Hamilton Wins Hungarian Grand Prix, His First Mercedes Victory

Lewis Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix for the fourth time to clinch his first victory since joining the Mercedes Formula One team this season.

Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus was second yesterday, 10.9 seconds back, and Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull came third in the 70-lap race at the Hungaroring near Budapest. Vettel extended his lead in the drivers’ standings to 38 points as he seeks a fourth straight title.

It was Hamilton’s 22nd career win and the 28-year-old Briton’s first since the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin in November.

“It’s an incredible feeling, my team did an incredible job,” Hamilton, who joined Mercedes from McLaren, said at the post-race ceremony. “We studied things a lot last night and were hoping the tires would last. We had no idea it would go that well. I was hungry for it today, I was going all out. Usually I get stuck in traffic, but today I was going for every move I could.”

Hamilton controlled the race after starting on pole for the third straight time. His teammate, Nico Rosberg from Germany, started fourth on the grid, dropped down the field after running wide on the first lap as he made contact with Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and exited the race near the end with a blown engine.

Mercedes managed its tires well after Hamilton’s pre-race concern that they’d degrade too fast amid track temperatures of around 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit). Pirelli & C. SpA supplied redesigned tires for Budapest and there was no repeat of the blowouts that marred last month’s British Grand Prix.

Regained Lead

Hamilton pitted after nine laps, then regained the lead and built a 13-second advantage after a round of pit stops, followed by Vettel, Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Raikkonen.

Hamilton went into the pits again on lap 32, dropping back to fourth behind Vettel, Alonso and Webber, then moved up to third by passing Webber and took the lead again as the cars ahead of him changed tires.

Lotus’s Romain Grosjean, who was pushing for a podium spot, knocked into Jenson Button’s McLaren and incurred a drive-through penalty for going off the track as he overtook Massa. Subsequently he was given a 20-second penalty for the Button incident although it didn’t affect his final placing of sixth.

Vettel, seeking a fifth win this season, had a frustrating race after starting second on the grid. His car sustained damage to a front wing and he was trapped for some laps behind Button after the first pit stop.

Press Hard

Vettel continued to press hard after he and Hamilton made their last pit stops in the closing laps, but on a circuit where it’s difficult to overtake Raikkonen held off his late surge to cling on to second position. Vettel complained at how the Finn blocked his overtaking maneuvers.

“I tried to hang on in there and tried to fight back with Kimi,” Vettel said. “I could not get him on the straight. I told Kimi I was not happy, but he was laughing. That’s racing.”

Hamilton’s victory gave new impetus to his quest for a second drivers’ title and brought him level with Michael Schumacher for the most Hungarian Grand Prix wins.

“This is probably one of the most important wins of my Grand Prix career,” Hamilton said. “To change teams and to win here for Mercedes-Benz, this is a real privilege for me and I hope there are many more to come.”

Webber was fourth yesterday, ahead of Alonso, Grosjean and Button.

It was a third win for Mercedes this season after Rosberg’s successes at the Monaco and British events.

Vettel leads the standings on 172 points, followed by Raikkonen (134), Alonso (133), Hamilton (124) and Webber (105). Red Bull tops the constructors’ event with 277 points, ahead of Mercedes (208), Ferrari (194) and Lotus (183).

The next event, the 11th on the 19-race calendar, is the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on Aug. 25 after the mid-season break.

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