UDAPEST: Sebastian Vettel overcame technical difficulties to win a tense Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday in a Ferrari one-two that stretched his championship lead to 14 points heading into the summer break after Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton sportingly surrendered third place to his team-mate.
The four-time Formula One champion made a decent start from pole position, crucially holding off team-mate Kimi Raikkonen on the long straight into Turn 1. On a Hungaroring track where overtaking is notoriously hard, there were limited chances to catch him after that.
But Vettel was hampered by a steering issue for more than half the race, allowing the Mercedes cars to close the gap on him and Raikkonen who in turn was being slowed down by Vettel.
The German, savouring his fourth win of the season and 46th of his Formula One career, took the chequered flag 0.9 seconds ahead of Raikkonen. The Finn had looked faster than Vettel for most of the afternoon.
“I’m over the moon. It was a really difficult race. I had my hands full,” Vettel said. “The steering started to go sideways and it got worse. I felt there was something not right when we dropped the car on the grid. The steering wheel was already not straight, it was tilting to the left. I had no room for error. The race felt very, very long.”
His win owed much to Raikkonen’s cagey driving, and Vettel in turn owes his Finnish team-mate a favour after this.
“I know Kimi was faster,” Vettel said. “Not a great position for him to be in the middle.” Raikkonen used all of his experience to fend off Hamilton, who eventually finished fourth behind Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
“It wasn’t ideal as I felt I had the speed,” Raikkonen said. “We know as team-mates what we had to do. Probably not force the issue [like we would] against someone else.”
Asked if he could have won the race, he replied: “Definitely, I had a very good car,” but added “we had a plan as a team.”
Hamilton finished fourth after slowing down on the last lap and allowing Finnish team-mate Valtteri Bottas to go past, despite the loss of vital points to the Briton’s championship challenge.
Bottas had let Hamilton through on the 45th of the 70 laps, on the assurance that his team-mate would hand back the place if he could not overtake the Ferraris, and the triple champion duly kept his word.
“Really thanks to Lewis for keeping the promise in the end and letting me by,” said Bottas. “I don’t think every team mate would have swapped back.”
Hamilton, whose radio was malfunctioning for some of the race and would have had more of a chance had he got past Bottas earlier, said he had done what he had to do.
“It’s tough in the championship but I’m a man of my word,” he said. “I did say that if I can’t overtake them I would let him back through.”
Dutchman Max Verstappen finished fifth for Red Bull after surviving an opening lap collision with his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo that saw the angry Australian forced into an early retirement, forcing the deployment of the Safety Car.
Two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso came home sixth and recorded the fastest lap of the race for McLaren-Honda after a stirring and often remarkable drive.
Belgian team mate Stoffel Vandoorne was 10th in a double points finish for the former champions, who moved off the bottom of the table and ahead of Sauber.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz was seventh for Toro Rosso with Mexican Sergio Perez eighth and Force India team mate Esteban Ocon ninth.
Britain’s Paul di Resta, replacing unwell Brazilian Felipe Massa at Williams, retired.
Vettel, who started the day just a point ahead of Hamilton, increased his lead by another 13 after 11 of this year’s 20 races as the circus takes a now-traditional three-week European summer holiday before the Belgian Grand Prix.
It was Ferrari’s first one-two in Hungary since 2004, when seven-time champion 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.