LEWIS Hamilton won a tense strategic battle at the Hungarian Grand Prix to head into Formula 1’s summer break with a 24 point championship lead.
Ferrari appeared to blow their best chance to challenge the Mercedes driver, delaying a pit stop for Sebastian Vettel long enough to lose his advantage over Hamilton’s team-mate Valterri Bottas, emerging behind the Finn.
It was a critical error that could have cost Vettel second place, but he fought back and passed Bottas with five laps to go.
Bottas misjudged an attempt to defend from Vettel, locking a wheel and even hitting the Ferrari, but Vettel emerged unscathed and overtook on the outside into Turn Two.
Bottas then slid into Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, which allowed Kimi Raikkonen to also pass through, and Bottas ended a forgettable race in fifth position.
Hamilton’s points advantage with nine races to go is almost a race victory and puts him in a strong position for when the season re-starts in Belgium at the end of August.
“We need to apply more pressure in the second half, this is where we need to turn up the heat,” said Hamilton.
“It’s been trying – physically, mentally and emotionally demanding – but a period I am really proud of, and look where we are standing,” he said.
Vettel said he was confident Ferrari would be able to mount a serious challenge to Mercedes in the remaining races, and thinks his car has the pace to challenge Hamilton.