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Ocon's Opportunity: Frenchman Wins Wacky Grand Prix in Hungary

Photo Credit: XPB / James Moy Photography Ltd/Alpine F1 Team

Approaching the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix weekend and this season’s 11th Formula 1 event, fans have been more prevalently dividing themselves between the camps of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen along with their respective teams. The battle lines in fandom among the championship contenders have become particularly evident in the aftermath of the recent British Grand Prix. However, beyond the building Hamilton/Verstappen season-long bout, the activities of 18 other drivers can garner more universal kudos. With the conclusion of Sunday’s chaotic 70-lap event on the 4.381-kilometer, 14-turn Hungaroring, the top 10 results contained a number of celebratory performance including that of a first-time grand prix winner.

Summer weather at the circuit outside of Budapest served as a major challenge throughout the grand prix weekend led by extreme hot temperature on Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s race was complicated by an unexpected rain shower prior to cars taking to their grid spots. With the exception to the #99 Alfa Romeo Racing car of Antonio Giovinazzi, competitors opted for a change to intermediate Pirelli tires for the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The damp race track would be the main ingredient for what was a first lap that set in motion a surreal Formula 1 race.

At the start of the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team’s pole-sitting #44 car under the control of Lewis Hamilton leapt off the grid masterfully. However the second team car driven by Valterri Bottas experienced a sluggish launch due to wheel spin on the wet track allowing both Red Bull Racing entries to pass.

Having already lost several places at the start of the race, Bottas was behind the McLaren-Mercedes of Lando Norris entering the first turn at the Hungaroring where he locked the brakes of his #77 machine. Drilling the rear of Norris’ #4 car, the McLaren team machine would collide with Max Verstappen’s #33 Red Bull Racing RB16B. After hitting Norris, Bottas would also collect the #11 car, Red Bull Racing’s second entry driven by Sergio Perez. Separate from the Valtteri Bottas-related impacts, Aston Martin Racing’s Lance Stroll also locked up his machine under braking and slid into the sidepod of the Ferrari SF21 race car of Charles Leclerc. A red flag was called to clean up the debris in turn one. Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll retired before completing a single lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Lando Norris’ McLaren team attempted to repair his wounded McLaren MCL35M race car but the damage was too severe leading the driver to park the machine. The Red Bull Racing team was able to patch up Verstappen’s race vehicle and would be able to complete the race distance.

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

By the time the race’s second standing start at the end of lap three, the surface of the Hungaroring had dried considerably. While race leader Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes-AMG team elected to remain on intermediate tires for the start, every other race car took to pit lane for more superior slick tires. Hamilton sat on the grid alone for the starting lights to go off while the remaining competitors would storm off of pit road as the Mercedes-AMG machine approached the entry into turn one. Aware that their driver would soon fall into the clutches of the field on slick tires, Mercedes-AMG pitted Hamilton on lap four surrendering the lead of the race to Esteban Ocon driving the Alpine F1 Team’s #31 car.

The front positions of the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix would be fought for by some an unusual cast of characters. Surviving the opening lap melee, Sebastian Vettel would spend much of the race challenging the leading Alpine vehicle. Completing his final pit stop on lap 36 with Ocon making his stop one lap later, Vettel battled hard with the Frenchman but his green #5 car would remain trailing the blue #31 machine.

Photo Credit: XPB / James Moy Photography Ltd/Alpine F1 Team

Taking his first-ever Formula 1 win, Esteban Ocon took the chequered flag of the Hungarian Grand Prix 1.859 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel and 2.736 ahead of Lewis Hamilton. The victory for the French driver comes on his 78 career start in the series and bests his previous best finish that came last season in the Sakhir Grand Prix. “What a moment, allez les bleus! It was a crazy race from the very start to the end.” said Ocon in a post-race statement on the team’s website. “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 also crediting his veteran teammate Fernando Alonso’s effort who fought the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes-AMG hard for position.

The victory for the French Alpine F1 Team is the first for the race outfit that rebranded itself away from Renault this season. The turbocharged/hybrid powertrain used in connection with the Alpine A521 chassis is still recognized as a Renault E-Tech 20B power unit. The last victory for a Renault-linked power unit was the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix but was labelled as a TAG Heuer on the Red Bull race car that was piloted by Max Verstappen. The iconic French automotive nameplate had not officially appeared on a grand prix winning car since the 2014 Formula 1 season prior to Alpine’s triumph in Hungary.

After 70 laps for what was a bizarre, unpredictable Formula 1 event, the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix has even generated a messy post-race. In addition to multiple teams and drivers being summoned to the race stewards for violations of radio procedures prior to the start of the race, Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll both received five-grid place penalties for qualifying in the next Formula 1 round in Belgium for their opening lap collisions. The turmoil at the end of the grand prix also affected the podium finishers.

