Formula 1

Esteban Ocon Wins First Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes Take Championship Leads

6 Mins read
Image Credit : Daimler AMG/LAT Images

In a race that was one of the most dramatic Formula 1 fans have had the pleasure of seeing, with the results being completely ‘jumbled up’ which included both Williams Racing drivers scoring points, which was the British teams first points since an equally chaotic 2019 German Grand Prix. As with the German Grand Prix, the action was caused by a surprise bout of rain half an hour before the Grand Prix which was likely the cause of six non-finishers.

First Lap Chaos

Unlike the past few Hungarian Grand Prix’s where there has been little action, the 2021 edition of the race was packed to the brim of action from the very first lap, Valtteri Bottas got caught in a sandwich between Sergio Pérez and Lando Norris after a poor start and in an effort to make up the positions lost, missed his braking point colliding heavily with the diffuser of Norris, who in turn was a passenger and took Pérez out of the race.

Max Verstappen would’ve suffered the same fate (after also being hit by the out of control Bottas) had it not been for some excellent work done by his engineers in repairing a bargeboard during the brief Red Flag period caused by the early collisions. As a result of this error, Bottas will take a five-place grid penalty for the next race after the summer break at Spa-Francorchamps.

All of this action promoted Scuderia Ferrari‘s Charles Leclerc to second place, who was no doubt looking for redemption after narrowly missing out on a British Grand Prix victory, but a similar mistake to Bottas’ this time from Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team Driver Lance Stroll took the Monagasque driver out of the race who in turn caused McLaren F1 Team‘s Daniel Ricciardo to have a spin.

Soon after all the chaos the red flag was brought out to clear the vast amount of debris that now lay around the first few corners of the lap. Stroll suffered the same fate as Bottas and will also be taking a five-place Grid Penalty at Spa. Norris’ race was over with the damage on his McLaren too much for him to continue, with the Briton’s fifteen-race scoring run coming to an end.

Such was the strange way the race started, Hamilton led Ocon, Vettel, Carlos Sainz Jr., Yuki Tsunoda and Nicholas Latifi when the red flag flew.

One Of the Most Bizarre Restarts in Formula 1 History

What then followed was possibly the most bizarre restart seen in Formula 1, not too indifferent to the scenes seen at Indianapolis in 2005 where on assessing the field all of the remaining cars decided to box for dry tyres, apart from Lewis Hamilton who was the sole car lining up on the grid for the restart, it was briefly a British 1-2 where Williams tried to make the most of their pit position in releasing George Russell to the front of the queue of cars coming out of the pit lane but the Stewards judged this to be unfair so the Briton ceded the positions meaning that the Alpine F1 Team A521 of Esteban Ocon was catapulted into the lead of the race.

The other thirteen cars pace advantage on the slick cars meant that when Hamilton eventually pitted at the end of the next lap he surfaced from the pits dead last in fourteenth position and with a classic Hamilton comeback drive that we have become accustomed to seeing over his years in Formula 1. Meanwhile, at the front of the race Ocon was extending his gap on the chasing Sebastian Vettel to 1.4 seconds with the Grand Prix fastly becoming a two horse race as Latifi, who occupied the final podium position after jumping Sainz and Tsunoda in the pit lane, began to fall away.

With the damage sustained and a lack of grip, Verstappen fought to get past Pierre Gasly and then Mick Schumacher, who he struggled to pass before eventually getting passed in his usual aggressive manner, with the duo touching wheels as the Dutchman passed. More laps passed before the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team called in Hamilton to switch to the hard tyres in a strategical masterstroke which allowed him to pass both Verstappen and Ricciardo, who both had pitted to cover off the Briton, but his rapid out-lap meant he got the jump on the two former team-mates. More drivers pitting allowed the defending world-champion to climb even further up the order whilst he began to set a series of fastest laps.

Hamilton’s championship rival Verstappen spent the rest of the race stuck behind Ricciardo but managed to make up some places himself as drivers like Schumacher made their first pit-stop in green flag conditions. By now, the Briton was on a mission, passing Latifi shortly after he pitted and then overtaking the Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda of Tsunoda round the outside of Turn four. Now in clear air, it was up to Hamilton to make up the time needed to finish on the podium.

Out in front, it was Vettel who jumped first aiming for the undercut on Ocon and would’ve achieved this had it not been for the German overshooting his lines in the pit stop causing the pit stop to be 3.3 seconds, despite the four-time world champions best efforts he was unable to undercut Ocon who pitted the lap after and remained in the lead of the race much to bemusement of anyone tuning in late to the race.

