Vettel overcomes steering problem to win Hungarian GP

2017-07-30 08:47:52

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel overcame technical difficulties to win a tense Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday and extend his championship lead over rival Lewis Hamilton to 14 points heading into the summer break.

The four-time Formula One champion made a decent start from pole position, crucially holding off teammate Kimi Raikkonen on the long straight into Turn 1. On a Hungaroring track where overtaking is notoriously hard, there were limited chances to catch him after that.

But Vettel was hampered by a steering issue for more than half the race, allowing the Mercedes cars to close the gap on him and Raikkonen - who in turn was being slowed down by Vettel.

''I'm over the moon. It was a really difficult race. I had my hands full,'' Vettel said. ''The steering started to go sideways and it got worse.''

Vettel held on for his fourth win of the season and 46th overall, while Raikkonen expertly defended his position for a Ferrari 1-2.

''I felt there was something not right when we dropped the car on the grid. The steering wheel was already not straight, it was tilting to the left,'' Vettel said. ''I had no room for error. The race felt very, very long.''

His win owed much to Raikkonen's cagey driving, and Vettel in turn owes his Finnish teammate a favor after this.

''I know Kimi was faster,'' Vettel said. ''Not a great position for him to be in the middle.''

Raikkonen used all of his experience to fend off Hamilton, who eventually finished fourth behind Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

''It wasn't ideal as I felt I had the speed,'' Raikkonen said. ''We know as teammates what we had to do. Probably not force the issue (like we would) against someone else.''

Asked if he could have won the race, he replied ''Definitely, I had a very good car,'' but added ''we had a plan as a team.''

Earlier, Bottas had let Hamilton past in order to attack the Ferraris. Hamilton then sportingly gave him third place back right at the end.

''The team promised me we would swap back again. The team kept the promise which I'm really happy about,'' said Bottas, who is 33 points behind Vettel in third place overall. ''I don't think every teammate would have done the swap back going for a podium.''

Over at Red Bull, there is unlikely to be such harmony.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen was fifth after knocking out of the race his teammate Daniel Ricciardo on the first lap.

Ricciardo's race was over after the contact on Turn 2, bringing the safety car out for a few laps as his car was towed off the track.

Verstappen was the perpetrator - swerving into his teammate when going wide on the exit from a turn.

''Was that who I think it was?'' a stunned Ricciardo said over his team radio seconds after being hit.

It was a big blow for Ricciardo, who had secured five podium finishes in the previous six races. As he watched replays of the incident in his team garage, Ricciardo looked stone-faced when he saw confirmation that it was his own teammate who was responsible.

''That was amateur to say the least,'' Ricciardo told broadcaster Sky Sports afterward.

Team principal Christian Horner said that Verstappen had apologized to the team and would do so privately to Ricciardo.

Verstappen was given a 10-second time penalty for the incident, helping Hamilton's cause.

But Raikkonen's wily driving never gave him a real chance.

Hamilton had written off his chances of victory after qualifying, saying it would be an ''easy breeze'' for Ferrari on the tight and twisty 4.4-kilometer (2.7-mile) circuit nestled in the hills surrounding Budapest. Only the sinewy street circuit of Monaco is tougher to overtake on.

But Ferrari faced an awkward dilemma as the race wound down with Vettel leading but under instruction to avoid contact with the kerbs because of his steering problems. The result was that Vettel was slowing down Raikkonen just behind him.

''The Mercedes are catching,'' a worried Raikkonen said over his radio.

Bottas let Hamilton past him, on the condition that he would give the position back if he couldn't get a clean shot at Raikkonen.

In the end, he couldn't get quite close enough.

Meanwhile, two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso of Spain took sixth place for McLaren. The team has been struggling with Honda engines, but in a rare boost also got Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne in the points. He was 10th.

Romain Grosjean (Haas), Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) and Paul di Resta (Williams) - replacing the ill Felipe Massa - failed to finish.