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Hungarian Grand Prix: Shock on the Top of the Podium

An exciting, tense and drama-filled Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring saw Esteban Ocon take his maiden victory in a shock win for the Alpine team.

There’s usually one race each year which is the ‘out there’ race—there’s incidents, action, drama for front runners and shock results. Well, the Hungarian Grand Prix was 2021’s out there race!

With rain beginning to fall just before the Hungarian Grand Prix started all drivers lined up for the formation lap on intermediate tyres. This would be the first wet running of the weekend, on a very slippery track, in difficult conditions—what could go wrong?

Starting second Bottas got a bad start and Norris—charging from sixth on the grid passed him. Unfortunately, Bottas then misjudged his breaking into turn one, locked up and crashed into the back of Norris’ Mclaren—these cars then collect both Red Bulls in a chaotic incident. Meanwhile, behind them, Stroll also carried too much speed into the first corner and despite trying to avoid any collisions crashed into Leclerc, pushing the Ferrari driver into Ricciardo. Mayhem, madness and millions of pounds gone in about five seconds! As often happens with these sorts of multiple car crashes some drivers are lucky—others are not. Bottas, Perez, Norris, Leclerc and Stroll are all out of the race, Verstappen and Riccardo continue but with damage. Gasly drops places taking avoiding action, but Ocon, Vettel—who initially got a terrible getaway—Latifi, Tsunoda and Sainz managed to avoid the mayhem and sail through to positions second through to sixth. Of course, there is luck involved with this, but that is not diminishing the driver’s abilities and reaction to be able to read the situations and find those correct lines to make it through chaotic situations. Hamilton, who started on pole got away ahead of all the action behind him and now sits in front of the rest of the pack.

After a few laps under the safety car, the red flag was brought out to stop the race—enabling the marshals to clean up the debris. This worked well for those with damage to their cars, as mechanics are allowed to do work on them and Verstappen’s team up a phenomenal effort into making a vast number of changes and repairs. Ultimately, his car was heavily damaged and would be running slower, but he was still in the race at least.

After the carnage is cleared the cars make their way to the grid and it is apparent that the track has dried significantly in the intervening time. Rather than line up on the grid on intermediate tyres—used for light standing water—the drivers dip into the pitlane to change tyres and line up behind one another at the end of the pitlane. All but one that is, as a solitary Lewis Hamilton lines up on pole in a bizarre single-car grid. Lights go out and Hamilton obvious takes the lead! Russell is second—after a cheeky move in the pitlane, but is required to give positions back dropping him to seventh. This returns the second position to Ocon, who is followed by Vettel and then Latifi. It’s increasingly apparent Hamilton and Mercedes made the wrong call not coming in for a tyre change, which they do five laps into the race—promoting Ocon’s Alpine into the lead. Hamilton drops to the back of the pack and will now have to fight his way through for a decent result. Meanwhile, championship rival Verstappen sits out of the points running behind Mick Schumacher in the Haas.

If there were a track—apart from Monaco—which you would want to be leading at, it would be the Hungaroring. Although it often provides interesting and exciting races it is very difficult to pass here. A driver may need a two-second speed advantage over a competitor to make an overtake—that, or for them to make a mistake. And this is one of the main themes of the race—Vettel trying to pass Ocon; piling on the pressure, trying to harass him into a mistake. On for a possible maiden victory and a bag load of points for the team, how will the Ocon fair under that kind of pressure from a four-time world champion? Pretty well it turns out! Vettel did have the faster car than Ocon—especially on the straights—but not fast enough to pass him. Vettel was pushing for a mistake but Ocon absorbed the pressure and the mistake never came in what was a faultless drive.

Behind the top two, Latifi ran a superb race under a lot of pressure. Knowing he was unable to compete with Ocon and Vettel he focused on his own race and absorbed the pressure of running in the top three at a team absolutely desperate for points. I also think the Canadian is owed a pint or two from Ocon, as his Williams became a roadblock that cars behind were unable to pass. Sainz for instance—in the fifth position—would have had the pace to battle with Ocon if he hadn’t been stuck behind Latifi.

