Uncertainty from Start to Finish! F1 2021 Season Review: Hungary
An in-depth review of today's unexpected drama.
When the rain started to pour on Sunday morning, Formula One fans around the world anticipated a race just as exciting as Imola, where weather conditions made for a hectic race that nobody anticipated the outcome of. Long story short, this happened again in Hungary - and this review is going to dive into the events on a very dramatic grand prix held in Budapest. But before we look at the race, let's dive into the highlights of qualifying.
This weekend saw Formula One return to the traditional qualification format following the British Grand Prix - which was one of three events to test out the 'Sprint Qualifying' concept this year. The shock of Q1 in Hungary was the elimination of George Russell, for the first time this year. The Britain was unable to find the balance in his Williams, and would start Sunday's race in 17th place, just one spot behind Yuki Tsunoda - who also failed to make it through to the second session. Nicolas Latifi would start behind his teammate in 18th place; followed by Nikita Mazepin in 19th. Finally, Mick Schumacher would find himself at the back of the grid as a result of not setting a time in Q1, due to a crash causing extensive damage to his Haas in FP3.
Q2 was a disappointing session for Carlos Sainz, who spun his Ferrari into the wall at the final corner of the Hungaroring circuit and brought out the red flag. The Spaniard had not set a time up to this point, resulting in an upsetting 15th place on the grid. Antonio Giovinazzi would line up alongside Sainz in 14th place, behind teammate Raikkonen in 13th. Lance Stroll would put his Aston Martin in the 12th slot of the grid, behind Daniel Ricciardo - who missed out on Q3 by less than a tenth of a second.
Q3 was a very controversial session that would see Lewis Hamilton take pole position, followed by teammate Valtteri Bottas that would assist in creating a Mercedes front-row lockout. Hamilton's first lap of the session would be the lap that brought him the pole, after him and Verstappen failed to improve on their final laps due to mind games.
Hamilton was the first of the pair to leave the garage and start his outlap, behind Bottas and followed by Verstappen and Perez on track. Hamilton, who had track position, took his time to warm up his tyres and start his lap - leaving his launch on to the pit straight to the dying seconds of the session. Verstappen was just about able to cross the line in time, but Perez was not; eliminating his chance of setting a faster time at the end of the session. Many questioned Hamilton's gamesmanship following the events of Q3; though his actions were legal due to reports stating that his outlap was faster than his previous attempt.
The final grid order would see Hamilton in pole, Bottas in second, Verstappen in third and Perez in fourth. Pierre Gasly would put another fine performance forward to put his Alpha Tauri into fifth on the grid, followed by Lando Norris in sixth, Charles Leclerc in seventh and Esteban Ocon in eighth. Two-time world champion, Fernando Alonso, would start in ninth place, followed by the four-time world champion, Sebastian Vettel, in tenth.
As the five red lights went out on a soaking wet Hungaroring circuit, it was Lewis Hamilton that had an excellent start on his Intermediate tyres, and Bottas who made the poor start due to wheelspin. Verstappen was able to jump Bottas on the launch and tuck into the slipstream of Hamilton on the run down to Turn 1. McLaren's Lando Norris made his way past Bottas on the launch, with the Finn tucking into the slipstream of the papaya-coloured car on the way to the Turn 1 braking zone.
Chaos would ensue when Bottas missed his braking point and hit into the back of Norris, destroying his front-left suspension and pushing him into the path of Max Verstappen, who was turning into the corner. The three cars would go straight on at Turn 1, narrowly avoiding Hamilton; and Bottas would also hit Perez while his car was out of control.
Behind them, Charles Leclerc would place his car down the inside of Daniel Ricciardo at Turn 1, but Lance Stroll would also miss his braking point and collide with the Monégasque, destroying his suspension, the Ferrari's sidepod, and putting Ricciardo into a spin. Meanwhile, Ocon was able to sneak his way past all of the carnage and into second place, while Hamilton stormed away from the field.
Less than half a lap later and the red flag was waved due to the mass of debris and retired cars at Turn 1. Four cars would retire on lap one, including Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll. All cars would return to the pitlane, and McLaren would radio in to the FIA's office to inform that that Norris would also retire due to the damage on his car. Max Verstappen was able to continue, but lost the entire right-hand bargeboard of his car after the contact with Norris.
When the FIA deemed the track as safe to resume racing, the track had dried significantly as all the cars drove around on the formation lap. George Russell explained on the radio that the track was dry and that he expected most of the field to pit for slick tyres.
Hamilton, who was at the front of the field, stayed out as Mercedes anticipated the rest of the field to stay on the Intermediate tyres. Mercedes did, however, predict wrong as the entire field behind them would come into the pits for dry tyres, leaving only Hamilton on the grid for the restart. For the first time in F1 history, only one car would line up on the grid following a red flag restart, while the rest of the drivers came into the pits. Mazepin is forced to retire after damaging his suspension due to Raikkonen being released unsafely from his pitstop.
