An incredible race in Hungary has gifted Esteban Ocon with his first ever race victory. Vettel was 2nd, tailing Ocon for the entire race, while Hamilton finished 3rd after being dead last at one stage.
Before the race began, there were reports that every F1 fan wants to hear. Rain. A fine amount of rain started falling 30 minutes before race start, not enough to provide standing water, but enough to make the track incredibly greasy.
Originally Mercedes and Red Bull were due to start on opposite tyre compounds, but now all drivers would be starting on the green ‘intermediate’ tyre.
Start line Chaos
Hamilton got away cleanly, but Norris was collected by the slow starting Bottas and the pair plunged into the side of Verstappen through turn 1. All 3 drivers were sent tumbling down the order. Bottas was out immediately and also managed to collect Perez in the process. Perez had to retire, but Verstappen was able to continue, with a significant amount of damage.
Meanwhile, through turn 1, Stroll collected Ricciardo who crashed into Leclerc, ending the Monagasque’s race. Stroll also had to retire.
The safety car was out immediately, which soon turned to a red flag. This gave some breathing space to Verstappen with an opportunity to fix the damage. The car was still in poor shape and the Hungaroring is a famously hard place to overtake.
Pit Lane Restart
By the time the cars returned to the track, the sun was out and rapidly drying the track. The cars would line up for a second standing start. Hamilton 1st, Ocon 2nd, Vettel 3rd.
The track was almost bone dry by the end of the formation lap and every driver ducked into the pits, except for Hamilton. Hamilton took the standing start by himself while Russell took 2nd out of the pits. Hamilton’s lap was incredibly slow and Russell was catching him hugely until he had to return positions. As Hamilton finally crawled into the pits, Ocon took the lead ahead of Vettel and Latifi.
After his stop Hamilton crucially fell behind Verstappen, coming out dead last.
In the pits, Raikkonen was released unsafely and collected Mazepin, taking him out of the race.
Hamilton was struggling behind Giovinazzi, unable to immediately find a way past. At the end of lap 10, Hamilton managed to take 13th, while Verstappen was in 11th. Up front, Ocon was still leading from Vettel and Latifi.
On Lap 14, Verstappen made an incredible overtake against Schumacher through turn 1 and 2. The two banged wheels into T3 with no major damage. As Verstappen made it into the points, Hamilton locked up behind dropping him away from Gasly in front.
Giovinazzi served a penalty for speeding in the pitlane, promoting Verstappen to 9th and, with help of an overtake on Schumacher, Hamilton to 11th.
Up front, Ocon remained 1.2s in front of Vettel, the gap being maintained since lap 4. Tsunoda, in 4th, was unable to overtake Latifi upfront, holding a phenomenal 3rd place.
After numerous laps of radio messages, Hamilton pitted on lap 20 to try and find an alternate way to gain on the cars in front. Verstappem jumped into the pits on the next lap, as well as Ricciardo to cover Hamilton. This wasn’t enough and Hamilton managed to storm past the two drivers into the first corner.
The undercut seemed incredibly strong, numerous drivers started pitting to attempt an overtake, most noticeably Tsunoda pitting ahead of Latifi. This worked and put Tsunoda in a net 3rd.
Hamilton was ordered to push hard and the Briton followed through on this, he was up to 8th by lap 25. Hamilton in clean air, and an undamaged car, was 3s a lap faster than Verstappen, but he would have to pit again.
Sainz was asked to pit on lap 22, but the Spanish driver refused, happy with his current pace.
On Lap 30, Hamilton was chasing Tsunoda, in 6th. This was going to be a crucial overtake as the top 5 drivers were yet to stop. It took a few laps, but Hamilton was able to squeeze past with a brave overtake into turn 4. This caused Ferrari to cover their back and pit Sainz, who came out 4s in front of Hamilton. It would be difficult for Hamilton to get past the Ferrari, especially as the scarlet car would not need to pit again.
Schumacher again made headlines for his strong defense of 9th place. Russell was unable to find a way past straight away and Ricciardo and Verstappen was now bottling up behind. Russell made a brave move through turns 2 and 3 to finally get infront of the Haas. Surely, points wouldn’t be taken away from the Briton again?
Russell’s overtake gave Ricciardo and Verstappen the confidence to attempt an overtake a lap later, relegating the Haas to 12th.
Ocon and Vettel were still pushing at front, but it was Vettel who blinked first for the pits. His stop was slower than would have been desired, while Ocon was pushing hard on his inlap.
Ocon pitted a lap later and had a near perfect stop. Vettel’s outlap was supreme, but it wasn’t enough to find a way past. Alonso had inherited the lead but it was Ocon who maintained the net lead. Alonso would come out 5th after his stop a few laps later.
Hamilton and Sainz were flying and, on lap 43, they were only 5s behind Vettel.
Hamilton took his final stop on lap 48, a new set of mediums awaited him and the gap to 1st was less than 30s.
With 15 laps to go, Hamilton was now on the back of Alonso for 4th. Fernando was immediately having to defend hard as Hamilton was a significant pace advantage. Both cars were side by side through turn 2, 3 and 4, but Alonso won the first battle.
2 laps later, the exact same battle took place and again, Alonso won out. Hamilton was crucially eating up tyres in the Spaniard’s dirty air.
Up front, Ocon remained 1s infront, the battle had been on a knife-edge all race long.
With 7 laps to go, Hamilton launched another strong attack. He was almost infront into turn 4, but Alonso managed to do the impossible and keep the Mercedes behind.
But, with 5 laps to go, Alonso made a crucial error and locked up into turn 1. This gave Hamilton the line into turn 2 and 4th place.
Hamilton was immediately on the back of Sainz, but couldn’t make it past on his first attempt. The second attempt was far more successful and Hamilton finally clawed his way onto the podium. Vettel and Ocon were safe out front, with an 8s buffer.
Vettel was close, but not close enough to deny Ocon his first ever Formula 1 victory. The Frenchman was ecstatic over the radio, while Vettel, in an impressive 2nd, was ruing what could have been. Hamilton recovered well to 3rd, but should have had an easy victory with all of his rivals taken out. Sainz kept Alonso at bay, and the Spaniard was just as responsible for Alpine’s victory as Ocon was. The Alpha Tauris finished in formation for strong points, ahead of both Williams drivers, scoring enough points to take them to 8th in the Constructors Championship, while Verstappen took a solitary point.
F1 now goes into the summer break with Hamilton in the lead of the championship. Some racers will enjoy the time off, while others may have preferred a slightly different result. Either way, the fans have won again with a superb race and a title battle that gets ever closer.
Formula 1 returns in 3 weeks for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Full race result:
- Vettel +1.859
- Hamilton +2.736
- Sainz +15.018
- Alonso + 15.651
- Gasly +63.614
- Tsunoda +75.803
- Latifi +77.910
- Russell +79.094
- Verstappen +80.244
- Raikkonen +1Lap
- Ricciardo +1Lap
- Schumacher +1Lap
- Giovinazzi +1Lap
- Mazepin RET
- Norris RET
- Perez RET
- Bottas RET
- Leclerc RET
- Stroll RET
Featured Image Credit: @F1 Official Twitter