British press say Lewis Hamilton can now emerge as Sebastian Vettel's closest title rival
Newspapers hail Briton's first Mercedes victory in Hungary
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 29/07/13 12:37pm
Lewis Hamilton's spectacular first victory for Mercedes in Hungary has propelled him into the realm of serious title contention, Fleet Street have confidently declared.
At the fourth attempt in his burgeoning Mercedes career, Hamilton converted pole position into a race victory on Sunday, and while he stays the equivalent of two race wins adrift of Sebastian Vettel in the points standings, the British press believes the nature of the success can prove a platform for the 28-year-old to launch an all-out assault on the crown over the second half of the season.
Writing in The Times under the headline 'King of the Hungaroring shows he still has X-factor', Kevin Eason suggested Hamilton, despite all the well-documented turmoil in his private life, was ready to give Vettel a run for his money in the German's quest for a fourth straight Championship.
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'From somewhere inside the moody kid in the corner with the mobile phone blossomed this flamboyant, courageous and calculating driver of ethereal skill. It was spellbinding to watch and inspiring to believe that F1 has found a driver and a car that might prevent Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull train rolling to a fourth world championship,' Eason wrote.
'Vettel still leads the world championship but Hamilton's victory has signalled that the man who has dominated for three seasons might not get it all his own way. Hamilton took ten points of Vettel's lead yesterday to prevent this season trickling away into an apathetic traipse across the globe for the second half of this long, gruelling season.'
Although Hamilton remains fourth in the standings behind Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel, the Daily Telegraph suggested that should the apparent easing of Mercedes' chronic tyre-wear struggles proved the rule rather than the exception after the summer break, then the Mercedes driver could become the man most likely to stop the reigning Champion.
'With Ferrari struggling at the moment to keep pace, and Lotus struggling to pay their bills, the possibility of Red Bull's triple world champion Vettel winning by a comfortable margin on Sunday, stretching his lead in the title race, and going on to enjoy a lazy summer while Hamilton licked his wounds, was very real," Tom Cary wrote.
'Instead Hamilton's win cut the gap to Vettel to 48 points. It is still a sizeable margin, of course, and he still lies fourth in the standings. But if his tyre wear issues are indeed over then he has every chance of making further inroads when the sport reconvenes at Spa after the summer factory shutdown.'
The Guardian concurred that against all the pre-season odds Hamilton could yet end his debut year at Mercedes with a second drivers' crown - 'Hamilton enters title reckoning with greatest drive of his life' declared its headline - with Paul Weaver also suggesting that the 2008 Champion's latest win was among the very greatest of his career.
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'Ignoring Mercedes' almost neurotic relationship with their tyres, their engine overheating problems of the weekend and one of the most demanding circuits that Formula One has to offer, he produced one of the greatest drives of his already garlanded career," he reported.
'This win will rank alongside the very best of his 22 victories, his first in Montreal in 2007, his rain-splashed triumph at Silverstone in 2008 and last year's thrilling display in Austin, his last success before this, as one of the most prized in his growing collection.'
The Daily Express's Bob McKenzie, meanwhile, said that Hamilton's first victory for his new employers had also definitively banished pre-season claims that he had erred in leaving established winners McLaren.
'A year ago, the rest of the paddock wondered whether Hamilton had lost the plot as he considered swapping teams,' McKenzie said.
'Mercedes had done nothing in three years with Michael Schumacher while McLaren have been serial winners. If there were any doubts left, Hamilton shredded them yesterday as he powered across the line in a Hungaroring heat haze into the cool reality of being a title contender again.'