Ocon Defies Odds, Takes Maiden Victory in Hungary
Chaotic first lap accident, safety car and red flag did not stop the young Frenchman from holding off Sebastian Vettel for his first formula 1 win
BUDAPEST, Hungary—Many people believed that Esteban Ocon did not deserve a three-year extension on his Alpine contract, but Sunday in mixed conditions, the young Frenchman, with the assistance of a first lap accident by a handful of drivers, a safety car and a red flag period, held off Sebastian Vettel for the entire Hungarian Grand Prix to take his maiden victory by 1.8 seconds with Lewis Hamilton taking third.
"What a moment, it felt so good.” Exclaimed Ocon afterwards. “We had some difficult moments this season, but we overcame them together with the team. We came back to a fantastic place and victory today! What can I say, it's fantastic. Congrats to Fernando as well, thanks to him it was possible because of the fights that he did. That's teamwork. I think it's been a fantastic day."
With his great effort to take the last spot on the podium, Hamilton now takes the lead in the world championship over rival Max Verstappen, who finished tenth, by seven points, as the F1 teams now enjoy a three-week break until the end of this month when the drivers meet again in Belgium.
"First of all, a huge congratulations to the Alpine team and Ocon has been a shining star for a while now and it's been a long-time coming so really happy for him.” Said Hamilton. “Today was definitely tough, we always make it difficult for ourselves. Crazy to think we were the only ones on the grid at the start, but these things happen and we learn from them. I gave it everything and I have nothing left in the end."
Ocon took the lead right at the beginning of the race, when in lightly rainy conditions, Valtteri Bottas coming down the straightaway, breaked too late and struck McLaren’s Lando Norris, who began a chain reaction, with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez all involved. All three were out of the race. In addition, Verstappen was also involved as he was struck by Norris, but even with damage to his right side, the Dutchman managed to continue as the safety car and shortly the red flag, stopped the race for 20 minutes.
However, as the shower left the circuit, the sun began to shine, and Ocon, who avoided all the mayhem, found himself first, with Vettel right behind him. But as the track began to dry, all the drivers, except Hamilton, came in for slick tires. But Hamilton, who began the restart by himself, realized that keeping the intermediates were a mistake, and came in for slicks as well on the next lap.
But as Ocon and Vettel battled for all the race, Hamilton found himself in last place, and throughout the afternoon, managed to move up the grid, to sixth place. There he battled Alpine’s Fernando Alonso for many laps before he overtook the Spaniard, before afterwards passing Alonso’s countryman, Carlos Sainz Jr.in his Ferrari to take third. But nobody was able to get close to both Ocon and Vettel, who continuously drove no more than two seconds apart from one another, all throughout the race.
“Esteban didn't do a single mistake, he stayed on track, so well-deserved for him to take his first victory. Replied Vettel. “It's a great result for us, but when it's that close, for sure you're always looking at the win rather than second place"
Only one other retirement, Hass driver Nikita Mazepin, was involved in an accident in the pitlane as Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen struck the Russian’s right front tire when the Finn was involved in an unsafe release. This incident cost Raikkonen a ten second penalty later in the race.
Sainz Jr. held off Alonso for fourth place, while Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda took sixth and seventh, respectively. Williams scored their first points of the season in dramatic fashion, placing Nicholas Latifi and George Russell in eighth and ninth.
In the history of formula 1, Ocon now becomes the 111th different grand prix race winner, as his Alpine team, and himself, can enjoy a well-deserved vacation.