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F1 Review: Esteban Ocon Awesome in Hungary; Fernando Alonso Mimics Younger Self

Esteban Ocon benefitted from calamity at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix and then a major gaffe by Mercedes to earn his first Formula 1 win on Sunday (Aug. 1).  Ocon, however, was not gifted the victory and was forced to hold off Sebastian Vettel for almost the entirety of the race.  Vettel appeared to have the faster car but never found his way past as Ocon scored his maiden F1 victory.

Vettel earned his second runner-up finish of the year but well may have it removed because of a fuel issue (more below).  Lewis Hamilton bounced back from an early mistake and took the last step on the podium, looking thoroughly drained in doing so.

Carlos Sainz took fourth by holding off Fernando Alonso who pressured the fellow Spaniard on the final laps.  Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda gave Alpha Tauri solid points finishes with sixth and seventh.  In a similar fashion, Nicholas Latifi and George Russell supplied Williams with a decent day, taking eighth and ninth.  Max Verstappen recovered from his first-corner collision to round out the top 10.

See also
Esteban Ocon Claims Maiden Victory in Dramatic Hungarian Grand Prix

The Race

The first corner of the first lap changed the event from a race into a lottery.  With Valtteri Bottas crashing into Lando Norris and taking out Perez, with Verstappen sustaining damage, three cars wiped out and a potential winner became a back-marker.  The reshuffling was equivalent to writing car numbers on ping-pong balls, mixing them together and seeing in what order they might spill out.

When Mercedes and Hamilton confused themselves – in what should be an iconic moment of Hamilton being the only car on the track to drive from the standing restart – the leader also removed himself from the equation.

Ocon slid into the top spot and then managed the race from there.  With his Alpine team giving him a lovely pit stop, Ocon kept his position at the front and held off Vettel through the rest of the race.

Alonso’s ability to slow Hamilton may have been a big boon but Ocon still put together a veteran drive and deserved his win.

The Good

Salud a Esteban Ocon!  In what has been a challenging season with two DNFs and three finishes outside the points, Ocon finally got a chance to shine and looked smooth doing so.  The 24-year-old Frenchman had signed a three-year extension earlier this year and then floundered for four races, almost making the decision look regrettable.

Ocon may have been aided by Bottas taking out some of the leaders at the start but he still drove a stellar race, seemingly giving F1 the evidence needed to back his position with Alpine.  He was hounded by Vettel for the entirety of the race and yet avoided becoming prey to the former champion.  In addition, the win offers reason to believe that Alpine are becoming a stronger organization and should make the midpack competition all the more intriguing.

– The Williams team turned in an excellent performance, taking eighth and ninth (provisionally).  The double-points finish is not only the first of the year for the team but moves them seven points clear of Alfa Romeo and into eighth in the constructor’s standings.  While they are unlikely to catch Aston Martin for seventh, being able to keep that position moving forward would be an enormous bonus for a team that has finished on the bottom rungs of the order for the last few years.

Fernando Alonso may have finished fifth, but if any battle on the track deserves to be highlighted, it is the one between him and Hamilton.  Not only was watching the two champions going at it on the track every bit as scintillating as would be desired, his finish also earned him driver of the day and showcases that he is continuing to score points for the team.

Alonso has grabbed points in the past six races and is showing form reminiscent of his younger self rather than the driver that sputtered along with McLaren a few years ago.

More importantly, the Alpine driver frustrating Hamilton provided a big assist to Ocon as holding up Hamilton helped give Ocon enough of a gap to remain clear.

The Bad

Valtteri Bottas earned a five-spot penalty for the start of the next race at the end of August at Spa. Lance Stroll managed to pull the same penalty for punching into Charles Leclerc and sending them both out of the race.

Bottas and Stroll either held different expectations of when the people in front of them would brake or they misjudged their own speeds.

The Questionable

– What happened with Mercedes?  That every other car that was still running pitted to get off intermediates and move to slicks seemed peculiar with what looked like an obviously dry track.  That the team salvaged third for Hamilton, through impressive pit strategy and Hamilton’s will, is a testament to both.  But Hamilton should have enjoyed an easy cruise to the win rather than coming back from 14th to take third after leading the race.

Sebastian Vettel lost his second-place finish after the stewards could not retrieve a 1.0 liter fuel sample from his Alpine.  Vettel had driven the best of the past two years and the ruling is a big disappointment.

Aston Martin has appealed the decision but should it stand, Vettel would be disqualified and everyone would move up one position.  The rule is in place both to ensure that cars can return to the pits after a GP but also so there is enough of a sample to test so as to confirm no fuel irregularities.  The blow to Aston Martin would be rather demoralizing considering Lance Stroll crashed out of the race. A DNQ means the team would then earn no points and suffer in the constructor’s championship.

The Quotable

Esteban Ocon summed up his win for Alpine well: “What a moment. It feels so good. It’s the first victory since the Renault group came back into Formula 1. We had some difficult moments this season that we overcame together with the team, we’ve come back to a fantastic pace in Silverstone and victory today.

“What can I say? It’s fantastic, so congrats to Fernando as well because I think the win is also thanks to him with the fight that he did, his teamwork, all that. I think it’s been a fantastic day.”

– Hamilton admitted to frustration with the decision to start on intermediate wet tires, lamenting, “We all started on those inters… and through the formation lap, I was just giving the team information. I mean, it was dry through all the corners and I kept telling them ‘it’s dry, dry, dry, dry’ but they said just to stay out.”

But he also noted that it is a team sport and that Toto Wolff’s call was a difficult one to make.

– Charles Leclerc was in position to be in the front of the field before Lance Stroll spearheaded him.  He offered his thoughts, saying, “A hugely frustrating Sunday for me. I had a strong start and was in a good position, fighting for second or third. I knew that I had an opportunity today, so I took it easy and moved with caution.

“I was taking the first corner and no way was I expecting anyone to make that kind of move on me. Getting caught out like this is just a shame. The damage was so big that, once I arrived at the braking point for the next corner, I spun straight away. Not the way we wanted to head into the summer break, but that’s how it is.”

The Results – Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring (Aug. 1)

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 70 2:04:43.199 25
2 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes 70 +1.859s 18
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 70 +2.736s 15
4 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 70 +15.018s 12
5 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 70 +15.651s 10
6 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda 70 +63.614s 9
7 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda 70 +75.803s 6
8 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 70 +77.910s 4
9 63 George Russell Williams Mercedes 70 +79.094s 2
10 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 70 +80.244s 1
11 7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 69 +1 lap 0
12 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 69 +1 lap 0
13 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 69 +1 lap 0
14 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 69 +1 lap 0
NC 9 Nikita Mazepin Haas Ferrari 3 DNF 0
NC 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 2 DNF 0
NC 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0 DNF 0
NC 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda 0 DNF 0
NC 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0 DNF 0
NC 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 0 DNF 0

* Provisional results, subject to the outcome of the notice of appeal lodged by Aston Martin against the stewards’ decision to disqualify Vettel after the required fuel sample could not be extracted from his car following the race.

* Gasly scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.

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