Photo Credit: XPB / James Moy Photography Ltd/Alpine F1 Team

Sebastian Vettel's second-place result came under risk as Aston Martin Racing could not provide a one-liter fuel sample to the FIA sanctioning body after the event. With only 0.3 liters of fuel available for extraction from the AMR21 race car, Vettel was disqualified from the race results serving as a big points loss for the German driver as well as his British team.

With Sebastian Vettel exclusion from the podium, Lewis Hamilton was promoted to second place granting the Brit three additional points in the drivers’ standings. Hamilton spent the entire Hungarian Grand Prix playing catch-up with the field after being caught behind on pit strategy early in the event. The #44 car guided its way from 13th place on lap five to take what turned into a runner-up position overtaking Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz late. The combination of Max Verstappen’s retirement in the opening stage of the British Grand Prix as well as what ended up as a ninth place finish for the driver of the Honda-powered #33 Red Bull Racing machine has propelled Hamilton to point lead with an eight-point advantage heading into the summer break.

Scuderia Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr., who lost the third place position on track to Hamilton in the last laps of the Hungarian Grand Prix, was rewarded with a post-race podium spot. The second podium of the season for Sainz, his fortunes changed after a Saturday qualifying crash that saw him start in 15th place on Sunday. the Spaniard is now sixth in the Formula 1 drivers’ standings after 11 events currently three points ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc.

Turning 40 years old on Thursday prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso fourth place finish is his best result since the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix when he was competing with Ferrari. Alonso’s effort along with Esteban Ocon’s win pushed the Alpine F1 Team to fifth place in the constructors’ points standings.

In addition to Ocon’s win, fellow Frenchman Pierre Gasly finished fifth for Scuderia AlphaTauri and captured the fastest lap of the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix in addition to the extra championship point rewarded for the honour. The second AlphaTauri race car piloted by Yuki Tsunoda qualified 16th for the Hungaroring event on Saturday but emerged with a sixth place result on Sunday.

Another double-point scoring race effort followed the AlphaTauri competitors coming from an unlikely organization. In a feel-good story for a historic name in the sport that has endured through a tough stretch over the past several seasons. The Williams Racing team’s first point-scoring outing since the 2019 German Grand Prix, the Hungarian Grand Prix ended with both drivers collecting points. Starting the race 18th on the grid, Canadian Nicholas Latifi crossed the line in 7th place finish translating to his first-career Formula 1 drivers’ championship points. Latifi’s result coincides with an 8th place result scored by teammate George Russell. The young Brit had previously scored a ninth place finish at the Sahkir Grand Prix but this event was the first time Russell recorded a top 10 with Williams Racing.  

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

Max Verstappen soldiered on after involvement in the opening lap to take ninth place fighting a loss of downforce with his RB16B race car. The last points-paying position in the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix went to Kimi Raikkonen driving for Alfa Romeo Racing.

The 2021 Formula 1 season enters into a nearly month-long hiatus before engines come to life again at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix.           

2021 Formula 1 Season
Hungarian Grand Prix
Race Results
Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine
1 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine F1 Team Renault
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
3 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Misson Winnow Ferrari Ferrari
4 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine F1 Team Renault
5 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
6 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
7 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Racing Mercedes-Benz
8 63 George Russell Williams Racing Mercedes-Benz
9 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda
10 7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari
11 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
12 47 Mick Schumacher Uralkali Haas F1 Team Ferrari
13 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari
14 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
15 9 Nikita Mazepin Uralkali Haas F1 Team Ferrari
16 4 Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
17 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda
18 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
19 16 Charles Leclerc Scuderia Misson Winnow Ferrari Ferrari
20 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
2021 Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship Points (After Hungarian Grand Prix)
Driver Total Points
1 Lewis Hamilton 195
2 Max Verstappen 187
3 Lando Norris 113
4 Valtteri Bottas 108
5 Sergio Perez 104
6 Carlos Sainz Jr 83
7 Charles Leclerc 80
8 Daniel Ricciardo 50
8 Pierre Gasly 50
10 Esteban Ocon 39
11 Fernando Alonso 38
12 Sebastian Vettel 30
13 Lance Stroll 18
13 Yuki Tsunoda 18
15 Nicholas Latifi 6
16 George Russell 4
17 Kimi Raikkonen 2
18 Antonio Giovinazzi 1
19 Mick Schumacher 0
20 Nikita Mazepin 0
2021 Formula 1 Contructors' Points (After Hungarian Grand Prix)
Constructor Engine Total Points
1 Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes-Benz 303
2 Red Bull Racing Honda 291
3 McLaren F1 Team Mercedes-Benz 163
3 Scuderia Misson Winnow Ferrari Ferrari 163
5 Alpine F1 Team Renault 77
6 Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda 68
7 Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team Mercedes-Benz 48
8 Williams Racing Mercedes-Benz 10
9 Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 3
10 Uralkali Haas F1 Team Ferrari 0


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