Further back Schumacher was the block in the road for Verstappen, Gasly, and a little later on Hamilton. All three did manage to pass the german eventually, but he put up a solid and robust defence against them in an impressive display by the young driver.

Lap twenty and Hamilton is in for a tyre change—looking to undercut his rivals. This leads to a flurry of stops, at the end of which Hamilton seems to have come out the better—jumping both Ricciardo and Verstappen, despite them only staying out one lap longer than the Brit. Even better for Hamilton his pit stop does not see him drop back behind Mick Schumacher—unlike Ricciardo and Verstappen

Up ahead the top five have not pitted—Vettel is still pressurising Ocon, Sainz is now in third—after Latifi pits—with Alonso behind. Gasly rounds out the top five as Alpha Tauri look to overcut competitors with a longer stint on his tyres.

We’re treated to some lovely overtakes and battles on track with Hamilton passing Tsunoda, Russell and Schumacher going wheel to wheel and the Verstappen then passing the Hass driver. Again, Schumacher puts on a good show and defensive driving. Hamilton is slowly but surely clawing his way back through the pack, but main rival Verstappen is unable to make progress in his damaged car.

Up in front, it is finally pit stop time for Vettel and Ocon, meaning Alonso took the lead for a short time. A slow stop for Vettel means he is unable to jump Ocon in the pits—despite a monumental out lap from the German. Hamilton has now made his way up to fourth and is beginning to harass Sainz ahead of him.

Hamilton comes in for fresh tyres—going for a charge at the end of the Hungarian Grand Prix, The Mercedes driver exits the pits behind Alonso, just under 25 seconds behind race leader Ocon with 21 laps to go. The victory could be his in the faster car on faster tyres than those around him. And this is where we were treated to an absolute masterclass in defensive driving from Alonso. Reminiscent of his epic 2005 San Marino victory, where he defended from Schumacher in the closing part of the race. For over ten laps Alonso keeps Hamilton behind—in what I think was the best on-track fight of the season so far. Eventually, Hamilton gets past, having found the right overtaking spot he could then dispatch with Sainz in third position—on much older tyres. Alonso—with the widest F1 car—enabled Ocon’s victory, putting a decisive stop to Hamilton’s late-race dash.

The battles didn’t stop through the field—with Vettel still hounding Ocon, getting half a chance on an overtake when Raikkonen popped out of the pits just ahead of them. Verstappen managed to pass Ricciardo and pressured Russell for the last ten laps of the race—but was ultimately unable to find a way passed. Alonso too closed in on fellow Spaniard Sainz but the Ferrari driver remained ahead.

Up in front though it was Estaban Ocon who took his surprise maiden F1 victory, from Vettel, Hamilton and Sainz.  Ocon joins Alonso, Button, and Hill in taking their first victory around the Hungaroring—and their careers didn’t work out too badly did they!

But, the drama didn’t stop there, as Vettel is disqualified from the race. After crossing the line the German parked his car on the outside of turn 12—not completing the lap due to a lack of fuel. The FIA requires that cars must always have 1 litre of fuel in the car at all times—enough for a sample. But they were unable to get the required 1 litre from Vettel’s Aston Martin. It’s an obvious blow to the team after an amazing result, and for Vettel after a superb drive. At the time of writing the team are set to appeal this disqualification.

The Teams

Red Bull– Well, disaster really! Obviously not their fault to be collected by errant cars at the start but it still stings. With the cloud of the Silverstone Hamilton and Verstappen crash still very much lingering there are talks about Verstappen losing the championship through events beyond his control. Damage by Bottas at Hungary, crash with Hamilton at Silverstone and tyre failure in Baku—these things can majorly add up within a season. Red Bull are concerned the Silverstone crash may have damaged Verstappen’s engine—they ran a new one in Hungary. There is now concern the crash here damaged Perez engine. With a limited number of engines allowed per car per season, the team could find themself being penalised if they have to go over this quota.

