Lewis Hamilton has explained how Fernando Alonso “gave me hell” during their battle for fourth place in the closing stages of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Alonso’s defence was crucial in protecting Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon from the charging Hamilton, effectively halting Hamilton’s progress towards the front after what was effectively his second pitstop for a fresh set of mediums for 11 crucial laps.
Hamilton first moved to within a second of Alonso on lap 54, but he didn’t make the pass until Turn 1 on lap 65. He subsequently passed Carlos Sainz for third place on-the-road, which will become second place if Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel’s exclusion for failure to provide a fuel sample fails.
“Fernando gave me hell out there,” said Hamilton.
“It was awesome racing, pretty on edge at least once but great racing.”
Hamilton’s reference to being on edge refers to the moment on lap 63 when, having challenged Alonso around the outside of the Turn 2 left-hander and got a run on him out of the flat-out Turn 3, they made contact approach Turn 4.
Alonso, as he had done several times before, took a defensive mid-track line on the approach to the corner and Hamilton went to his right approaching the fast left-hand. But on lap 63, Alonso edged over on Hamilton, with his rear-right tyre rubbing Hamilton’s front-left.
As Hamilton still had more than the regulated car’s width, although he did subsequently give himself extra room with his right wheel’s over the white line marking the track edge, there was no problem with Alonso’s move but the Mercedes driver complained over the radio that “did you see he just moved over on me man…come on”. He later added “at that speed, it’s so dangerous”.
Despite his unhappiness at Alonso’s move, Hamilton said he enjoyed the battle.
“Looking back on it, it was amazing – it really, really was fantastic,” said Hamilton.
“I wish the cars could follow closer and I’m excited for what the cars are like next year. Hopefully, that eradicates a lot of that bad draft that we had here.
“It’s a really difficult circuit to overtake on in general and to follow, particularly in that last sector, but great wheel-to-wheel battles.
“It literally was wheel-to-wheel at least once and I don’t really have much more to say about it.
“When you’re racing against a two-time world champion, he probably is one of the hardest drivers – but fair.
“I’d say today was a little bit over the limit.”
Hamilton was right behind Alonso for 11 full laps from 54-64, during which his pace compared to Ocon was near-identical.
That made his defence vital for team-mate Ocon, although Alonso was surprised that Hamilton did not make the pass more quickly.
Hamilton finally made the pass on lap 65 when Alonso went deep into Turn 1. The Mercedes driver was able to cover Alonso’s attempt to re-pass him at Turn 2 and then pulled away at eight-tenths of a second per lap for the rest of the race – which included any time lost passing Sainz.
“Honestly, I thought that that was coming much earlier than what it did,” Alonso said. “He was close I think that Turn 4 was the closest, that high speed.
“Turn 2 we had some action and tried to give enough respect but not too much space, if not he would pass. But honestly, I think that Lewis was making small mistakes in the last two corners, that’s my honest opinion because he had so much pace so you could not take eight laps to pass with that pace advantage.
“In fact, after changing a few lines he could pass Carlos immediately one lap after, so it was not difficult to pass in my opinion but he took four or five laps to figure it out.”