BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen made everyone else look fairly ordinary on Sunday, including the other two men they share an identical car with.
There's lots to digest from the Hungarian Grand Prix, the last race before the four-week summer break, and the most obvious place to start is with a rivalry which is finally bubbling into something with box office potential.
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Hamilton vs. Verstappen lives up to its billing: Just like it was strange that it took Max Verstappen so long to score a pole position, it was odd that it's taken this long for us to see Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton fighting that closely for a race victory. And just like Saturday afternoon, it was worth the wait.
The two men are at opposite ends of their careers but they were in a class of their own on Sunday. After exchanging metronomic lap times at the front, the pair went wheel-to-wheel in breath-taking style on Lap 39. The Verstappen of old might have leapt erratically one way and then another under braking, but this was a beautifully clean fight. Hamilton tried to get the move done around the outside of Turn 1 and then had a think about an audacious pass at the top of Turn 4, but that one came to nought as he ran wide.
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What was also impressive was the relentless consistency of both men. Perhaps it's a trait of a great driver, but it was interesting to hear both firing off matter-of-fact communications with their pit walls while delivering such good, consistent lap times -- pushing both the team's limits and their own. A championship fight this season is next to impossible given Hamilton's advantage, but if Red Bull and Honda are in the mix from March of next year, 2020 will be a title fight you do not want to miss.
A strategic masterstroke: Shortly after the strategy call which decided the race, it was clear seeds of doubt had been sewn in the two main protagonists for victory.
When Hamilton pitted on Lap 48, he emerged on fresh medium tyres 20 seconds down, with 21 laps to make up the deficit. It seemed to be a big ask. Hamilton opened his radio channel to say he thought it was the wrong call, although Verstappen opened his to tell Red Bull they should have copied what Mercedes did.
The call hung in the balance for a little bit, but before long it was clear Mercedes had judged the situation beautifully as Hamilton slashed away at the gap as Verstappen neared the end of his tyre life. In the end, the pass was routine, a Mercedes easing past a Red Bull like it was 2014. Red Bull quickly conceded defeat, called Verstappen in for a fresh set of tyres which he used to claim the extra point for fastest lap.
After the race, Hamilton was quick to praise his race engineer Peter Bonnington, who often is at the receiving end of the five-time world champion's more intense radio messages, and chief strategist James Vowles, who later joined him on the podium as a reward.
"Thank you so much James, Bono," he said. "You guys thank you so much for this weekend ... James, sorry I doubted the strategy. That was a tall order, man."
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