BRITAIN’S Lewis Hamilton believes he is still in with a shot of winning the 2013 Formula One drivers’ world championship, after storming to his first Grand Prix victory of the season in Hungary yesterday.
The Mercedes driver is a considerable 48 points behind Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, yet his historic victory at the Hungaroring, where he has now won four times, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record, means he will be in contention when the season re-starts on 25 August.
After winning his first race as a Mercedes driver, Hamilton was asked on the podium if he can win the title. “I hope so. I honestly believe in this team and that this car is fast enough to compete with the Red Bull. As long as the tyres don’t let us down, we’ll be in there in the fight,” he responded.
F1 now undergoes its traditional mid-season break, with the next race, at the exciting Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.
Yet Hamilton, who took yesterday’s chequered flag in one hour, 42 minutes and 29 seconds, is in no mood to put his feet up.
“I’m not going to be relaxing so much. I shall keep training and I need to come back stronger in the second half of the season,” he said.
“I hope there is plenty more to come. We have to work hard but if we can make the tyres last here, then we can do it anywhere.”
The Mercedes cars have shown blistering pace this season, following Hamilton’s move from McLaren, but have been plagued by tyre troubles.
In the last eight races the German team have occupied 11 front-of-the-grid places, including seven pole positions – however, they have only held on to win three of those Grand Prix.
In May’s Barcelona Grand Prix, both Mercedes slid down the order due to tyre degradation, despite fronting the grid. And a month ago, at Silverstone, Hamilton’s bid for a home win was scuppered when a rear tyre blew up as he led the race.
Since then, however, Pirelli have altered the tyres that the teams use. “Hamilton and Mercedes used their tyres perfectly, in some of the hottest conditions of the year so far,” Pirelli’s Paul Hembery said yesterday.
Hamilton’s soft tyres lasted until lap nine, when the front-runner decided to pit. He emerged behind compatriot Jenson Button and swiftly overtook the McLaren. The move paid off as Vettel soon pitted and also came out behind Button, yet failed to overtake the Brit for 12 laps.
And on lap 34, following his second pit-stop, Hamilton executed a superb pass on Red Bull’s Mark Webber. Two laps later, following other drivers’ pit-stops, Hamilton was in the lead – a position he refused to give up.