Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton insists Sebastian Vettel could have won despite cruising to victory in Hungary. In this picture, race winner Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP and second place Vettel of Germany and Ferrari celebrate on the podium during the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 29, 2018, in Budapest, Hungary. Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton insists it would have been difficult to keep Sebastian Vettel at bay, had the Ferrari driver emerged from his first and only pit stop ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas.

The Mercedes driver cruised to his fifth win of the season at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, but believes the outcome could have been different had the Ferrari driver not suffered through a slow pit stop that saw him emerge behind Bottas.

Vettel had to spend the better part of 20 laps behind the second Mercedes — despite having the faster car — that allowed Hamilton to build an insurmountable lead at the front. The Ferrari driver could have avoided it, but losing time in the laps leading up to his stop and a problem with the left front during ensured he came out behind the Mercedes.

The Ferrari driver would have been 10 seconds behind Hamilton had he come out in front of Bottas and with the faster tire, he would certainly have been able to put pressure on the F1 Drivers’ championship leader. And the British driver admitted it would have been difficult to keep Vettel behind.

"If he had come out ahead of Valtteri, it would have been very, very hard," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. "He would have probably caught me with five laps to go. Would I have been able to keep him behind? I would have struggled."

The German, however, believes second place is the best he could have hoped for on a weekend when the Ferrari’s were favorite to take the win. Vettel insists even if he had caught up with Hamilton it would have been difficult to make the pass and he cited the time he spent behind Bottas after his stop despite possessing fresh tires and a faster car.

"I think Lewis had a lot in hand," Vettel said during the post-race press conference. "We could have probably caught him but not passed him. You saw in the end that I was a lot of faster than Valtteri but initially l couldn't make it so l sat back and waited for the last 10 laps."

The F1 drivers and teams will go into the mandatory summer break with the season set to resume Aug. 27 with the Belgian Grand Prix. There is, however, a two-day test Tuesday and Wednesday before everyone goes on holiday for almost four weeks.

Hamilton leads the Drivers’ championship by 24 points from title rival Vettel, while Mercedes lead the Constructors’ standings by 10 points from Ferrari. And the Briton believes they are only ahead due to Mercedes making use of “every opportunity” and having a better strategy in recent races despite Ferrari having a much stronger package in terms of pure performance.

“We definitely didn't expect this,” the four-time champion said after the race. “We knew the Ferraris would be quick and they have been strong for the last three or four races.”

“Their pace has been stronger, they have gained more pace on the straights from nowhere, but we have operated better and been better on strategy. We have made the most of every single opportunity we have had and l think that could be key at the end of the year.”

Vettel, however, is not ready to give up on his dream to win a world championship with Ferrari and believes they can mount a fight back in the second-half of the season. The German continued to rue his mistake from the previous race in Germany when he threw away a certain victory after a small mistake that saw him crash out of the race.

“We started well with a car that wasn't ready. From my own point of view, it has been fairly consistent. The one error which was quite costly was last week [when he crashed out of the lead of the German GP]. It's part of the game and I can't rewind the clock,” Vettel said.

“It obviously hurt us but l am confident that if we have a car to fight with we can put them under pressure and make things happen in the second half.”