An emotional Sebastian Vettel paid tribute to Jules Bianchi by dedicating his thrilling Hungarian Grand Prix triumph to the fallen Formula One star.
The four-time champion, whose win in Budapest means he is now level on 41 victories with Ayrton Senna, finished ahead of the Red Bull duo of Daniil Kyvat and Daniel Ricciardo following one of the most dramatic races in recent memory.
Pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton was expected to cruise to a record fifth victory at a track in which he so often excels, but his race was blighted by a number of uncharacteristic errors and he had to settle for sixth.
It could, and quite probably should have been worse, yet Hamilton heads into the four-week summer break with an extended 21-point lead over Nico Rosberg.
The German spent the closing phase of the race battling Vettel for the win, but he crossed the line only eighth after a collision with Ricciardo in which he picked up a puncture.
There were no such concerns for his compatriot, who claimed his second win as a Ferrari driver. Vettel leapfrogged the slow-starting Mercedes pair on the run down to turn one and never looked back.
He then dedicated his triumph to Bianchi, the former Ferrari academy driver, who died earlier this month, and for whom the drivers staged a one-minute silence for ahead of the race.
“There have been some incredible ups and downs that we go through,” Vettel said pausing to clear his throat.
“This one is for Jules and especially all the people in Ferrari, and we knew that sooner or later he would have been part of our team, part of this family.”
Bianchi’s parents, Philippe and Christine, and his siblings were flown in for the race by Bernie Ecclestone and they linked arms with the drivers ahead of the race. It was a poignant moment and one which united the sport in this most tragic of circumstances.
Vettel, who along with many of his peers attended Bianchi’s funeral in Nice only days ago, added: “It was a tough start, a tough week, obviously with Tuesday, and then to think about Jules again on the grid, it was certainly very emotional and difficult to get back in the rhythm.
“I think nevertheless today is for Jules and his family and I think that’s bigger than everything else.”
On equalling Senna’s record, impressively in nine fewer starts than the legendary Brazilian, he added: “It is quite incredible and I don’t know how to put this in words.”
Bianchi’s death came nine months after his harrowing crash at the Japanese Grand Prix on October 5 and his passing cast a long shadow over the sport heading into this week’s race.
But his contemporaries vowed to race on in the Frenchman’s honour and this spectacular show was a fine tribute to a driver tipped to be a future Formula One champion.
Hamilton and Rosberg were slow off the start-line and by turn three they were behind both Vettel and his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
“I was all over the place,” Hamilton said. “I really don’t have any words to describe what happened. It was a really bad performance from me, one of the worst in a long time. I don’t know if it was a lack of concentration or what.”