So, overall, not a great day, Verstappen’s mechanics did do an amazing job fixing up, changing bits and generally gaffer taping up his car and to come home with two points was probably two more than Red Bull thought they’d get at the end of lap one. Sometimes in sport, it’s all about the mentality and not letting things get to you, hopefully, they can mentally move past the last two races and reset for Belgium after the summer break.

Mercedes– Well, obviously not a great day for Bottas! Someone was going to make a mistake into turn one in those very difficult conditions, it just happened to be him. Bottas will incur a five-place grid penalty at the next race for causing the collision. On the other side of the garage, second is a good result, however, I can’t help thinking the victory could have been Hamilton’s if he’d have pitted before the restart as everyone else did. Granted—due to the pit box being located at the beginning of the pit lane—he probably would have come out somewhere in the lower half of the top ten, but that’s better than last, which is where he was after he pitted.

More concerning perhaps was Hamilton’s appearance on the podium—personally, I was genuinely concerned for him up there and post-race he missed part of the press conference to see the team doctor. Suffering from possible dehydration, fatigue and dizzyness the reigning world champion said he has been struggling ever since having Covid in December last year and brought up the possibility of having Long Covid. This could be potentially debilitating for his season and I wish him all the best with his health.

Ferrari– Leclerc’s day ended early after being skittled off by Stroll. Sainz was a winner in all the first lap mayhem moving from fifteenth up to fourth. Third I think was a very good result for the Spaniard, who had to manage fuel within the race. Being held up by Latifi probably cost him fighting upfront with Ocon and Vettel, but with a track so difficult to overtake on it’s unlikely he would have passed either. Sainz was decisive in this race, reading and predicting Hamilton’s race strategy and making calls on pit stops to try to counter this. This shows confidence within his ability and a good working relationship with the team— promising signs.

Mclaren– Like many others, a poor day through no fault of their own. Norris was taken out by Bottas at the start of the race after a blistering start from sixth. Ricciardo sustained damage and did continue, at one point fighting to be in the top ten, but eventually finished out of the points in thirteenth. They can be understandably disappointed, but take heart in the fact that there wasn’t really anything they could have done better.

Alpine-Well, what a day for these guys! Huge congratulations! Amazing by both drivers and an all-around team victory. Ocon managed to find the right line through all the chaos—call it luck, call it good judgement, call it a bit of both—it set up a great race for him. He took the ballsy call to pit after the formation lap, watching a seven-time world champion ahead making the opposite choice and still sticking with his decision, not knowing if he would be the only one pitting and essentially throw away a second position. From the outset, he had to keep on top of a monumental pressure from Vettel all race. One tiny error and the four-time world champion would have been through, but Ocon rose to the occasion and took a thoroughly deserved victory. The team too undertook high-pressure pitstops without issue. Alonso put in the defensive driving masterclass! Keeping Hamilton at bay for ten laps enabled his teammate to take the win—without his performance Hamilton would have taken victory. The drivers seem to have a great working relationship—Alonso congratulating Ocon and Ocon thanking him for his part in the win. The team seems to work well at the moment, and the drivers seem able to work together to assist the team in bettering the car. With both Alonso and Ocon committed to Alpine for next year it is a very good sign for the team.

Aston Martin– Highs and lows! Stroll lost control of the car into turn one causing a collision and retiring from the race—he has been handed a five-place grid penalty at the next race for causing the collision. For Vettel an outstanding drive to finish second on the track. Piling on pressure to Ocon ahead with just no way through. Then post-race to be disqualified for not having enough fuel in the car at the end of the race. The team are fighting this disqualification. Even if they are not successful they can be really proud of the performance and pleased with how well Vettel has connected with the team and the car which has lead to the good performances that he is having with them this year.

Alpha Tauri– Not a bad day, despite falling down places in the constructor’s fight—due to Alpines big points haul. Gasly was mixed up in the first turn incidents, running wide to avoid contact and dropping down positions. The team used a great overcut strategy with him to see him jump some positions. He went from running out of the top ten to a fifth-place finish. He was also able to take home the fastest lap and point which goes along with this. I have a feeling Someone was on the phone from sister team Red Bull asking the Alpha Tauri’s to please take the fastest lap from Hamilton! Tsunoda made a good start but was held up behind Latifi for the first part of the race, he came in behind his teammate in sixth.

