The 2021 Hungarian GP was a true testament to how amazing unpredictability can be in F1. Since Monza last year, there have been only 3 instances where we saw a new winner, and today was one of those days. The race start was very dramatic, with a massive crash triggered by Valtteri Bottas’ mistake into Turn 1 on Lap 1, which caused mass chaos, and as a result multiple cars were eliminated, and the race was subsequently red-flagged. While the cars were sat in the pitlane, the track rapidly dried out, and before teams could decide whether to start on intermediates or dries, the race started again, with all drivers going on intermediates.
At the restart, everyone except Hamilton pitted for dry tyres who instead stayed out on the intermediates, which saw an incredibly unusual race start, with only 1 car on the grid! Lewis led the empty grid away, and the other cars slowly made their way out of the pitlane. Lewis pitted and came out in last place, but drove a great race to recover to P3. Esteban Ocon acquired the lead, and he and Sebastian Vettel duelled all race long for that glorious P1 spot. Ocon managed to fend off the 4-time world champ for all of the 65 remaining laps. Ocon won the race, followed by Vettel and Hamilton, although post-race Seb was disqualified for a fuel irregularity, and hence Lewis moved up to P2, and Carlos Sainz moved into P3.
Williams: On the right track?
From 2018 to 2020, Williams scored just 8 points, and were struggling with every aspect of the car. The drivers called the car difficult, the team was unable to fix anything to improve their situation, and hence their lack of points. It was a huge surprise, then, that at Hungary, Williams took away 10 points (post Vettel’s disqualification), finishing in P8 and P9 and then getting elevated to P7 and P8. They know the struggle for achieving points all too well, so they were understandably overjoyed when they scored points with both of their cars!
No doubt their race was aided by Valtteri eliminating half the grid, but both Nicholas and George drove fantastically, with tremendous pace all race long. The new investment in the team seems to be paying off very well, and both drivers drove very capable races. George was determined to give the team the best chance of scoring points, valiantly coming on the radio and telling the team to prioritise Latifi, and agreeing to cover the undercut by the other teams. He was also extremely emotional post-race, showing just how much a few points mean to the smaller teams. George did have a small moment at the restart, overtaking a few cars in the pitlane and hence having to give up the advantage, but apart from that, Williams were faultless today.
Alpine: Legendary Performance!
The 2003 Hungarian GP was the maiden win of a certain Fernando Alonso, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday. This track, hence holds some great memories for him and for the team. I’m sure, though that they never in a million years would have imagined a result like the one they got on Sunday. Esteban Ocon, akin to his teammate, won his maiden race for Alpine (was called Renault when Fernando won), at the Hungaroring, 18 years later! