It was Esteban Ocon who took an unexpected race win in Hungary this afternoon, as the chaos caused a mechanical massacre at the first turn of the first lap saw five cars retire from the race. There were so many storylines going into the summer break, some of them positive, some not so.
Chaos From The Start
For the first time this weekend, we got a glimpse of the Hungaroring in the wet, with drivers and teams alike prepping themselves for some difficult opening laps. On the grid, it was a question of slicks or intermediates, with the decision being left to the very last moment. The tire of choice for the start ended up being intermediate, with the rain looking to persist through the opening stages of the race. Antonio Giovinazzi took the gamble on a different set of tires.
The start was as hectic as it gets in F1, with Lando Norris jumping from 6th to third, however, Valtteri Bottas, who the Brit overtook, lost it under breaking into the first corner, with a concertina effect taking place rapidly after, as Norris hit Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, leaving Perez, Leclerc, and Bottas out of the race before the end of lap one. Joining them was Lance Stroll who was caught up in the drama after he sideswiped Leclerc on the inside of the first corner.
"Bottas lost the car and hit Lando, it's clear, Bottas made a big mistake," said a disgruntled Perez who also reported that they will have to replace the engine for the next GP, summing it all up by an "I don't know what to say". Whilst Leclerc took to Twitter saying "Nice bowling game. So frustrating".
"Just annoyed I guess, I don't know why that happens, to risk that and do stupid things... I hope they (The stewards) should have some common sense and do what they have to do" - Lando Norris on the first lap crash talking to Sky F1.
The sheer amount of debris caused a red flag, with teams licking wounds or prepping for a dream restart. the real winners were Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz, with the two managings to gain upwards of ten positions each, finding themselves in second and third place. The two Williams also found themselves in the top ten too.
the underside of both Norris's and Verstappen's cars had taken a beating, with the major chunks of bargeboard and areo trimmings of the cars missing or hanging off. It was confirmed with 15 minutes to the restart that Norris wouldn't continue, as the damage was deemed too extreme to make it to the restart. The other McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo was also deemed to have damage, reported by a deflated Andreas Seidl.
Half an hour since the race started, the restart took place, with a grid more shaken up than ever, bar one man, Lewis Hamilton, who was still at the top of the grid. The track seemed to have dried over the red flag period, with teams hypothesizing with the idea of pitting for slicks at the end of the formation lap. With George Russell saying "At this rate, everyone is going to box". A whole raft of cars came into the pit, everyone but Lewis Hamilton, who remained on the Intermediate tires.
The first car out behind the Mercedes was Russell, closing quickly on Hamilton on the Mercedes with the potential of him leading an F1 Grand Prix in the Williams in truly unprecedented scenes. However, Russell had to give the positions back as he was deemed to have overtaken in the pitlane., with the young Brit rapidly dropping down the order.
As the race hit lap five, Ocon was the leader of the GP, as Hamilton came into the pits to go onto the dry tires. In all the drama the Haas of Nikita Mazepin was the latest causality to an action-packed opening six laps of the race. The Russian hit Kimi Raikkonen, who was released unsafely from his pit stall. there were just 14 cars racing with seven laps gone.
As the race approached lap ten, Ocon and Sebastian Vettel had 'Checked out' with the two five seconds ahead of the third-place car, Nicholas Latifi, who was acting as a cork in a very fast bottle. Another bottleneck was forming behind Mick Schumacher in tenth place with an irritable Verstappen looking to get his race back on track, however, passing the Haas was to be easier said than done.
Throughout the ensuing laps, Hamilton would return to the team radio a number of times, complaining about different facets of the car, from the brakes to the pace of the Mercedes, as he tracked down the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. Unlike Hamilton, Verstappen managed to pass the slower car ahead, by getting his elbows out through turn three, banging wheels with the Haas of Schumacher.
After the initial chaos of the first 15 laps of the race, the drivers bedded into what was set to be a long race ahead. The gap out front was sustaining itself, as Ocon managed to maintain a gap of just over a second from challenger Vettel, but the German was being willed on by his Aston Martin compadres back in the garage. Meanwhile, Latifi began to build a solid gap to Yuki Tsunoda, with the Williams on track for not only his highest position in F1 but also his first points.
Hamilton would pit on lap 19, going onto the hard tire, with speculation that he was looking to go to the end of the race on the tires that Pirreli state could do 50 laps. This started a domino effect of cars pitting, looking to get out of traffic, and hopefully gaining track position further down the line. The undercut worked for Hamilton, as the Brit came out in front of both Ricciardo and crucially Verstappen.
One man who was asking his team for time was Sainz, who despite the traffic jam that he was part of, refused the stop that was planned for him, with the Spaniard on the radio saying "Have patience".
In the battle for the championship, Hamilton was setting purple laps consecutively, with instructions from the team telling him to "push every lap". Meanwhile, Verstappen, who was jumped in the stops, was five seconds behind the Mercedes, with three cars between him and Hamilton.
The next point of action was in regards to which of the top five was going to blink first and pit. Alpine seemed to hold the cards, as if Vettel pitted, he would come out behind Fernando Alonso. Meanwhile, Tsunoda was making the Alpha Tauri as wide a possible, looking to halt the charge of the rampaging Hamilton. The other Alpha Tauri of Gasly would be the first of the top five to pit, coming out behind the Williams of Latifi.
Ontrack Battles Galore
Two former F2 Champions in Schumacher and Russell decided to put on a show, resulting in Russell rounding the Haas at turn two, something that Verstappen and Ricciardo would complete a lap later. Schumacher, despite being in a much slower car, was putting in a great shift.
Vettel would pit on lap 37, in what was a slightly longer than idea time, leaving Ocon in 14 seconds of space to the next car, his teammate, Alonso. The German would return to the track behind the man who turned 40 this weekend, in the third position. One lap later Frenchman Ocon would take to the pitlane for a slick 2.3 second stop, just ahead of Vettel, reigniting an unlikely race for the win. Alonso was the final man to pit, with the veteran racer looking to make it to the end of the race on a two-stop strategy.
Although the battle for 1st and 2nd seemed to be nailed on, the battle for third however was wide open. Sainz was in constant communication with his team in regards to Mercedes and Hamilton, knowing that they were Ferrari's closest battle going forward. Sainz was even going as far as critiquing the TV helicopter, saying that it was creating issues for the car.
The Sainz - Hamilton would rage on as the race approached lap 50, however, Alonso was closing in on both of them, being on much fresher tires. The real action lay in the top five, with large gaps forming behind and damaged cars limping towards and outside the backend of the top ten. At lap 48, Hamilton would return to the pits, returning to the race on a brand new pair of medium tires, with 'Hammertime' happening imminently afterward.
Alpine vs The World
The battle for the top two was reaching boiling point, with the help of the lapped Kimi Raikkonen, as Vettel was bearing down on the Alpine, finding himself within a second. It became apparent that the Aston Martin had the superior straight-line speed, but Ocon had a much better car in the corners. Meanwhile, Hamilton was plotting an attack 20 seconds down the road.
The other Alpine of Alonso was also in the thick of the action, as he tracked down Sainz for third place. Sainz, who idolized Alonso in his youth, looked to continue his sterling display in Hungary after a difficult qualifying session yesterday afternoon.
However, Alonso quickly had to turn his attention to the marauding Hamilton, throwing in some brilliant defensive maneuvers to hold off the Mercedes for the time being, but it was a battle that was far from over. Hamilton would be expertly shepherded by Alonso on the following laps, as the Alpine driver showed all his years of experience in the driving seat.
As the race hit ten laps to go, Verstappen would show some life, passing the wounded McLaren of Ricciardo for 10th place, in what will be one of the darkest races of Red Bull's season.
As the battle continued, Hamilton began showing more signs of agitation, complaining of Alonso's "dangerous driving" to his team via the radio. On lap 65 it would make a mistake for Alonso to see the Mercedes pass, as the Alpine went too deep into turn one, unleashing him onto the Ferrari of Sainz for the final podium place. It would only take Hamilton two laps to pass the Ferrari, however, due to his earlier battle with Alonso, he was now eight seconds adrift of the top two.
On lap 70, it was Esteban Ocon picking up his first-ever race win ahead of Vettel and Hamilton in second and third, picking up his first win since GP3 in 2015. The F1 grid now has a summer break until the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.