Yet another memorable race in the 2021 season because who would have really guessed the results? An Alpine in P1? Aston Martin in P2? We can all agree that this race was a delight for viewers but complete chaos for the drivers. There’s a lot to get through so let’s get started.
It was raining on the first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The drivers lined up on the grid. The tension was palpable. It was lights out and straight into turn 1, chaos erupted. Valtteri Bottas hit Lando Norris, which hurtled the entire pack into pandemonium. Five cars were eliminated on the very first lap of the race: Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas describes what happened and how he caused the crash,
I had a poor start with lots of wheelspin off the line, lost a couple of places and then into turn one, I was right on the gearbox of Lando and locked the wheels. I misjudged the braking point – it’s always difficult starting a race in those conditions, you’re always ‘guesstimating’ grip levels and today I got it wrong. I’ve spoken to Lando and Checo to apologise, it was my bad today and sometimes you have to hold your hands up.”
Verstappen had suffered serious damage to his right barge board and floor that caused him to flounder around P10, lacking the pace due to the damage. “Again taken out by a Mercedes so that’s not what you want,” said Verstappen. “From then on, I was missing the whole side of my car and the whole barge board area, the floor was damaged as well so it was almost impossible to drive to be honest,” he added.
It was another devastating weekend for Red Bull who have now lost their lead in both the Constructor standings and Driver standings. Both the result of crashes and little to no fault of from the team at Red Bull. Sergio Perez summed up the result well,
“I don’t know what to say but it is unbelievable to be hit like that at Turn 1 and a massive blow for us as a Team. I got a good start and was up to third and it is such a shame because I think we had a good opportunity in those conditions, but there was nothing I could do….He [Bottas] came to me and apologised as he knew it was his mistake, and although it was not on purpose and is how racing goes sometimes, it doesn’t make a difference to the result for us right now as the large amount of damage ended our race and opportunity for points.”
Red Bull aren’t out of the running just yet as there is still half the season to go but they will be keeping a closer eye on where those Mercedes’ are, won’t they?
Who came out on top as a result of this crash? It was Alpine and Esteban Ocon who managed to secure his first win since his days in the 2015 GP3 series (now F3). It’s always a delight to see a young, new driver on the podium and none are more deserving at the Hungarian Grand Prix than Ocon. He didn’t put a single foot wrong the entire race and the results of he and his team’s great decision making gave him the win.
Ocon said of the race, “It was a crazy race from the very start to the end. There were a lot of decisions to make and the team executed that really well along with the crew who did a mega pit-stop, which was crucial to staying in front of Sebastian [Vettel].”
He added, “special thanks to Fernando [who] has been fighting like a lion in that race, because that probably contributed to give us a gap, give us a bit of a breather.”
That gap was hard fought by Fernando Alonso who kept Lewis Hamilton at bay with a masterclass in defensive driving that earnt him Driver of the Day. It was truly a spectacle to watch a slower car keep back the Mercedes despite eventually giving up the position to Hamilton.
Perhaps the Alpine’s have been somewhat ignored this season but they will surely be on people’s radar after Hungary. One has to wonder whether or not this result was due to sheer luck or if the Alpine’s can actually compete at a higher level than they’ve shown so far this season. After the break we will have to see.
Sebastian Vettel finished in P2 but was unfortunately disqualified due to an FIA technical delegate being unable to extract a sufficient 1.0L fuel sample from his car. This means that Hamilton and Carlos Sainz were bumped up to P2 and P3, respectively.
Despite this, Vettel drove very well but ultimately felt disappointed with P2,
“I felt like I tried to take the lead for the entire 70 laps, but it is so difficult to overtake here. I think we were quicker for most of the race, but there was not enough of a difference to make an overtake because it was very hard to follow in the dirty air. I tried to pressure Esteban [Ocon] into a mistake, but he did not make a single one.”
High praise for Ocon from a former World Champion.
For his part in the crash, Lance Stroll stated that he faced a similar issue to Bottas, “Once the incident at the front of the field happened, I took the line to the inside to try and avoid making contact, but I locked up under braking.” This lock up forced him into Charles Leclerc, ending both of their races.
It was a strange start for Mercedes after the restart. Hamilton was the only car not to pit and switch to slick tyres instead of intermediates. It proved a strange sight as just one car started from the grid and ultimately the decision sent Hamilton to the very back of the grid. “We all started on those inters,” said Hamilton, “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.”
Mercedes have maintained that this wasn’t a mistake, “keeping him out was absolutely the right call for us, even if it was a little lonely for him out there,” said team principal, Toto Wolff. “It would have been a gamble to pit from the lead, the track tried unbelievably quickly in the sun and it could have easily gone the other way, and then we would have looked foolish for bringing him in.”
Why they didn’t listen to their own weather forecast no one can know, but had they pitted when everyone else did, it seems unlikely that Hamilton would have had to fight so hard for position as he did.
Carlos Sainz performed brilliantly and earned a P4 making his way all the way from P15, but since Vettel was disqualified, this means he earned P3, another podium for the Spaniard. But it wasn’t easy,
“After starting P15 we actually had a good chance of a podium,” said Sainz, “Losing positions to Williams and AlphaTauri after the first pit stop due to the traffic in the pit lane cost us dearly. We were in the hunt for the win at that point, but instead we lost any real chance of fighting for it.”
Team principal, Mattia Binotto, said that “fourth is a fair reflection of [their] race performance.”
Charles Leclerc was incredibly frustrated and made it known on Twitter as soon as he was back in the garage,
Williams & Haas
Special mention should go to these two teams for a stunning performance that took advantage of the situation provided to them. For Williams, having both cars in the pointed means this is their first double-points haul since the 2018 Italian Grand Prix and George Russell’s first ever points in F1.
“I literally shed a tear earlier, I don’t know literally where it came from; it all just came flooding out,” said Russell. “I truly believe we deserve to be in P8 in the constructors’ championship; I think we’ve done a better job than Haas and Alfa this year and we deserve to have six points on the board. It means so much. I got quite emotional to be honest because it’s not just a P9; it’s three years of hard work for me personally.”
Nicholas Latifi echoed his teammate, “To get both cars in the points and to move up to P8 in the championship is amazing. The race from my side was very tough to manage, obviously the start in the first corner was what sealed it for me. We struggled in qualifying yesterday, so to come away with a result like this is better than anything we could have hoped for.”
Mick Schumacher performed amazingly for both a rookie and a rookie in an underpowered car. “Finishing in front of an Alfa is something that we weren’t anticipating and starting from last and finishing P13 is quite a decent result for us,” said Schumacher. “We were keen on having a point but frankly we don’t have the car at the moment to do so but nonetheless this was great experience as I’ve been able to battle with the top guys and the championship leader.”
He kept up Verstappen and Hamilton in what must have felt like the drive of his life. This driver is certainly someone to keep our eyes. It’s possible he could be a great in future, much like his father.