Lewis Hamilton finishes second, regains championship lead in race marked by multiple-car first lap accident caused by Valtteri Bottas
By Yuri Coghe
*Editor’s note: updated Sunday at 5:42 PM with Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification
Esteban Ocon is now a Formula 1 Grand Prix winner, Canadian Nicholas Latifi now has six career championship points.
Both drivers achieved their best career results on Sunday in a Hungarian Grand Prix marked by a first-lap collision that took five drivers out of the race and a bad decision by Mercedes that saw Lewis Hamilton drop from first to last one lap after the post-red flag standing restart.
23-year-old Ocon is the first non-Mercedes or Red Bull driver to win this year, and the first since Sergio Pérez won the 2020 Sakhir GP with Racing Point.
His first race win adds a highlight to his personal comeback story. Ocon couldn’t find a team for the 2019 season, on what would have been his third full campaign in F1. Having to settle for the Mercedes reserve driver role that year, he came back to the grid in 2020 as a Renault driver. The team rebranded to Alpine for 2021.
Hamilton, who stormed through the grid to finish second by adding late overtakes on Fernando Alonso, fourth, and Carlos Sainz Jr, third, regained the drivers’ championship lead. The Briton boasts an eight-point gap to rival Max Verstappen, who finished ninth after being one of the drivers affected by the opening lap accident caused by Valtteri Bottas.
Latifi took advantage of the third-place he inherited after the first lap accident and the first round of pits stops, keeping the position until his second stop to change tires. The Montreal-born, Toronto-raised driver finished seventh to claim his first career points.
His teammate George Russell came right after in eighth to give Williams their first double-points finish since the 2018 Italian Grand Prix. Russell asked Williams to “prioritize Nicky’s race” on team radio, referring of course to Latifi, since the Canadian was running four positions ahead of himself at the time of his message.
Sebastian Vettel would have repeated his Azerbaijan GP season-high result to finish second and give Canadian-owned Aston Martin their second F1 podium in history. But the German has been disqualified for crossing the finish line with less fuel than the required amount.
This story has been updated to reflect the new finishing positions of all drivers following Vettel’s penalty.
Alonso was named driver of the race three days after his 40th birthday.
He claimed his best result since returning to F1 after a two-year absence. The Spaniard had a tight, multiple-lap late battle with Hamilton. The Briton could have fought for the win hadn’t it been for the many laps he spent behind Alonso.
Alonso’s last podium came in Hungary in 2014, the same country where he claimed his first win in 2003.
Sainz finished third to collect his second podium as a Ferrari driver and fourth overall. He notoriously said on team radio that he wasn’t going to pit for fresh tires when Ferrari asked him to as he was still performing with his current set. The call paid off.
AlphaTauri also celebrated a double-point finish, with Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda coming in fifth and sixth, respectively. Gasly, who became a race winner himself at the 2020 Italian GP in Monza, also claimed the fastest lap of the Hungarian GP to collect an extra point and cap off a tremendous performance in the Hungarian GP weekend.
First lap crash takes out five drivers
Verstappen had car damage after the first lap accident that took out Charles Leclerc, Perez, Canadian Lance Stroll and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who caused the crash after failing to properly brake at the first turn on wet conditions.
Lando Norris, who was the only driver in the grid to finish in the points on all previous ten races this year, also retired before the restart due to damage related to the opening lap collision.
“It was my bad today,” said Bottas in a Tweet. “Misjudged the braking for the 1st turn in the damp conditions which ended my and many others race. (I’ll) learn from it.”
Verstappen spent most of the race behind McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, overtaking the Aussie driver late to claim two points for himself and Red Bull. Kimi Raikkonen also overtook Ricciardo to round out the top 10 and double his points in the drivers’ standings.
Ricciardo (P11), Mick Schumacher (P12), and Antonio Giovinazzi (P13) were the only drivers to finish the race outside the points.
Nikita Mazepin retired shortly after the restart due to a pit lane collision with Raikkonen. The Finn received a 10-second penalty for the unsafe release.
All by myself
The accident at the start caused a red flag to be deployed, with a standing restart following approximately 20 minutes later.
All drivers but Hamilton went to the pits for medium tires during the formation lap, leaving the Briton alone at the restart. He finally pitted a lap later to take off his intermediate tires, dropping from first to last, which meant P14 at that time.
Hamilton made his way to eleventh but was struggling to get close to the top 10 until he pitted stopped again on lap 20 on what was this time a good call by Mercedes.
Verstappen and Ricciardo, who were ahead of Hamilton before the Briton pitted, went to the pit lane for fresh tires one lap later and found themselves behind the Mercedes car.
“What a moment!”
“What a moment! It feels so good,” said Ocon in the post-race interview. “It’s fantastic, what can I say? Congrats to Fernando (Alonso) as well, I think the win is also thanks to him with the fight that he did. It’s teamwork, it’s been a fantastic day.”
Ocon had a great start to the season but endured a streak of four races out the points from the Azerbaijan GP to the Austrian GP. Alpine changed his chassis for the British GP two weeks ago. The Frenchman, who finished that race in P9, celebrated the change having worked during that weekend.
Four-time world champion Vettel spent the whole race shortly behind Ocon, pressuring the 24-year-old Frenchman for the lead. The race winner showed great maturity to keep the first place he inherited on lap 4 all the way through the checkered flag.
“Esteban (Ocon) didn’t do a single mistake, he stayed on track, so well-deserved for him to take his first victory,” said Vettel, who has been disqualified from the race, as previously noted. “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.”
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Hamilton’s second-place finish propelled Mercedes past Red Bull in the constructors’ championship by 12 points.
“I want to say congratulations to the Alpine team and to Esteban for his first win. He’s been a shining star for a long time,” said Hamilton. “It was a tough race and I had nothing left at the end. Considering how things went overall, we have to be happy with P3.”
F1 heads to a three-week summer break next, with the Belgium Grand Prix in Spa Francorchamps picking the action back up on the Aug 29-31 weekend.
See the full Hungarian Grand Prix results: