Sebastian Vettel increased his Drivers’ World Championship lead to 14 points when he led Kimi Raikkonen home in a dominant Ferrari one-two at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday.
In his 50th race for Ferrari, Vettel controlled the contest from pole position to reel off his first win in five races since the Monaco Grand Prix.
It was his fourth win of the year and the 46th win of his career – and a brilliant performance before he and the F1 circus break for the European summer holidays.
Vettel’s main title rival, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, finished fourth after sportingly handing a podium finish back to teammate Valtteri Bottas on the final lap, following a switch to enable the Englishman to attack the two Ferraris.
Dutchman Max Verstappen finished fifth for Red Bull after surviving an opening-lap collision with his teammate Daniel Ricciardo which saw the angry Australian forced into an early retirement.
Spaniard Fernando Alonso came home sixth and recorded the fastest lap of the race for McLaren after a stirring and often remarkable drive.
He finished ahead of compatriot Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso, Mexcian Sergio Perez and his Force India teammate Frenchman Esteban Ocon and Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, who finished 10th in the second McLaren.
It was Ferrari’s first one-two in Hungary since 2004, when German Michael Schumacher triumphed ahead of Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, the last season in which the race winner in Hungary went on to win the drivers’ title.
“I’m over the moon,” said Vettel. “It was really difficult. I had my hands full from 3-4 laps after the safety car. The steering started to go sideways.
“I stayed off the kerbs, tried to save the car. I didn’t do any favours to Kimi, who could go faster and I really had to stay focused the whole race.
“I was hoping for a couple of laps to breathe, but they didn’t come. I don’t know what happened. We’ll have a look – but it doesn’t matter now because we won the race!”
Raikkonen, cheered by a huge following of Finns in a sell-out crowd at the sweltering Hungaroring, said: “I think my fans all understand English!
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t give them the win. I had a good start, but didn’t want to force the issue. After that I just kept following. Not ideal, I want to win, but it’s great for the team.”
Bottas, who was also given a resounding reception, said: “I was getting a little bit worried as the gap was increasing, but really, thanks to Lewis to keep the promise and let me by.”
On a very hot afternoon with a track temperature of 55 degrees Celsius, and the air at 30, the two Ferraris made a clean start to lead ahead of Bottas while, behind them, the first lap featured mayhem and a Safety Car intervention.
At Turn 1, Frenchman Romain Grosjean’s Haas collided with German Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault before, at Turn 2, the two Red Bulls collided when Verstappen oversteered into his teammate.
The collision was a heavy blow to Ricciardo and ended his run of three successive podium finishes in Hungary. After spinning and surviving, he parked his damaged car with fluid pouring.
“It was what it was,” said the Australian. “It’s not on. It was amateur to say the least. He doesn’t like it when a teammate gets in front of him. A very poor mistake.”
Verstappen was given a 10-second penalty for his role in the incident.
As the race resumed, Hamilton attacked and Verstappen defended robustly.
At the front, Vettel settled into a rhythm to lead Raikkonen by three seconds after 16 of the 70 laps with Bottas a further six seconds adrift in third.
Grosjean joined Ricciardo in early retirement after a slow puncture forced a pit stop in which he was released unsafely by Haas with a cross-threaded wheel nut.
All this left Verstappen to lead the race, during the pit stops before he finally came in after 42 laps and, after serving his 10-second penalty, rejoined fifth.
This left the top four, led by Vettel, separated by less than five seconds, and with the two Ferraris showing vulnerability to attack Bottas – when requested by his team – let Hamilton through on lap 47 to launch a charge.
As Hamilton attacked, Bottas was reassured he would be given back third if Hamilton did not pass a Ferrari. “We have five laps to make something of this,” Hamilton is told. “No pressure then,” he responded.
By lap 56, he was within a second of Raikkonen, but unable to close in the turbulent air without losing grip.
The promised switchback came as promised on the final lap. “I am a man of my word,” said Hamilton – knowing it had cost him three valuable points.