Vet­tel wins Hun­gar­ian Grand Prix

Ger­man driver ex­tends lead over ri­val Hamil­ton by 14 points head­ing into break

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - JEROME PUG­MIRE

Se­bas­tian Vet­tel’s luck changed for the bet­ter at the Hun­gar­ian Grand Prix on Sun­day, where the Ger­man driver won to ex­tend his cham­pi­onship lead over archri­val Lewis Hamil­ton by 14 points head­ing into the sum­mer break.

Vet­tel’s fourth win of the sea­son came from the pole po­si­tion, on a track where over­tak­ing is no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult. Yet his 46th ca­reer win turned out to be any­thing but a pro­ces­sional af­fair.

Even be­fore the start, Vet­tel felt some­thing was wrong with his steer­ing wheel. It bugged him most of the race, but with his team­mate Kimi Raikko­nen driv­ing bril­liantly be­hind him to fend off the fast-clos­ing Mercedes, Vet­tel held on and Fer­rari got a 1-2 with Raikko­nen sec­ond.

Mon­treal’s Lance Stroll fin­ished 14th.

It was some change from two weeks ago at the Bri­tish GP, where Vet­tel’s tire punc­tured two laps from the end, deny­ing him a cer­tain podium place. At Sil­ver­stone, he just about crawled home to fin­ish sev­enth, with his lead over Hamil­ton slashed from 20 points to a mea­gre one.

But Vet­tel now jets off into his month-long break with his spir­its high again in his hunt for a fifth F1 ti­tle, and first since the last of his four straight ti­tles driv­ing for Red Bull in 2013.

“I’m over the moon. It was a really dif­fi­cult race, maybe it didn’t look like it but I had my hands full,” the Ger­man driver said. “The steer­ing started to go side­ways and it seemed to get worse. Then I stayed off the curbs, tried to save the car. I didn’t do a favour to Kimi.”

Raikko­nen, never known as a “Yes man” in F1, played the game and stayed be­hind Vet­tel, pro­tect­ing him from the en­croach­ing threat of Mercedes driv­ers Valt­teri Bot­tas, who was third, and Hamil­ton, who placed fourth.

With his con­tract up for re­newal, it might prove a shrewd move from Raikko­nen, who had enough speed to win. He hasn’t won since the sea­son-open­ing Aus­tralian GP in 2013. But maybe he saw the big­ger pic­ture.

As a model team­mate to Vet­tel, the Finn might get a new mul­ti­mil­lion deal for 2018 at the ripe old age of 38.

“A big thank you to the team,” said Vet­tel, who should es­pe­cially buy Raikko­nen a drink be­fore they go on hol­i­day. “Kimi could have gone a lot faster than me for the ma­jor­ity of the race.”

Raikko­nen used all of his ex­pe­ri­ence to help Vet­tel.

“It wasn’t ideal, as I felt I had the speed,” Raikko­nen said. “We know as team­mates what we had to do.”

Asked if he could have won the race, he replied “Def­i­nitely.”

Ear­lier, Bot­tas had let Hamil­ton past in or­der to at­tack the Fer­raris. Hamil­ton then sport­ingly gave him third place back right at the end.

“The team kept the prom­ise which I’m really happy about,” said Bot­tas, who is 33 points be­hind Vet­tel in third place over­all.

Over at Red Bull, there is un­likely to be such har­mony.

Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen was fifth after knock­ing his team­mate Daniel Ric­cia­rdo out of the race on the first lap.

Ric­cia­rdo’s race was over after the con­tact on Turn 2, bring­ing the safety car out for a few laps as his car was towed off the track.

Ver­stap­pen was the per­pe­tra­tor — swerv­ing into his team­mate when go­ing wide on the exit from a turn.

It was a big blow for Ric­cia­rdo, who had se­cured five podium fin­ishes in the pre­vi­ous six races. As he watched re­plays of the in­ci­dent in his team garage, Ric­cia­rdo looked stone-faced when he saw con­fir­ma­tion that Ver­stap­pen was re­spon­si­ble.

Ver­stap­pen, who was given a 10-sec­ond time penalty for the in­ci­dent, sub­se­quently apol­o­gized to Ric­cia­rdo.

Hamil­ton had writ­ten off his chances of vic­tory after qual­i­fy­ing in fourth place, say­ing it would be an “easy breeze” for Fer­rari on the twisty 4.4-kilo­me­tre (2.7mile) cir­cuit nestling in the hills sur­round­ing Bu­dapest.

Only the sinewy street cir­cuit of Monaco is tougher to over­take on. Vet­tel also won there this year, with Raikko­nen sec­ond.

That race was much eas­ier, but Fer­rari faced an awk­ward dilemma this time around. As the race wound down Vet­tel was still lead­ing but clearly slow­ing down Raikko­nen just be­hind him.

Fer­rari did not im­pose team or­ders on Vet­tel to let Raikko­nen past him, so Mercedes sensed an op­por­tu­nity.

Bot­tas let Hamil­ton past him, on the con­di­tion that he would give the po­si­tion back if he couldn’t get a clean shot.

In the end, he couldn’t get quite close enough to Raikko­nen, so the gen­tle­man’s agree­ment stood and he gave Bot­tas the podium spot.

AN­DREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Se­bas­tian Vet­tel won the Grand Prix of Hungary, his fourth win of the F1 sea­son, keep­ing the Ger­man in first place in the points race as he seeks his fifth F1 ti­tle.

DAN MULLAN/GETTY IMAGES

Se­bas­tian Vet­tel felt some­thing was wrong with his steer­ing early on, but man­aged to keep his Fer­rari on track to take the check­ered flag in Bu­dapest.

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