Esteban Ocon won his first Formula 1 grand prix from Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in a chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix.
Five cars crashed out of the race in damp conditions at the race start, while erstwhile title leader Max Verstappen also suffered heavy damage that took him out of podium contention and left him buried in the points.
A bad start from Valtteri Bottas was the catalyst for part of the carnage. The Finn slipped from second to sixth behind both Red Bull Racing drivers and Lando Norris and misjudged the greasy conditions on the brakes, hitting the back of the McLaren as they approached the apex.
The McLaren speared into the side of Verstappen and ultimately out of the race, while the Dutchman was forced to pit with significant bodywork damage, tumbling to 12th. Bottas rebounded off the back of Norris and clobbered into Sergio Perez, putting himself and the Mexican into retirement.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 1, 2021
Bottas was handed a five-place grid penalty for the next grand prix in Belgium for causing the series of crashes.
Further back Lance Stroll was carrying way too much speed into the first corner, and he took to the grass on the apex in a poorly reasoned bid to avoid an accident. Now fully out of control, the Aston Martin smacked into Charles Leclerc, who in turn spun around Daniel Ricciardo.
Stroll and Leclerc stopped on track with unrecoverable damage, while Ricciardo was able to correct tack and continue.
The race was red flagged for half an hour, and in the interim the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds. With the ambient temperature at around 85 degrees F, the circuit was almost completely dry by the time the drivers left pit lane for the second reconnaissance lap.
The track was ready for slicks, and everyone but leader Hamilton stopped at the end of the reconnaissance lap to take the restart from pit lane, dooming Hamilton to a bizarre single-car grid and a pit stop at the end of the lap that dropped him to the back of the field.
Esteban Ocon inherited the lead, the Frenchman having swanned through the first-lap carnage ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Nicholas Latifi held third, but the Williams was no match for the leading midfield cars and gradually fell backwards through the first stint, separating the leading pair from the rest of the field.
The two ran deep into the race before making their first stops, on lap 36 and 37. Vettel attempted the undercut, but a slow stop cost him badly. Ocon covered and rejoined fractionally ahead, but the Frenchman was robust in defense to hold the lead.
Hamilton was meanwhile making strong progress after early difficulties from the back. A well-timed stop on lap 20 got him into the points at the damaged Verstappen’s expense, and from there he built forward momentum, climbing to fifth by lap 32 and fourth by lap 40 behind Carlos Sainz.
A second stop at the end of lap 47 for new medium tires set him a 25s target to victory with 22 laps remaining. His progress was more than rapid enough, but on lap 55 he encountered the obstinate Fernando Alonso, and the pair engaged in a thrilling 15-lap duel for position.
Alonso was merciless in defense, running Hamilton wide and holding him up on the apex of the key overtaking zones in the first and second sectors. The assaulting Briton radioed his team in frustration that the Spaniard was overreaching, but the stewards were happy for the title-winning duo to race on.
It took until lap 65 for the positions to change hands, a small lock-up from Alonso allowing Hamilton through at the first turn to continue his charge, but by then too few laps remained for him to vie for victory. He cut past Sainz on lap 67, but he took the checkered flag 0.87s behind Vettel and 2.7s short of the lead.
Phenomenal performance from @alo_oficial 👏
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) August 1, 2021
Ocon claimed an emotional first win in Formula 1, his first racing victory since winning the first round of the 2015 GP3 season, and Alpine’s first win as a Formula 1 constructor.
“What a moment!” he said. “It feels so good. We had some difficult moments this season that we overcame together with the team.
“What can I say — it’s fantastic. Congratulations to Fernando as well, because I think the win is also down to him.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 1, 2021
Sebastian Vettel found the podium bittersweet for having the pace to contend for victory but not enough to make a move around the narrow, twisty circuit.
“I’m obviously a little bit disappointed because I felt I was a little bit faster for the majority of the race,” he said. “But Esteban didn’t do a single mistake, and I couldn’t get close enough.
“Well deserved for him to celebrate his first victory. Obviously it’s a great result for us — but when it’s that close!
Hamilton completed an unlikely championship turnaround to take a six-point lead going into the midseason break, having trailed by 33 on the Sunday morning of the previous round in Silverstone.
“We came here this weekend and definitely didn’t know how it was going to go,” he said. “Considering the circumstances today, I’ll take it.
“I gave it everything, and I had nothing left in the end.”
Sainz finished fourth ahead of the wily Alonso, with AlphaTauri teammates Pierre Gasly — who took the bonus point for fastest lap after a late pit stop — and Yuki Tsunoda.
Williams scored its first points since 2019, with maiden point scorer Nicholas Latifi and George Russell finishing eight and ninth for a six-point haul.
Max Verstappen trailed home 10th for a final despondent point of the race.
Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo, Mick Schumacher and Antonio Giovinazzi were the only other finishers, all four a lap down.