When the five red lights went out for the second time, Hamilton stormed off into the distance as the rest of the field followed from the pitlane. Within one sector, it was clear that Hamilton was on the wrong tyre and the drivers on the dry tyre behind were catching at a rapid rate. The Mercedes driver pitted at the end of the lap for a set of Hard tyres and emerges in 14th and last place.
Hamilton starts to set fastest laps and catch the pack while Ocon takes the lead of the race. Eventually, the Briton catches up to Mick Schumacher, but struggles to initiate an overtake due to the DRS train in front of him. Verstappen is ahead of Schumacher and also struggling to make moves stick due to the damage to his car. Hamilton finally makes a move stick on Schumacher on lap 16 on the pitstraight, and starts to chase after Gasly in 10th and Verstappen in 9th.
On lap 20, Hamilton pits to switch his Medium tyres for a set of Hard tyres, once again giving him free air and a chance to charge through the field and possibly undercut some cars. Verstappen and Ricciardo both pit a lap later to fit the same compound as the Mercedes driver. Hamilton is able to easily jump Verstappen, and overtakes Ricciardo around the outside of the Turn 1 pit exit after setting a fast out-lap.
Ferrari ask Sainz to pit on lap 22, to which the Spaniard refuses to as he has good track position and race pace. Tsunoda responds to the radio call and pits on lap 24, but is jumped by Nicolas Latifi who pitted a lap earlier. George Russell made a very wholesome radio message, telling Williams to 'compromise his race' and to 'prioritise Nicky' by preventing his rivals from getting the undercut. Excellent sportsmanship and teamwork from the young Britain.
Hamilton starts setting purple sector times, before catching up and overtaking Schumacher again, Latifi, Gasly via pitstops and a phenomenal overtake around the outside of Tsunoda at the Turn 4 left-hander.
Sainz finally pits on lap 33 for a set of Hard tyres; while Vettel (who was running in second place and applying lots of pressure to race leader, Ocon) pitted four laps later in an attempt to undercut the Alpine racer. Vettel also switched to the Hard tyre, but would suffer from a slower pitstop - which would cost him the lead when Ocon re-emerged ahead of him following his pitstop a lap later.
Alonso pits on lap 40 of 70 for a set of Hard tyres, demoting him to fifth place while Verstappen, who is struggling outside the points, pits again on lap 41 for a set of Medium tyres to try and get himself into the points. Hamilton makes the same call on lap 47 to try and charge to victory.
On lap 49, Vettel takes advantage of traffic on the pitstraight and dives down the inside of Ocon at Turn 1 for the lead; but excellent defending from the Frenchman made the move unsuccesful. A lap later, Alpha Tauri ask Tsunoda to let Gasly through to help him fight through the field.
On lap 55, Hamilton catches up to 4th place man, Fernando Alonso, on his fresh tyres and enters DRS range. Hamilton spends lap after lap trying to pass Alonso, but the double-world champion used his expertise to make a move difficult for Hamilton in the Turn 1 and 2 complex. Hamilton finally got past Alonso on lap 65 when the Spaniard locked up into Turn 1, releasing the 7-time champion to continue his charge.
Hamilton caught up to and overtook Sainz on lap 67 for the final spot on the podium, but was unable to catch up to Vettel and Ocon in time. Lap 70 would see Esteban Ocon take his maiden Formula One win and a chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix thanks to the defending masterclass of his championship-winning teammate!
Sebastian Vettel would cross the line in a very well-deserved second place; though he was disappointed on the radio as he felt like he was faster and could have made an overtake for the win. More disappointment would occur for the German, though; as he would later be disqualified for not supplying a big enough fuel sample at the end of the race - promoting Hamilton to second and Sainz to his second Ferrari podium! What a rollercoaster of emotions...
As for Max Verstappen - the Red Bull driver was able to secure tenth place after overtaking Mick Schumacher on track to take a very vital point following the heavy damage from lap 1. Hamilton has now overtaken Verstappen in the drivers championship, and Mercedes have overtaken Red Bull following two unlucky races for the Dutchman before the summer break.
George Russell took his first points for Williams this weekend, finishing behind Latifi to take an incredible 10 points for the British outfit! You can see the full race results in the Tweet below:
(Note that all drivers finished one position higher due to Vettel's disqualification.)
Overall, I would rate the Hungarian Grand Prix a 9.5 out of 10. Not only was there drama at the start, a bizarre restart and a new race winner, but there was a tense chase and an exciting ending! What did you think of the race? Be sure to let me know in the comments below.
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