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Hamilton leaves Hungary with win, controversies

2016-07-26 12:46

MEANING OF THE FLAGS: Lewis Hamilton says that there should be clear guidelines on what drivers should do when yellow flags are waved. Image: AP / Luca Bruno

Budapest - Lewis Hamilton departed Budapest on Monday (July 25) as the beaming new leader of this year's world championship and at the centre of a trio of controversies in the wake of his record fifth victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The defending world champion was involved in a a row over yellow flags with his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, accused of 'backing him up' in the race and also of showing a lack of respect to a back-marker who had blocked him.

He showed no signs of serious concern other than a worry that the race stewards' inconsistent interpretation of the flag rules was dangerous and required clarification.

Pole position controversy

Hamilton was accused of 'backing up' second-placed Rosberg during Sunday's race - driving slower than he could to push his rival back within reach of third-placed Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo - but this was dismissed by Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff.

Wolff said: "I don't think he was backing him up at all. I'm sure he didn't want to back him up. The whole weekend we discussed with them the need to be very cautious on the tyres.

"When you hear constant messaging that 'the tyres might not last', you want to manage them. He (Hamilton) over-managed it probably. He had everything under control. He knew Nico was behind and didn't realise the train was approaching fast."

READ: 2016 Hungarian GP - 6 memorable moments

Hamilton said: "I was turning my engine up and down, managing it as much as I needed to... I wasn't backing Nico up.

"He was quick enough to close the gap, if he really wanted to, and challenge. After the radio message, I was able to pick pace and really go for it."

Hamilton was widely praised for his stand on the meaning of yellow flags, after Rosberg had set his fastest lap to claim pole while driving through waved double yellows, for which he escaped a penalty.

He said: "The stewards need to come up with some kind of solution because the whole 23 years of my racing, it has been 'if it's yellow flag, you slow down' and if it's double yellow flag, be prepared to stop.

"And Nico was doing the same speed at the apex as I was doing on the previous timed lap. If there happened to be a car that had spun, or a marshal on the track, it would have been pretty hard for him to slow down."

'Lack of respect'

As that argument raged in the post-race news conference where a visibly angry Rosberg responded by claiming he had lifted and slowed substantially, Esteban Gutierrez accused Hamilton of lacking respect with a single-finger gesture aimed at him as he passed his Haas car.

Gutierrez: "Not a very respectful move from him. He's the world champion, but he shouldn't do these kinds of things - he should respect all of the competitors."

Hamilton responded: "He just didn't abide by the flags that I could see were being waved at him. I lost so much time behind him and at the same time Nico was catching me."

Having completed a mid-season hat-trick, Hamilton has now turned a 43-point deficit in May 2016 into a six-point lead ahead of this week's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.

On current form, he looks unstoppable, but Rosberg, who won the first four races of the year, believes he can bounce back again.

"I've always said I'm not counting points," he said. "I fully expected him to come back and I didn't expect to be 43 points in front all the time.

"It ebbs and flows and it's always going to be a tough battle because he's the world champion. It's still close and it only takes a small thing to switch it the other way -- and I want to do that at Hockenheim."

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