In sports, winners are sometimes cast as ruthless and cold blooded competitors who would do anything to come out tops. More often than not, it is a narrative that rings true. Think Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho, Peter Sagan, or Ronnie O’Sullivan. For all their domination though, these guys have struggled to endear themselves to fans in a way that their achievements should have merited.
Consider another set of winners though who have managed to become successful while remaining the darling of an adoring public. Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, and of late Serena Williams. Lewis Hamilton is about to join this latter group.
Projection is real and it seems fans are more likely to embrace stars who allow their frailty and/or humanity to shine through rather than those who are aloof and exude superhuman vibes.
By standing by and allowing Valtteri Bottas go past him even though he knew he was giving up a podium place and more points to Sebastian Vettel in the title race, Lewis Hamilton effectively warmed himself into the hearts of many, fans and fellow competitors alike.
Without wasting further time, here is how the Hungarian Grand Prix panned out.
Lewis Hamilton’s bid to equal Michael Schumacher’s record number of poles will have to wait for another day after the Ferrari drivers completely dominated qualifying. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikonnen secured a front row lockout, showing some amazing speed in the process. Despite setting the fastest lap time in the second phase of qualifying, Hamilton could only take fourth position on the grid, finishing behind the two Ferraris and his own Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
The two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took fifth and sixth position respectively while Nico Hulkenberg qualified seventh for Renault. Obvious improvement from McLaren allowed Fernando Alonso to qualify in the top ten impressively on the occasion of his 36th birthday, a birthday gift that would only get better during the race proper.
At an Hungaroring track notorious for difficult overtaking, crashes and mechanical problems were the always the most likely source of drama and jinxed Dutch driver Max Verstappen duly obliged. He ran into teammate Ricciardo on the opening lap and while he still managed to finish fifth despite a ten second penalty for the incident, Ricciardo wasn’t so lucky as he was forced to retire. He didn’t seem so pleased and a wagging middle finger towards his errant teammate said as much.
Further ahead though, race leader Sebastian Vettel developed steering problems but Ferrari refused to let Raikonnen who was showing faster speeds pass him. If it wasn’t fairly obvious before, it’s plainly apparent who the sidekick in that partnership is now.
Raikonnen getting stuck behind his slower teammate though meant that the Mercedes drivers were able close the gap and apply some pressure. Lewis Hamilton in fourth implored his teammate Valtteri Bottas to yield for him so he could attack the Ferraris with a promise to fall back for Bottas if he was not successful. His best efforts to overtake the Ferraris proved abortive though and on the final lap with Vettel certain to win and extend his championship lead, Hamilton incredibly kept his word and allowed Bottas pass him into third place despite the implications on the title race. Good sportsmanship but also a sign of the camaraderie in the Mercedes camp, something that had been missing in the last three years with Hamilton and retired champion Nico Rosberg mostly at loggerheads.
Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso drove superbly to not only earn McLaren sixth position, their highest finish this season, he also set the fastest lap of the day. Man really does deserve a better car but it is difficult to see any of the big manufacturers snapping him up now that he is in his late thirties.
Due to Hamilton’s selflessness, a one point deficit has become fourteen and he is playing catch up to Sebastian Vettel again. Fourteen points is not insurmountable though with nine races still to come but with Bottas himself just nineteen points behind Hamilton, the Mercedes team has to decide fast which driver is best equipped to rein in Vettel and win the title.
Ferrari it seems has made a decision on who is its main driver though it could be argued that Raikonnen made the decision easy to make with his poor start to the season.
It’s still all to drive for though and you can expect the title race to still throw up many twists and turns in the coming weeks.
With the Mercedes drivers finishing third and fourth in Hungaroring, a Ferrari one two had little to no bearing on the constructors’ standings save to make it a bit respectable.
It will take a meltdown of epic proportions for Mercedes to throw this away.
Safe to say they can start keeping the champagne on ice.
Formula 1 goes on an August break and won’t be back for four weeks.
All roads will lead to Spa in Belgium for the 12th race of the season. A high speed track like Silverstone, Hamilton will be looking for some joy there even though he has only won twice in Belgium, the same number of times Vettel has won.
For now, it’s back to the garages.