A sporting Lewis Hamilton stays true to Mercedes spirit

British driver honours pledge to team and lets Bottas finish ahead at Hungarian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton
(Image credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Sebastian Vettel extended his championship lead by winning the Hungarian Grand Prix as rival Lewis Hamilton gave up third place to his teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton sacrificed three points and a place on the podium in the final lap to honour a pledge made to his team earlier in the race when Bottas stepped aside to give the Englishman a run at the leaders.

But Hamilton was unable to get past the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen or Vettel and gave up the chase on the final lap, slipping back to fourth as he had promised.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff praised the "sportsmanlike" gesture and said that the team were "perfectly conscious" of the possible repercussions. Hamilton himself explained he had given up the place because "I am a man of my word" and added that he wanted to win the title in the "right way".

"The conflict within Lewis Hamilton over his decision to give back third place to team-mate Valtteri Bottas on the last lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was clear," says Andrew Benson of the BBC.

"Hamilton's internal wrangle will have been exacerbated by the knowledge that ahead of him title rival Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari team were playing things in the opposite fashion."

Ferrari used Raikkonen as a buffer to protect race leader Vettel, the team's number one driver, who had problems with the steering in his car, but held on to take the chequered flag.

Behind him Hamilton pulled wide on the final turn to let Bottas through.

"After moving seven seconds clear of Bottas, and with one eye on the championship race, Hamilton could have been forgiven for holding position. He would have been 11 points behind Vettel had he stayed in third. Now he heads into the sport's summer shutdown 14 points adrift of his rival," says Phil Duncan of the Daily Telegraph.

The gesture illustrates Hamilton's determination to win cleanly, says Rebecca Clancy of The Times. It's a trait that marks him out from other F1 greats she adds.

"Mercedes will not budge on their position of letting their drivers race and Hamilton doesn't want the controversy. Unlike [Michael] Schumacher, who was mired in controversy during his career which has tainted people's opinion of him, or Ayrton Senna, Hamilton's childhood hero, who deliberately drove into his title rival Alain Prost to claim victory, Hamilton wants to fight clean and not have his reputation tarnished."

Lewis Hamilton targets Schumacher record at Hungarian Grand Prix

28 July

Lewis Hamilton could reclaim the lead in the drivers' championship at the Hungarian Grand Prix this week by finishing ahead of rival Sebastian Vettel, but his performance in qualifying will be just as keenly watched as the race itself.

If the Mercedes driver claims pole on Saturday he will equal the great Michael Schumacher's record of 68 pole positions.

Being first on the grid is Hamilton's "party trick", says Rebecca Clancy of The Times, and he will be aware of the milestone.

On Saturday "he has the opportunity to have his name written alongside that of Michael Schumacher in the record books as one of the greatest ever drivers in Formula One.

"Hamilton insists that he does not think about records and has said that he will only look back on his career and what he has achieved when he retires," says Clancy. "But he matched Ayrton Senna's record of 65 poles in Canada this year and was clearly emotional when given a replica of his childhood hero's helmet by the Brazilian's family."

And "given his liking for Budapest" it would be no surprise if he started the race in first place and finished there too, she adds.

The Hungaroring circuit is one of his favourites and he has won there five times.

"It's a little like a kart track writ large, and it rewards an attacking driving style. Which are two of the reasons Lewis Hamilton has offered over the years for his incredible run of success there," explains Andrew Benson of the BBC.

"The Mercedes driver has won exactly half of his ten races in Hungary. With that record, and after his domination of his home race last time out – and his team's apparent step forward in performance – he has to be a strong favourite to make it six out of 11 this weekend."

The race could be significant ahead of the F1 summer break, says Giles Richards of The Guardian.

"Hamilton now trails Vettel by one point after his victory at the British Grand Prix and he has some momentum but more ominously for Ferrari he may well now have the car under him he has sought all season.

"If Hamilton's team can turn in a similar performance to Silverstone it will be clear their package is really firing on all cylinders and they will enter the second half of the season as favourites. Should the familiar problems resurface, however, then a long hot summer awaits."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.