x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Hamilton back on top

Lewis Hamilton and McLaren-Mercedes celebrate their return to form with a shock victory in yesterday's Hungarian Grand Prix.

McLaren-Mercedes mechanics punch the air in celebration as Lewis Hamilton crosses the line to win yesterday's Hungarian Grand Prix.
McLaren-Mercedes mechanics punch the air in celebration as Lewis Hamilton crosses the line to win yesterday's Hungarian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton and McLaren-Mercedes celebrated their return to form with a shock victory in yesterday's Hungarian Grand Prix as they took advantage off a poor day for the championship leaders. The world champion dominated at the Hungaroring as he claimed his 10th career victory and first of a championship defence that had been previously blighted by uncompetitive machinery.

Kimi Raikkonen, driving the lone Ferrari following teammate Felipe Massa's crash in qualifying on Saturday, was second ahead of Mark Webber's Red Bull in third. Webber moved up to second in the title race, 18½ points adrift of championship leader Jenson Button, whose Brawn GP car was hit by tyre problems as he struggled to seventh, while Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull retired from fifth place due to suspension damage which was caused by a first lap collision with Raikkonen

But it was Hamilton's day as he put a season of frustration behind him with a superb showing as he revelled in the improved pace of the McLaren. Updates to the car's aero package at the German Grand Prix earlier this month had transformed the car, but a collision at the first corner at the Nurburgring had left him unable to show what the car could do in race conditions. But after getting through the first corner in third place from fourth on the grid, thanks to the boost from his Kers (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) button, he overtook Webber at the start of lap three and quickly closed on race leader Fernando Alonso's Renault, who had taken the lead at the start from pole.

He moved into the lead when Alonso pitted on lap 12 and never looked back from then on as he pulled away. Any threat from Alonso was wrecked as his right front tyre flew off the car on his out-lap after his pit-stop, and after returning to the pits on three wheels, the Spaniard would later retire with a fuel pump failure. Hamilton cruised through the final stages and he said: "It's an incredible feeling after what feels like such a long time away.

"I'm just so proud of the guys. They never gave up, which is something very rare to see in a large group of people. We didn't expect to win - but the car felt fantastic. It's incredibly special to get back up here." Raikkonen also benefited from his Kers button as he moved up three places to fourth at the start, although he touched Vettel's Red Bull twice coming around the first turn, and his actions were due to be looked at by the race stewards last night.

Webber moved ahead of his teammate Vettel in the standings with third after the German suffered his fourth retirement of the season on lap 30 due to broken suspension. The only consolation for Vettel would have been Button's problems in the Brawn. Button was on Vettel's tail in the early laps, but began to drop back as he suffered tyre degradation problems. However, the Englishman was able to find better pace later in the race and was able to salvage two points with seventh.

Nico Rosberg maintained his impressive form with fourth place for Williams-Toyota, ahead of Heikki Kovalainen's McLaren and the Toyota of Timo Glock. gcaygill@thenational.ae