BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The crushing dominance of the Mercedes Silver Arrows came to an abrupt halt at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, the first time since the final race of the 2013 season without either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg on the podium.
Mercedes entered it looking odds-on to have both of its drivers on the podium for the 10th straight race this season.
Instead, Hamilton finished sixth and Rosberg was eighth.
Starting from pole position, Hamilton’s race went from bad to worse before ending with an unexpected bonus as he extended his championship leader over Rosberg in bizarre circumstances.
Hamilton dropped down to 10th after going off track early on, fought back to fourth, then pitted for a new front wing after clattering into Daniel Ricciardo as he tried to overtake the Australian driver’s Red Bull and was given a drivethrough penalty.
“I was all over the place,” said Hamilton, who apologized to his team. “I really don’t have any words to describe what happened. It was a really bad performance.”
Rosberg’s race ended farcically as he plummeted from second place with five laps to go after sustaining a late puncture.
Pushing hard to catch race leader Sebastian Vettel, the German driver’s rear left tire sustained a puncture when Ricciardo tried to overtake him.
“It is the sort of day I need to make the most of it against Lewis and it didn’t work out,” Rosberg said.
The end result was that, instead of heading into the summer break with Rosberg level-pegging, Hamilton moved 21 points clear ahead of the next race at the Belgian GP in three weeks’ time.
“Do I deserve any points? By the grace of God I got some,” Hamilton said.
Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff expressed his disappointment.
“This is not good for Nico, but the main downside is I have seen us losing ground on Ferrari and on Vettel,” he said. “That is why I am a bit frustrated.”
Although Vettel remains 42 points behind Hamilton in the title race, Ferrari will see chinks in the Mercedes armor. Wolff complained of “a calibration problem, an electronical problem” on the cars, adding that Hamilton was “one percent down on aero performance.”
Vettel’s win was a boost for F1 fans disgruntled by the dominance of Mercedes and lamenting a lack of overtaking and excitement.
Wolff even revealed that Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone came into the motorhome after the race to congratulate Mercedes — for not winning.
“Bernie was here saying ‘Thank you very much’ for a great day for Formula One,” Wolff said, his spirits improving. “We also had a laugh before the race. He said ‘Don’t win this race, it’s important for Formula One.’”