“We’re in a good position,” continued Lewis. “But I don’t envisage this being a win. We’ve got a good car and if we don’t have any tyre issues we’ll be able to compete at the front, but I don’t have any indications that the situation’s going to be better than in previous races. We’ll have to see. What you can count on is that I’ll be doing my best.”
The roasting hot conditions on race day were not what Mercedes AMG Petronas needed. A track temperature in excess of 50 degrees made this the sternest tyre test of the season so far, and just behind Lewis on the grid were a group of cars that relished hot conditions. Both Lotuses looked particularly dangerous.
But it wasn’t only the track temp that was going to cause Lewis problems; the ambient was a scorching 37 degrees, making this the hottest grand prix since Bahrain 2005. Unlike Bahrain, however, the twisting Hungaroring has no straights along which the drivers can cool themselves, so this was set to be one of the most gruelling races in the history of the sport.
“You’re working hard here,” says Lewis. “The layout is like a kart track, so you’re always changing direction and sawing away at the wheel. But that really suits my driving style. There’s something quite old school about the place, which I like too. It’s one of my favourite tracks.”
Given how difficult it is to overtake at the Hungaroring, the 600-metre dash to the first corner was always going to be crucial. Lewis knew that he needed to convert pole position into the race lead and for that reason he worked hard to perfect his clutch settings before the start. He passed through the pitlane three times en route to the grid and on each occasion he did a practice start at the end of the pitlane.
All the preparations paid off: he nailed his getaway to lead Sebastian Vettel by 1.1s at the end of the opening lap. He was headed briefly during the pitstop sequences, but he always kept his main challengers for victory behind him. He even put in some stunning passing manoeuvres – described by three-time world champion Niki Lauda as “the best overtakes I’ve ever seen” – and drove the perfect race to win his first race for Mercedes by 11s.
“When I came out ahead of Sebastian after my first pitstop,” said Lewis, “I knew then that I had a real chance of victory. The car performed really well and the tyres held up; it was a great team performance. I’m really happy.”
Miracles, it seems, do sometimes happen.