Thrills, spills and a mammoth battle in the hills
The Hungarian Grand Prix delivers unpredictable chaos, shock, exhiliration and a new race winner.
What on earth was that? Can't believe I'm saying this, Esteban Ocon has won the Hungarian Grand Prix ahead of Sebastian Vettel in one of the most thrilling races in recent times, as Hamilton recovered to 3rd and Verstappen was relegated to 10th.
A chaotic race start with incidents involving seven drivers paved the way for an unforgettable result, as we were treated with combinations of a flat-out battle for the win, heartstopping defensive maneuvers and exercises of damage-limitation. Lewis Hamilton, who started from pole, narrowly avoided the turn one melee, but would face his own dramas later.
The Opening Laps: Huge Bottas-caused shunt reorganises the field
Much of the pre-race talk was regarding the differing tyre strategies by Red Bull and Mercedes, Red Bull opting to start on softs, Mercedes on mediums. Such discussion was made redundant when a forecast rain patch arrived on cue, saturating the track. All would begin the race on intermediates.
Bottas's wrecked Mercedes (Credit: Mercedes F1)
Hamilton got off to a great start, whereas teammate Valtteri Bottas dropped like a stone. Verstappen moved to second and Norris rocketed from sixth to third. However, in a rookie mistake, Bottas misjudged that the cars ahead of him would brake earlier than normal, and he locked up. His Mercedes careered into Norris, who's out-of-control McLaren slammed into Verstappen. Bottas' flying car hit Perez - he was given a five-place grid drop for Belgium.
At the same time, Stroll attempted to avoid the incident, but instead caused his own, going on the grass and hitting Leclerc and Ricciardo - he too, was given a five-place grid drop. Bottas, Leclerc, Perez and Stroll were out on the spot. Norris returned for repairs but he was retired under the safety car.
Norris suffered race ending damage (Credit: McLaren)
The red flag was promptly shown. The turn one chaos had given us a brilliant top 10; Hamilton from Ocon ahead of Vettel, Sainz, Tsunoda, Latifi, Alonso, Russell, Raikkonen and Schumacher. Verstappen pitted under the safety car for repairs and was 13th but still had massive damage to his car. Ricciardo and Gasly found themselves ahead of him.
Hamilton commenced the lap to the grid for the second start, but the track was drying incredibly quickly but the World Champion opted to take the restart on his intermediate tyres... the only driver in fact. Every other running car dashed into the pitlane to swap their old boots for new slick rubber.
The Restart: "Lights out for Lewis Hamilton only!"
In an incredibly bizzare sight, reminiscent of the 2005 USA Grand Prix, (without the controversy of course), Hamilton lined up alone on the grid. Hamilton obviously led into turn one and beyond, but it was evidently clear he had made a colossal mistake; the track was dry. He pitted for slick tyres, and was forced to watch as the entire field passed him. He was last.
This had paved the way for Ocon to lead from Vettel and Latifi, as Russell was forced to give back positions he had gained in the pitlane chaos. Meanwhile, Mazepin was forced into retirement after sustaining damage from Raikkonen's unsafe release - the Finn was penalised 10 seconds for the clash.
Championship rivals attempt recovery drives
Verstappen passed Gasly on lap 7, wheras Hamilton struggled to pass Giovinazzi; the Brit eventually passed the Italian on lap 10. On lap 14, Verstappen and Schumacher treated us to a brilliant battle, the Red Bull man eventually prevailing, muscling his way past the Haas with a little contact for good measure. Mercedes, as if they hadn't gambled enough today, pitted Hamilton for hards on lap 20. He was given his orders; "Hammertime".
Vettel lays chase to Ocon (Credit: Aston Martin)
Max followed the next lap, they had no choice or they were to lose out to Hamilton. Verstappen's damaged car emerged from the pitlane as Hamilton passed him and Ricciardo on track. The gamble had worked. By lap 28 he was up to seventh, dispatching Tsunoda for fifth in the laps that followed.
The Dutchman could not make the same progress through the field, a result of the damage he sustained. Ocon was also doing all he could to hold the advancing Sebastian Vettel at bay, the gap between the two never in excess of two seconds.
Mid-race action: Vettel closes up, Hamilton moves to new strategy
George Russell made a breathtaking round-the-outside move on Mick Schumacher just before the halfway point, which saw Ocon leading from Vettel and Alonso - Sainz and Hamilton behind had made pitstops, but were not in a window that would risk the top three... yet.
Russell ahead of Verstappen, on route to his first Williams points result (Credit: Williams Racing)
It was a question of who would pull the trigger first, and it was indeed Aston Martin, boxing Vettel first. The stop was less than ideal, at 3.3 seconds, but it was almost entirely mitigated by Vettel's brilliant outlap. Ocon came in immediately after, but retained the lead. Verstappen was ordered in for servicing on lap 40.
Meanwhile, in a mirror image of 2019, Hamilton pitted on lap 48 for mediums, dropping to fifth; team boss Toto Wolff was heard on the radio telling Hamilton the win was still on.
Soon after, Vettel saw perhaps the best opportunity for him to take the lead and attempted a heartstopping move at turn one, but Ocon was still marginally ahead and kept his position.
The Mammoth Battle: Alonso and Hamilton in 10-lap dogfight
With 10 laps remaining the order remained as Ocon, Vettel, Sainz, Alonso and Hamilton. Hamilton needed to pass Alonso to have any chance of the race win, but the Spanish two-time champion defended with all his might in fantastic fashion. Lap after lap Alonso held off Hamilton in what seemed to be an impossible manner. However, on lap 65, the mistake that Hamilton was looking for finally happened - Alonso locked up at turn one and Hamilton soared past, but Alonso tried to brave it round the outside at turn two, to no avail.
Alonso defended brilliantly from Lewis Hamilton (Credit: F1)
Hamilton got past the slow Ferrari of Sainz, who was depending on Alonso to hold up Hamilton in order to keep his podium, on lap 67 but that was as far as he would get.
A first time winner
Esteban Ocon brilliantly absorbed the pressure from four-times champion Sebastian Vettel to take his maiden win as Lewis Hamilton finished third ahead of Sainz and Alonso completed the top five. AlphaTauri's Gasly and Tsunoda finished sixth and seventh respectively, with Gasly taking the fastest lap too. Latifi finished eighth ahead of Russell in Williams' first double-points result since Italy 2018 and Verstappen rounded out the top 10.
In two races, Red Bull and Verstappen's championship leads have been reduced to dust, with Mercedes and Hamilton assuming first place in both of them.
Ocon crosses the line to win (Credit: Alpine F1 Team)
SHOCK OF THE RACE: Valtteri Bottas
What more to say on Bottas' race other than it was utterly awful. His race went no longer than 700 metres and he triggered the multi-car incident at the start. Awful... just awful.
OVERTAKE OF THE RACE: Russell vs Schumacher
In a Ricciardo-on-Alonso-esque move, Russell powered round the outside of Schumacher in his charge on the points positions: smooth, clean and brilliant.
DRIVER OF THE DAY: Fernando Alonso
Take a bow Fernando, holding off Hamilton who had a 2 second a lap pace advantage for as long as he did is no easy feat. Going wheel-to-wheel lap after lap with Hamilton as if it was 2007 all over again was incredible to see. An attacking charge opposed with a masterclass in defensive driving.
RACE RATING: 10/10
Chaos from start to finish, wheel to wheel action up and down the grid coupled with a first time winner and brilliant recovery drives. A great race before we head into the summer break. Race of the season so far.