2019 Hungarian GP: Hamilton defeats Verstappen in tense duel


BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Lewis Hamilton beat Max Verstappen to victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix with a late pass at the end of a ferocious duel for victory.

In a battle that saw both men trade metronomic lap times out front and go wheel-to-wheel in a fierce but fair fight for the lead mid-way through, it turned out to be a strategic masterstroke from Mercedes that won the race. The decision to bring Hamilton in for a fresh set of tyres on lap 49 of 70 turned out to be the right call, as it enabled the five-time world champion to slash away at Verstappen's times as the Red Bull driver slowly ran to the end of his tyre life.

In the end, the pass four laps from the end was easy, with Hamilton breezing past Verstappen at Turn 1. Conceding defeat, Red Bull then brought Verstappen in for a fresh set of tyres, which he used to set the fastest lap -- securing a bonus point -- as he and Hamilton finished a country mile away from the Ferraris behind.

Hamilton had doubted whether Mercedes had made the right call immediately after his second pit-stop, but he was full of praise afterwards for the team's chief strategist James Vowles, who joined him to celebrate on the podium.

""James, sorry I doubted the strategy," he said over the radio as he returned to parc ferme to celebrate. "That was a tall order. That feels so good guys - I hope you're feeling it too"

Valtteri Bottas' slim championship hopes took another huge hit after a horror start saw him drop to the back of the field. Bottas locked up heavily at the first two corners before clipping Hamilton as he was passed by his teammate at Turn 3 -- he then clipped Charles Leclerc as the Ferrari driver got by at Turn 4. The damage from that prompted an early stop which left him fighting back through the field from 20th.

He was only able to recover to eighth position ahead of the four-week summer break Mercedes boss Toto Wolff will use to decide whether the Finn is worthy of a contract extension for 2020. Bottas' poor result and Hamilton's win means the Englishman takes a massive 62-point lead into the summer break and leaves Bottas just seven ahead of Verstappen in the championship.

Sebastian Vettel passed teammate Charles Leclerc for the final podium position in the closing laps, but the red cars were 60 seconds behind the lead pair, giving the Italian team plenty to think about over the summer.

It was a difficult afternoon for another under-pressure teammate, too, as Red Bull's Pierre Gasly finished a disappointing sixth behind McLaren's Carlos Sainz, whose current form is serving a constant reminder that the Austrian team picked the wrong driver after Daniel Ricciardo's departure last year. Sainz's result means he is now just five points behind Gasly in the championship with an inferior car.

Kimi Raikkonen finished seventh between Gasly and Bottas, while McLaren's Lando Norris and Toro Rosso's Alexander Albon recovered from slow pit stops to round out the points paying positions.

Away from the top ten there were several teams who failed to record a point. Haas' difficult recent spell continued as Romain Grosjean retired at mid-distance, while Kevin Magnussen finished 13th after a series of aggressive moves to stop Daniel Ricciardo getting by late on. Ricciardo was incensed by Magnussen's stern defensive efforts and let the world know with a colourful radio message, but the stewards saw nothing they felt warranted an investigation or penalty.

Ricciardo and Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg, who finished one place ahead of Magnussen, will be hoping the team is able to find significant gains after the summer break after a stagnant run of form.

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