Esteban Ocon takes Alpine’s maiden Grand Prix win after a chaotic wet start in Hungary
Esteban Ocon has won the Hungarian Grand Prix to take Alpine’s maiden win after a chaotic wet start and a red flag eliminated much of the front of the grid.
The Alpine driver led a controlled race in front of the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel, who took his second podium of the season, after the grid was shaken up following a first lap incident where Valtteri Bottas collided with the Red Bull’s and Lando Norris.
The remainder of the race was a story of the midfield fighting at the top as Ocon defended from Vettel behind to win the Hungarian Grand Prix while Hamilton fought back after Mercedes made mistakes on the restart. Williams also picked up their first points of the season with Nicolas Latifi and George Russell finishing P8 and P9.
A Start followed by a red-flag
Hamilton had a strong start off the line, unlike his teammate Valtteri Bottas, the number 77 car was under pressure from the McLaren of Lando Norris on the charge as well as Max Verstappen to his left.
Bottas locked up on the oily surface into Turn 1, sending his car into the rear of Norris who then collected Verstappen as made his way around the first corner. Bottas also took the Sergio Perez out of the race, going over his front wing, as he went straight on into the runoff with front end damage.
The incident left Norris’ McLaren with right side floor damage and he retired from the race. Perez also retired and pulled to the side of the track minutes later.
Lance Stoll, also struggled to slow down his Aston Martin, cutting the corner at Turn 1 over the grass and lost control over the wet curb and sending his car into Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. Resulting in the pair’s retirement from the race.
Verstappen pitted for a new front wing and tyres but as he made his way out of the pits and towards the back of the pack the full damage became clear “We have lost the bargeboard on the left-hand side” he was told on the radio.
The race was then red-flagged due to the debris on the track and in the pitlane exit.
The Pitlane Restart
The red-flag period handed the Red Bull garage a lifeline with the engineers going to work on fixing Verstappen’s car as much as they could but the car left the pitlane for the restart with obvious damage to the right side of his RB16B.
The new re-starting order emerged with notable advantages such as Sebastian Vettel P3, Yuki Tsunoda P5. Nicolas Latifi P6, and Mick Schumacher P10.
As the remaining drivers were on their out lap, it became apparent the track was too dry for inters, the entirety of the grid pitted aside from Hamilton meaning the lights went out with only Hamilton’s Mercedes on the starting line.
The pitlane race was won by Williams and George Russell who left the pits in P2 behind Hamilton, but he was told to give four places back by the stewards due to undertaking in the pitlane. This left Ocon in P1 with Vettel and Latifi behind as Hamilton finally pitted a lap later.
The drama continued in the Pitlane as Kimi Raikkonen was released into the path of Nikita Mazepin, leaving the Haas out of the race. Speeding in the Pitlane was also investigated with Giovinazzi, receiving a penalty
Alpine and Aston Martin battle for the lead
Ocon led a strong race for the opening laps after the restart with Vettel hanging a second behind with the pair dropping the Williams of Latifi by nine seconds who had Tsunoda and Sainz on his tail.
The fight for the lead was alive as the pit window opened, Vettel lapping faster than Ocon and on his tail, but Alpine held the cards with Fernando Alonso in P4.
Vettel entered the pit lane on Lap 37 but a small problem cost the team around 1 second on the stop and as Ocon pitted the lap later he came out in front of the Aston Martin.
With his tyres up to temperature, Vettel closed down on the front runner. Ocon in the Alpine however, was able to stay in control and crucially ahead of the Aston Martin even as the experienced head of Vettel kept up the pressure.
But ultimately, Alpine controlled the race and with Alonso holding up Hamilton gave hope into the final laps of the Grand Prix that Ocon had the win in his hands.
Hamilton on the fight back
Turn 1 gave us most of the overtaking with Verstappen moving first, battling past the Haas of Schumacher who put up a fight against the damaged Red Bull.
Hamilton after being sent back to P14, the last of the remaining drivers, struggled to make his way up the order and passed Giovinazzi on Lap 11 and was able to pass Schumacher a lap later than the Red Bull.
Hamilton pitted once more on Lap 20 for the hard tyres with the hope to go to the end. This meant Red Bull had to respond, pitting Verstappen a lap later for the same tyre.
However, the undercut worked for Mercedes, passing Verstappen as he exited the pit lane. While Hamilton was able to make progress on the new hard tyres, making it passed Tsunoda in P5 on Lap 33, the damaged Red Bull struggled to overtake.
Verstappen, while only making it passed Schumacher, pitted once more on Lap 42 for a set of medium tyres.
Hamilton closed down on the podium positions, only six seconds off the lead by Lap 45, but three laps later the Brit pitted for medium tyres and re-joined the race in P5. It wasn’t long before he heard “Hammertime” over the radio and he started to set his sights on the win.
Alonso wasn’t making it easy for Mercedes however, defending and leaving Hamilton struggling to pass for much longer than he’d hoped. Into Turn 2, the pair raced wheel-to-wheel through the first sector and Hamilton spent five laps behind the Alpine.
The Mercedes was finally able to pass the Alpine and it wasn’t long until Hamilton was on the tail of Sainz and made the pass on the inside of Turn 1 on Lap 68 to take the last podium position.