Lewis Hamilton believes he may have been able to fight Max Verstappen for victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix had he started on soft tyres rather than mediums.
From seventh on the grid, Hamilton made his way past Carlos Sainz Jnr and team mate George Russell in the closing laps of the race to take second at the finish behind Verstappen.
It marked the second successive race where Hamilton and Russell had shared the bottom two places on the podium. Hamilton described the result as “hugely satisfying” for Mercedes, who are now just 30 points behind Ferrari in the constructors’ championship.
“It’s a great feeling for us given the year we’ve had and to obviously see the progress that we’ve started to make last week,” said Hamilton.
“Just getting the second place last week was huge for us already and this is already now two races in a row that George and I have shared a podium, which is fantastic for the team points-wise. To both finish ahead of the Ferraris is huge for us given the pace that they’ve had. I think, given the troubles we’ve had through the weekend, that shows that we’ve got a really great pace.”
Hamilton ran back-to-back stints on the medium tyre at the start of the race, running a longer second stint than any of his rivals to rejoin with 19 laps remaining on the soft tyre and passing Sainz and Russell to finish eight seconds away from Verstappen at the chequered flag.
He credited his extended middle stint as being crucial to his result. However he fell behind Verstappen at the end of the first stint, his rival having started the race on soft tyres.
“I think the race was lost probably with the first stint with that medium tyre,” he said. “But the second and third part of the race was pretty epic.”
Asked what may have been possible had he started on the soft compound rather than the mediums, Hamilton said he would “definitely have been closer to Max, I would have thought.”
“Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to go the same distance on those tyres and who knows,” he continued.
Hamilton’s started position was compromised by a DRS failure during qualifying, which left him seventh on the grid. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff suspects this cost him a chance to beat Verstappen.
“If we had started where I think we probably should have started, without the problem yesterday, I think then we would have been in a much better place to race Max today,” Hamilton agreed.
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