Hamilton in elite company at Hungary

August, 1, 2012
08/01/12
2:48
PM ET

Over the years, 15 different drivers have graced the top step of the podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix, but now just three have done so at least three times after Lewis Hamilton charged to the win in this season's edition. Along with Hamilton, the others to claim this accomplishment are none other than Ayrton Senna (three) and Michael Schumacher (four).

It began with a blistering qualifying session that saw Hamilton on the pole, and he showed supreme poise throughout the day despite being closely pursued by both Lotus drivers. When Kimi Raikkonen pressed him late, Hamilton stayed true to the form he had demonstrated throughout the early laps and collected his first win from the pole since 2010.

Compared to the early stages of his career, Hamilton's wins are now typically coming in a slightly different fashion. His first five career victories all came from the pole, as did nine of his initial 13 wins in Formula One. Hungary, however, is the first victory from the pole for Hamilton in any of his past six wins.

While he's never won from a starting position worse than fourth, he's demonstrated recently that he can win without starting on the pole. In Hungary, however, he simply appeared dominant from beginning to end and was able to control the pace from the first lap.

Regardless of how his wins develop, Hamilton's career has continued to flourish, and the question of what lies ahead was a topic he discussed among reporters after his victory: "I am 100 percent focused this year, regardless of what people think. I've been on it all year, I've never been so committed, but of course I'm still in my 20s, I do want to enjoy my last bit of my 20s, because I've heard it's downhill from then on. I've got to strike a nice balance, and I think I am."

Meanwhile, Lotus has now finished runner-up this season for the fourth time in just 11 grands prix, the most since Benetton had five runner-ups without a win in 1996. That year, Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger had to contend with the likes of a very strong Williams team, while this season, Lotus is competing against a bit more balance toward the top.

Raikkonen, however, has experienced this before. In 2006, his McLaren team failed to win a single event yet finished second four times.

Nevertheless, the drought for Lotus may end soon. Spa is a place where Raikkonen has truly excelled, and he will likely be among the favorites for victory. Teammate Romain Grosjean, who has shown immense potential this year, should not be overlooked either.

Lotus team principal Eric Boullier certainly believes his team is close to victory, telling reporters, "We qualified better this weekend and we chased the leader of the race for many laps. On a different track layout, which allows overtaking, I think we could have won this race."

Spa will certainly provide overtaking opportunities, and Lotus may well emerge with its first victory of the season.

For now, fans will have to wait out the August break, as will drivers and teams. It's a well-deserved rest for all involved, and it provides a definitive marker between the first and second portions of the season. The next segment of Formula One certainly has high expectations, as this year has delivered both surprises and thrills throughout. The championship battle remains far from decided, which was not the case just one year ago at this time.

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