continued to set the fastest lap time of the race.

With Hamilton not yet pitting, Verstappen had already pitted on Lap 25 for hard tires. Hamilton finally pit on Lap 32 from the lead having a four-second pit stop compared to Verstappen’s 2.6 second stop.

The battle for the lead heated up on Lap 36. Hamilton tried passing Verstappen but the Red Bull Racing driver made it difficult for him and stayed in the lead. Verstappen was able to use the DRS with the lap cars getting in his way, allowing him to get more speed and pulling away from second-place Hamilton.

On Lap 41, Hamilton got frustrated by trying to run down the race leader. He radioed to his crew, “What more can I do, man?” His crew responded with “Just keep the pressure on.” Hamilton radioed back, “I can’t keep the pressure on.”

With the frustration, Verstappen was able to keep a steady distance from Hamilton for first. During the heated battle, Hamilton’s teammate Bottas once again pitted on Lap 48 and came out in the 12th position with medium tires.

The state of the race changed on Lap 49 when second-place Hamilton pitted for new medium tires while Verstappen stays out and had 23 laps more on his tires. Hamilton now has his work cut out for him by having to make up a 20-second gap.

Lap by lap, Hamilton was able to cut the gap into Verstappen’s lead with his fresh tires. Verstappen continued to struggle on his old tires and started to lose grip quickly. On Lap 56 of 70, Hamilton had the gap down 15.6 seconds. The Mercedes driver continued to set a blistering pace by setting the fastest lap on Lap 59 for the time of 1:18.668 seconds.

Trying to catch the race leader Verstappen, Hamilton was told that the race leader’s tires would “be junk at the end.” On Lap 63, he cut the lead down to 7.8 seconds. A few laps later, he continued catching Verstappen by now having the gap to 3.2 seconds on Lap 65.

With all the work Hamilton made up, he was able to catch the rear wing of Verstappen on Lap 67 of 70. Eventually, Verstappen was passed for the lead in Turn 1 as his tires went away and he came down pit road to pit for new ones.

Despite having new tires, the Red Bull driver ran out of time and laps to catch Hamilton, as Hamilton went on to win his seventh career Hungarian win, his 81st career win.

“Honestly, we had brake problems all weekend,” Hamilton added. “Having like separation from the front temperatures and glazing, and I was a bit worried. We made some changes that made a difference in the race. I was actually doing a lot of lifting and coast, and not touching the brakes after that. I was just trying to save as much as I could during that time when I could get the chance.”

“It was very, very difficult to get by traffic on the straights. I don’t know if I could have caught that 19-second gap, my tires dropping off and all these different things. The team said, to keep your head down and I kept pushing, the gap closed and closed, the laps were like qualifying laps every lap. Hats off to the team, I think if Niki (Lauda) were here today, he would take his hat for the team.

  1. Lewis Hamilton, 10 points
  2. Max Verstappen, Nine Points
  3. Sebastian Vettel, Eight Points
  4. Charles Leclerc, Seven Points
  5. Carlos Sainz Jr, One Lap Down, Six Points
  6. Pierre Gasly, One Lap Down, Five Points
  7. Kimi Raikkonen, One Lap Down, Four Points
  8. Valtteri Bottas, One Lap Down, Three Points
  9. Lando Norris, One Lap Down, Two Points
  10. Alexander Albon, One Lap Down, One Point
  11. Sergio Perez, One Lap Down, Zero Points
  12. Nico Hulkenberg, One Lap Down, Zero Points
  13. Kevin Magnussen, One Lap Down, Zero Points
  14. Daniel Ricciardo, One Lap Down, Zero Points
  15. Daniil Kvyat, Two Laps Down, Zero Points
  16. George Russell, Two Laps Down, Zero Points
  17. Lance Stroll, Two Laps Down, Zero Points
  18. Antonio Giovinzazzi, Two Laps Down, Zero Points
  19. Robert Kubica, Three Laps Down, Zero Points
  20. Romain Grosjean, Retired

Up Next: Formula 1 will be taking two weeks off for their annual Summer Break. The next scheduled race will be September 1 with the Johnnie Walker Belgian Grand Prix.

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