After a tough early part of the season for Mercedes, the team has picked up the pace recently, with double podium finishes in both Paul Ricard and Budapest marking the team’s best run of the year – especially considering George Russell’s incredible pole position pace on Saturday.
Lewis Hamilton finished second on the road, just under eight seconds behind race winner and former title rival Max Verstappen. Hamilton showed very impressive pace on the latter stages of the race, as he was setting fastest laps in his pursuit of both Carlos Sainz and George Russell, before passing the duo and chasing after Verstappen, nut ultimately missed out on the win in Budapest.
Speaking to the media after the race, Hamilton said he doesn’t know where the sudden pace has come from in his W13, and said it is “pretty special” that both Mercedes cars are on the podium again after first doing it this season in France last weekend:
“Honestly, I don’t know. I was definitely struggling at the beginning of the race, and wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to catch the guys up,” he said. “But, bit by bit, got a bit more comfortable with the balance, had a really good start as well.”
“I really wanna acknowledge my team, who have continued to push, never give up, through this tough year that we’ve had so far, for us to be on the podium – both cars to be on the podium twice, is pretty special for us.”
The Briton said that whilst Red Bull and Ferrari still have “an edge” over Mercedes, there are encouraging signs for the team going forward for the second half of the season. He also said his team-mate George Russell was “unlucky” to miss out on the win after a superb pole position on Saturday.
“Really unlucky for George [Russell] today. The other guys still have a bit of an edge, but we’re clearly closing the gap. This is just an amazing way to go into the break, knowing that we have this performance. Hopefully we’ll bring some more into the second part of the season and start fighting with the guys in front.”
Hamilton thinks the cooler conditions on Sunday at the Hungaroring suited his Mercedes car better, and reckons that with a better qualifying performance – without DRS issues on his final Q3 run – he could’ve challenged Max Verstappen for the win. As it was, his hope was for rain in the final few laps, which didn’t arrive in time for an attack on the Dutchman:
“I definitely think that being a little bit cooler, it seemed to work a little bit better for us. I can’t tell exactly why, but [I am] grateful for it. I was hoping it was gonna rain in the end, so I could challenge Max [Verstappen], but we ran out of laps.
“With a little bit better qualifying and if the DRS was OK yesterday, we would’ve been in the run for the win. Either way, two second [places] in a row, I’m really happy.”
Hamilton lamented the decision to start the race on the medium tyres, as he thinks it was not the right tyre for such low temperatures. After switching to the soft compound tyres late on in the race, Hamilton was flying along the race track, setting fastest laps and catching the leaders rapidly.
He praised what he called an “epic” final stint of the race in which it looked like he could challenge for the win – which he thought was out of reach after losing out in the first stint of the race:
“Particularly in the second half [of the race], and the second stint, [it] was really good. The first stint I struggled, I think the medium tyre was not the right tyre to start the race on, particularly in those temperatures, so that was difficult.
“I [had] overtaken a couple of cars, but then got stuck behind Lando [Norris], just couldn’t get close to him. And obviously Max [Verstappen] was closing on me, then he undercut me - I was thinking ‘damn, this is not great for the win’, which I was hoping to try and catch up.
“But [on] that second half, really I was able to turn it around, balance was much better, and that last stint was epic.
“I wasn’t really thinking of the win. Once I lost [out] in that first stint, I knew it would be very hard to catch Max. I think if I started on the front row, like I think I probably would’ve if I had that last lap [in Q3] yesterday, it would have been a different day,” the seven-times world champion said.
That’s P2 and back to back double podiums for @MercedesAMGF1 !! We're going into the summer break much stronger than we were at the start of the season. We are moving FORWARD and that win is getting CLOSER! Thank you to all the fans, hope you enjoyed that one 💥💥 pic.twitter.com/PwIdw5c8sr— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) July 31, 2022