Alfa Romeo– Not a great day. Giovinazzi was handed a ten-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane, and from there never really got back into the race, coming in thirteenth. Raikkonen too was handed a ten-second penalty after the team released him from a pitstop unsafely—directly in front of a Haas which crashed into him! Raikkonen’s car seemed ok though and he continued in the race, even bringing home a single point in tenth.

Williams– Probably the only people as happy as Alpine—maybe even happier judging from Russell’s emotional reaction! Not just points, but double points finish. These sorts of results keep teams going, the prize money it brings is a lifeline. Latifi had a fantastic drive today, making his way to third after avoiding all the incidents the Canadian drove his own race—knowing he hadn’t the speed to go after the leaders. He had a lot of pressure on him from that behind, and also a huge expectation from a team desperate for points. He rose to this extremely well and made no mistakes bringing in the Williams seventh. Teammate Russell tried a cheeky move—when most drivers pitted after the formation lap, instead of queueing up at the end of the pitlane he just drove around everyone! The Brit explained he wasn’t sure what the rule was exactly in these strange circumstances so gave it a shot, totally worth it! As it happens the FIA did make him give those positions back, but kudos for his for having the balls and where with all to try it. Also playing the team game Russell told his engineers to compromise his result if it meant Latifi would get more points for them, legend. Russell called the final stint of this race—where he kept Ricciardo and then Verstappen at bay—his best stint in an F1 car and he was rewarded with an eighth-place finish. Williams are now eighth in the constructors’ standings with ten points, which is basically a whole load of Christmasses for them!

Haas– Mazepin retired early after the incident with Raikkonen. Mick Schumacher wowed us with some seriously good defensive driving today. Robust, confident and thrilling to watch, he’s not reigning F2 champion for no reason, he came in twelfth. Despite a good performance, that the car just doesn’t have the pace to keep up with competitors.

Final Thoughts

Whoowee! So, I guess thanks to Bottas and Stroll for creating such a mixed-up race! Everyone loves a topsy-turvey race where an underdog wins don’t they! And this is exactly what we got here. Along with crashes, wheel to wheel action, tense drama from pressure and the defensive drive of the season! Ocon’s form hasn’t been the best in the races before Silverstone, struggling to get a good qualifying position and hampering his race. But the guy has serious talent and it’s fantastic to see him rewarded for it, as well as the team being rewarded for their faith and loyalty to him.

Driver of the day: Ocon
Honourable mentions: Alonso, Vettel, Latifi, Russell

Good guy of the day (again): Vettel- Visibly standing up for LQBTQ+ rights for the whole weekend—donning a rainbow on his helmet and boots as well as a rainbow mask and t-shirt. The Hungarian government are currently regressive and anti-LGBTQ+. Vettel was reprimanded for not removing his rainbow t-shirt for the national anthem and later declared “I’m happy if they disqualify me. They can do whatever they want to me, I don’t care. I would do it again.” Thank you, Seb!

Hungarian Grand Prix Race Results

  1. Ocon
  2. Hamilton
  3. Sainz
  4. Alonso
  5. Gasly (Fastest Lap)
  6. Tsunoda
  7. Latifi
  8. Russell
  9. Verstappen
  10. Raikkonen

Highlights

Next Time

Belgium! A firm favourite with fans and drivers. Challenging, fast, iconic corners and long straights, Spa never fails to deliver!

Where to Watch

USA: Sunday 29th August Live on ESPN race start at 9:00 am EST
UK: Sunday 29th August Live on Sky Sports F1 race start at 2:00 pm GMT
Highlights on Sky One and Channel Four, Sunday 29th August, time TBC

Written by Jenny Alderton

Jenny is a freelance writer based in Wales with keen interest in Motorsports. An avid follower of Formula one for over twenty years she has recently branched out into watching other vehicles driving around in wiggly circles. Namely, Motogp, World Superbike championship, and British Superbike championship.

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