Vet­tel over­comes han­dling is­sues to win

Raikko­nen fin­ishes sec­ond as Hamil­ton hands third place to team-mate Bot­tas

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sport - Giles Richards at the Hun­garor­ing

Se­bas­tian Vet­tel drove to vic­tory in the Hun­gar­ian Grand Prix, staving off han­dling prob­lems and charges from both his team-mate Kimi Raikko­nen and Lewis Hamil­ton to con­vert his pole into a win.

Vet­tel had been vis­i­bly slower than both the two chas­ing cars but Fer­rari chose not to pull him over in favour of Raikko­nen and it was the right call as pass­ing proved al­most im­pos­si­ble at the Hun­garor­ing. Raikko­nen fin­ished in sec­ond and Hamil­ton ul­ti­mately in fourth hav­ing given the third place spot he had in­her­ited from his Mer­cedes team-mate, Valt­teri Bot­tas, back to the Finn at the end.

Vet­tel has won only once pre­vi­ously in Hun­gary for Fer­rari, in 2015, and it is his fourth win this sea­son, hav­ing taken the flag in Aus­tralia, Bahrain and Monaco. Cru­cially, his 46th ca­reer vic­tory has also put him equal with Hamil­ton in wins this sea­son and means he has ex­tended his lead in the world cham­pi­onship bat­tle. He is now 14 points ahead of the Bri­tish driver.

Ap­pear­ances

The sec­ond-place fin­ish for Raikko­nen earned him a new record as the driver with the most podium ap­pear­ances at the Hun­garor­ing. His eighth podium fin­ish puts him one ahead of Ayr­ton Senna and Michael Schu­macher in Bu­dapest.

Vet­tel held the lead into turn one from the off but Hamil­ton dropped places to both the Red Bulls. He was look­ing to fight back when Max Ver­stap­pen locked up ap­proach­ing turn two and went into the side of his team-mate Ric­cia­rdo, putting him out of the race and trig­ger­ing the safety car. The Aus­tralian had given him plenty of room and Ver­stap­pen was given a 10 sec­ond time penalty for caus­ing a col­li­sion.

Vet­tel main­tained the lead when rac­ing re­sumed on lap five, with Raikko­nen, Bot­tas and Ver­stap­pen all still in front of Hamil­ton. Out front the Ger­man was putting his Fer­rari through its paces and he had a 2.7-sec­ond gap over his team-mate by lap nine with Hamil­ton al­ready 9.4sec in ar­rears. In­deed at this point the two Fer­raris were al­ready in a class of their own. They had five sec­onds on Bot­tas in third by lap 14.

The Finn was the first of the top five to pit when he came in for the soft tyres on lap 30. Hamil­ton, who had been hav­ing ra­dio is­sues with the team able to speak to him but not able to hear his replies, fol­lowed a lap later. Vet­tel had been look­ing to try to make his first stint last as long as pos­si­ble but with the fronts los­ing grip he pit­ted on lap 32. Raikko­nen did the same a lap later, with all three driv­ers tak­ing the soft rub­ber and main­tain­ing their or­der in re­la­tion to one an­other.

Com­plex

Ver­stap­pen held the lead with Red Bull keep­ing him out as long as pos­si­ble but be­hind him the race was be­com­ing tac­ti­cally com­plex. By lap 37 Vet­tel was clearly strug­gling with his han­dling and Hamil­ton had caught Bot­tas and both Mer­cedes were clos­ing on the Fer­raris.

Vet­tel, who had been told to stay off the kerbs, was slow­ing up Raikko­nen and the un­happy Finn told Fer­rari he was quicker and that he was un­der threat from the Mer­cedes. Ver­stap­pen fi­nally pit­ted on lap 42 and took his penalty, feed­ing back in fifth place but in front of him the top four were now within five sec­onds of one an­other.

With ra­dio con­tact re-es­tab­lished Hamil­ton in turn told his team he was quicker than Bot­tas and could go af­ter the Fer­raris. Mer­cedes chose to act. Hamil­ton was clearly quicker and Bot­tas was told to let him past on lap 47, with Hamil­ton agree­ing to give the place back if he could not go on to take Raikko­nen. He went af­ter the Finn with alacrity but Raikko­nen re­sponded and closed straight up to the back of Vet­tel and again was de­mand­ing the team take ac­tion but Fer­rari stuck to their guns and opted to keep Vet­tel out front.

Ul­ti­mately it proved the right de­ci­sion. With the new cars and the huge wakes they cre­ate prov­ing to make over­tak­ing all but im­pos­si­ble at the Hun­garor­ing, Hamil­ton pushed but could not pass and nor could Raikko­nen.

Ver­stap­pen had closed on Bot­tas in fourth but Hamil­ton, as he had agreed, let the Finn back past for third at the death, while the Dutch­man took fifth. McLaren fi­nally net­ted some good points with Fer­nando Alonso in sixth and Stof­fel Van­doorne 10th. The Toro Rosso of Car­los Sainz jnr was a strong sev­enth ahead of the two Force In­dias in eighth and ninth.

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