Max narrowly lost out on a second consecutive grand prix win after being forced to settle for second place following a nail-biting race-long battle with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Having led from pole position Max held P1 for the bulk of the race. After a brief period behind Hamilton following his first pit stop, Max regained the lead when the Mercedes driver made his first stop. And after repelling a battery of attacks from Hamilton following those stops, it looked like Max might have edged the strategic tussle.
Mercedes, however, gambled and Hamilton pitted for a new set of mediums. A 19-second advantage for Max was steadily eroded until four laps from home, when Hamilton got past under DRS through turn one to steal the lead. With time in hand over third-placed Sebastian Vettel, Max pitted for soft tyres and took the consolation of second place and a point for fastest lap.
Behind him the Team’s Hungaroring haul was added to by Pierre who recovered from a difficult start to finish as he lined up on the grid, in sixth place.
OUR RACE IN NUMBERS:
2 – Second place is Max’s best ever finish in Hungary. Prior to this his best was fourth with Toro Rosso in 2015.
7 – There are now just seven points separating Max from P2 in the Drivers’ standings. He now has 181 points, while Valtteri Bottas has 188.
44 – The Team now has 244 Constructors’ Championship points – 44 behind Ferrari.
At the start, Max held his pole position advantage, getting away well to rebuff pressure from both Mercedes drivers on the long run to turn one. Bottas, though, had the poorest getaway of the three and in turn three Hamilton muscled his way past his team-mate to claim P2.
As Bottas struggled to recover he was passed by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with brief contact being made, and then, at the start of lap two, by the second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Having suffered front wing damage in his battle with Leclerc, Bottas then pitted for a new wing and hard tyres, a move that dropped him to the back of the field.
Further back, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz made a good start to rise from P8 on the grid to sixth place by the end of lap one. Pierre, though, had a tricky start and dropped from P6 to P9 at the start.
Max now began to build a slender lead over Hamilton and by lap 10 the Dutchman had 2.3s in hand over the Briton. Pierre, meanwhile, had risen to P8 thanks to Bottas’ problems and was pushing to find a way past Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen.
By lap 13, the top four of Max, Hamilton, Leclerc and Vettel were well clear of the chasing pack, with fifth place Sainz 18 seconds behind Vettel and holding up a train that included team-mate Lando Norris in P6, Räikkönen and Pierre, who was now within DRS range of the Finn.
Max held his narrow advantage through a trouble-free first stint and made his first pit stop on lap 25, reporting beforehand that he was begin to suffer from a loss of grip. With hard tyres onboard for the final stint, he rejoined in P2 behind Hamilton, and with the Briton reporting that his tyres were in good shape, Mercedes elected to leave the championship leader on track.
Max now used his fresh tyres to close the gap to the Mercedes driver, to the degree that when Hamilton eventually pitted on lap 31, a slow-ish four-second stop by Mercedes saw the Briton emerge over six seconds behind Max, who once more took the lead.
That gap wouldn’t last, however. Armed with fresh hard tyres, Hamilton chewed through the gap and on lap 34 he broke through the DRS barrier and began to attack.
Max, though, was alive to the threat and over the following laps managed his defence well, frequently using DRS gifted by backmarkers to nullify assaults by Hamilton.
However, on lap 39, Hamilton went for broke. He attacked into turn one and though Max defended well the Mercedes driver was able to pull alongside on the run to turn two. Max held his line though and as they entered turn four, Hamilton was forced wide into the run-off area. He retreated to regroup and to plot another assault.
Behind them Leclerc still held third place ahead of Vettel, who made a late stop on lap 39 for soft tyres. Sainz was now fifth, and thanks to good work in the pit window by the pit wall Pierre had jumped Raikkonen and Norris (who had a pit stop issue) and was back up to his starting position of sixth.
On lap 48 Mercedes gambled and Hamilton pitted for a set of medium tyres. The move left him 19s behind Max and the race now came down to whether the Mercedes could close the gap over the remaining laps.
With five laps to go Max’s hard tyres were shot and as the pair crossed the line Hamilton edged into DRS range. It was only a matter of time and out of the final corner Hamilton closed on Max and under DRS at the start of lap 67 powered past the Red Bull to claim the lead.
Max was quickly on the radio to report that he wouldn’t be “able to finish the race like this” and with plenty of time in hand over third-placed Vettel he pitted for soft tyres. The injection of pace allowed the Dutchman to punch in the fastest lap of the race and he crossed the line in P2 17.7s behind Hamilton and almost 44s ahead of Vettel.
Fourth place went to the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, while Carlos Sainz took a well-worked fifth place for McLaren. Pierre having recovered from his start, settled into sixth in his final stint earning eight points for the Team. Räikkönen was seventh for Alfa Romeo ahead of Bottas and the final two points places were taken by Lando Norris in the second McLaren and Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon.
Hungarian Grand Prix - Race Result Top 10:
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. MAX VERSTAPPEN
3. Sebastian Vettel
4. Charles Leclerc
5. Carlos Sainz
6. PIERRE GASLY
7. Kimi Räikkönen
8. Valtteri Bottas
9. Lando Norris
10. Alexander Albon