Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes simply “didn’t have the pace” to fight for victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix, regardless of a tricky first lap that saw him drop from first to fourth position.

    Hamilton ended his two-year pole position drought with a stunning qualifying performance at the Hungaroring, but lost out to Red Bull rival Max Verstappen and the McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris in the space of a few corners.

    READ MORE: Verstappen dominates Hungarian GP to give Red Bull a record 12th successive win

    While he managed to re-pass Piastri as the race developed, the seven-time world champion had to settle for fourth at the chequered flag after Sergio Perez rose from ninth to third in the other Red Bull.

    2023 Hungary Grand Prix: Verstappen snatches the lead into Turn 1 as Hamilton drops to P4

    Reflecting on the race, and his start, Hamilton began: “I fell back… I hit the target that I was supposed to go to but just had wheelspin, then I was under attack all the way to Turn 2.

    “At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t have the pace to hold onto those guys [Red Bull and McLaren] anyway.”

    READ MORE: ‘What we’ve been doing is unbelievable’ – Verstappen hails ‘incredible’ moment as Red Bull make history with F1 victory sequence

    Despite enjoying a stronger final stint and cutting the gap to third-placed Perez, he continued: “Honestly, there wasn’t a lap that I enjoyed driving the car today, because the car didn’t feel good today at all. For some reason we just generally lacked pace.

    BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 23: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas
    Hamilton was unable to turn his 104th pole into a 104th race win

    “It did get better towards the end but still it was pretty tough. I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch Sergio, or at least [get past] a Red Bull, because they’re obviously so quick.

    “You live and you learn; yesterday was a good day and we’ll take the positives. But we’re a long shot away from winning at the moment.”

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    In the other Mercedes, George Russell bounced back from his shock Q1 exit to cross the line in seventh, which turned into sixth when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane.