Not a soul would have imagined, let alone predicted the way the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix would pan out. As Mercedes and Red Bull stepped on each other’s tails, Esteban Ocon drove a sensational race to take his maiden victory. Since Alain Prost, Ocon is the only French driver to win for a French works team — Alpine. Sebastian Vettel tried his might but failed to beat Ocon. However, Lewis Hamilton was in damage control mode after the unusual restart. The Mercedes driver finished a well earned third place.
On the moist tarmac at the Hungaroring, the five lights went out to start the race. Hamilton had an ideal getaway and started to drive away. But a trail of drama followed behind him. Bottas with a poor start dropped down a few places. Then braked too late and drive into the diffuser of Lando Norris. The McLaren and Bottas’ Mercedes went and then collided into both the Red Bull cars on the outside. This led to a ripple effect resulting in Perez, Stroll, Leclerc and Bottas retiring from the race.
Verstappen with damage dropped down to ninth place. But behind Hamilton sat Ocon and Vettel in second and third. The safety car was summoned, but with damage to the barriers and debris on the track, to Red Bull’s relief, the race was red-flagged.
Soon after, Mr Consistent – Lando Norris retired from the race ending the longest streak of championship points for a McLaren driver.
On the restart, Hamilton was the only driver on the grid on the drying track to take the restart on intermediate tyres. The rest of the 14 remaining drivers pitted for dry tyres.
Hamilton pitted on the subsequent lap for dry tyres. This dropped him right down to last place, down in 14th with rival Verstappen with a damaged Red Bull in 11th. But in the lead was Esteban Ocon for Alpine, followed by Sebastian Vettel for Aston Martin and Nicolas Latifi in third for Williams.
The Hungaroring is notorious for being a track where overtaking is difficult. So the task in front of Hamilton and Verstappen was daunting.
The fight at the front between Ocon and Vettel was calm and composed. Down the order though, Verstappen had to muscle his way around Mick Schumacher in the Haas to finally get some clean air and pull away from Gasly and Hamilton behind.
Vettel finally pitted on lap 37 from second place. Ocon was advised “Maximum Push” to try and cover off the Aston Martin. Vettel failed to undercut the Alpine. Even though he attempted an attack on Ocon, it bore no fruit. Ocon was still leading from Vettel
Hamilton on a two-stop strategy was on much fresher tyres in fifth place. But despite his countless attempts, he just couldn’t get past the might of Fernando Alonso’s Alpine. Hamilton got his golden opportunity to get past Alonso. But the 40-year old Spaniard’s racecraft seemed too great for Hamilton. This meant Alonso was buying time for Ocon upfront in the lead.
Hamilton tried everything he had to no avail. Until with five laps remaining, Alonso locked up into turn 1 and Hamilton capitalised and finally got past. The Brit then started his charge towards the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz. With three laps to go, Hamilton made his move on Sainz and finally secured a podium spot. But by then, Ocon and Vettel were out of reach, even for a seven-time world champion.
The fight for the lead meanwhile was still steady as Vettel kept the pressure on Ocon till the very end. The German was as close as he could have been to victory, but Ocon kept the far more experienced, and four-time world champion behind him. Ocon went on to take the win after a drive that can only be described as worthy of a champion. He is the 111th different driver to win an F1 race. Vettel was forced to settle for second place for Aston Martin.
If it was not for Alonso holding off Hamilton for those critical laps, it may have been a different story. Hamilton was only able to claim that final podium spot in third place. Sainz finished fourth ahead of Alonso in fifth place.
The two AlphaTauri cars of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda finished behind them in sixth and seventh respectively. But Williams finally scored points and with both cars in the top 10. Nicolas Latifi finished eighth and George Russel came across the line in ninth. Max Verstappen will take home a single point to his name with a 10th place finish for Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton has now retaken the lead in the championship as Formula One goes for its mandated summer break. The next round will be the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, scheduled to be held between August 27-29.
Sebastian Vettel has been disqualified from the race and has been removed from his P2 podium finished in the final classification. The disqualification comes from after race officials were unable to obtain the required 1-litre fuel sample after the race. Under the technical regulations, teams are required to provide fuel sampled after the race, but reportedly, the Stewards were only able to collect 0.3 litres, thus in breach of Article 6.6 and 6.6.2 FIA Technical Regulations. However, Aston Martin have the right to appeal the Stewards decision.
This now elevates all other drivers to a higher finishing spot in the race. This means Lewis Hamilton finishes second and Carlos Sainz gets podium for Ferrari. Hamilton extends his lead further by two points and Max Verstappen is now 9th and gains another point. Additionally, it also elevates Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo to 10th place as he is now awarded the final point in the race.
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