For most of the weekend, it looked like being business as usual for Drivers’ Championship leader Lewis Hamilton at the Hungarian Grand Prix, historically his most successful circuit.
The Brit qualified on pole for the fifth Grand Prix in a row – the first time that he had ever achieved that feat – and ninth time in ten races this season and was a mega favourite to achieve a record fifth win at the Hungaroring.
Yet race day saw him deliver an uncharacteristically error-strewn drive in which he dropped from first to fourth at the start, fell to tenth after running off and then got involved in a collision later on when trying to salvage things.
Hamilton was brutal in his self-assessment, confessing that he was “all over the place”, “really bad” and that it was “one of the worst performances I’ve put in for a long, long time”, as well as criticising his decision-making and questioning his concentration.
The result was a sixth-place finish which, while three spots down on his worst placing in the opening nine races, has to be considered pretty fortuitous, especially as main Drivers’ Championship rival Nico Rosberg had finished even further back in eighth.
As a result, Hamilton actually extended his advantage to 21 points and remains a 1/6 favourite to retain his title. However, though it was a grim day for Rosberg, things worked out brilliantly for German compatriot and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
After three successive Mercedes one-twos and six in nine in total in the early races (with the exceptions being two one-threes and a two-three), here they were not even in the top five as Vettel earned his second Ferrari victory.
The former Red Bull man’s confidence is back, as evidenced by his pledge to “try absolutely everything” to overtake both of them. The gap isn’t as insurmountable as his 20/1 odds imply: he is 21 points shy of Rosberg and 42 adrift of Hamilton, with nine stops left on the calendar.
It is the calendar that provides a slight worry for Hamilton, who so often excels at quickly putting disappointments behind him. Rather than instantly retaliate, the title holder must stew on his horror show for four weeks as Formula One goes on summer vacation.
As if that isn’t enough, the campaign resumes in Belgium, where his record is rotten. The 30-year-old has won just once ever at Spa, in 2010, and has retired on three of his four visits since.
Vettel has no such problems there, triumphing in 2011 and 2013. Indeed, McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull are the only teams to have supplied a winner there since Damon Hill’s surprise first for Jordan in an epic in 1998. The German is 11/1 to apply pressure with another 25 points.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £25 in free bets.