Image Credit : Daimler AMG/Jiri Krenek

A Battle For The Ages Between Two Of The Most Successful Drivers On The Grid

The second sequence of pit stops cycled through with Hamilton now needing to close just over a twenty-two second gap to Ocon but before he was able to think about the victory a formidable object stood in his way under the name of Fernando Alonso who made his car as ‘wide as the track’ for the best part of the next ten laps, at the same time doing his team-mate a huge service in slowing the British driver down. However, it was almost inevitable that the Spaniards strong defence would crumble and it duly did on lap 65 where the two-time world champion locked up and went deep into Turn 1 allowing Hamilton to make the best use of the DRS once alongside Alonso.

Now released into clear air, Hamilton almost immediately caught Sainz who was unable to resist the Britons attack for long who passed him on the pit straight whilst lapping the McLaren of Ricciardo on the sixty-seventh lap of the race. Alonso’s supreme defence had meant that Ocon had crossed the finish line 1.8 seconds ahead of Vettel who in turn was only eight-tenths ahead of the pursuing Hamilton.

Sainz ended fourth ahead of Alonso, while there was delight for AlphaTauri, with Gasly taking sixth (and the bonus point for fastest lap) ahead of Tsunoda. But the delight at Williams was something much more, with the team finally ending their long run without points – and they did so with both drivers! After running third early on, Latifi was unable to hang on to the podium place, but he did manage eighth, just ahead of team-mate Russell. It was the first points finish for Williams since the 2019 German Grand Prix.

Verstappen showed his pedigree in passing Ricciardo right at the end of the race around the outside of Turn 4 to snatch the final points position away from the Australian who was visibly devastated after the race. Kimi Räikkönen ended eleventh after being forced to serve a ten second penalty after his mechanics released him into the path of Nikita Mazepin, causing the Russian drivers suspension to break and ending his race at the restart.

Mazepin’s Uralkali Haas F1 Team team-mate Schumacher finished in thirteenth place ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi who was adjudged to have been speeding in the pit-lane, but things could’ve been very different for the Italian driver had there not been a red flag as Giovinazzi made the gamble to switch to the slick tyres on lap one of the race.

Post-Race Heartbreak

A few hours after the race we heard the devastating news that Sebastian Vettel had been disqualified from his second position failing a fuel sample test at the end of the Grand Prix, to the out-rage of many fans. Aston Martin will appeal this decision but this left not for the first time in his career Sainz celebrating a podium after the podium celebrations have concluded.

All of this drama lead to Verstappen ceding his championship lead to Hamilton and Mercedes took the lead in the constructors championship, understandably the Dutchman not being best pleased expressing his displeasure to the media telling them that it was “disappointing to be taken out by a Mercedes again” meaning that if it wasn’t already the championship battle has really heated up.

POSNO.DRIVERNATTEAMTIME/GAP
131Esteban OconFRAAlpine F1 Team2:04:43.199
244Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team+2.736
355Carlos Sainz Jr.ESPScuderia Ferrari+15.018
414Fernando AlonsoESPAlpine F1 Team+15.651
510Pierre GaslyFRAScuderia AlphaTauri Honda+1:03.614
622Yuki TsunodaJAPScuderia AlphaTauri Honda+1:15.803
76Nicholas LatifiCANWilliams Racing+1:17.910
863George RussellGBRWilliams Racing+1:19.094
933Max VerstappenNEDRed Bull Racing+1:20.244
107Kimi RäikkönenFINAlfa Romeo Racing ORLEN+1 Lap
113Daniel RicciardoAUSMcLaren F1 Team+1 Lap
1247Mick SchumacherGERUralkali Haas F1 Team+1 Lap
1399Antonio GiovinazziITAAlfa Romeo Racing ORLEN+1 Lap
RET9Nikita MazepinRUSUralkali Haas F1 TeamRetired
RET4Lando NorrisITAMcLaren F1 TeamRetired
RET77Valtteri BottasFINMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One TeamRetired
RET11Sergio PérezMEXRed Bull RacingRetired
RET16Charles LeclercMONScuderia FerrariRetired
RET18Lance StrollCANAston Martin Cognizant Formula One TeamRetired
DSQ5Sebastian VettelGERAston Martin Cognizant Formula One TeamDisqualified
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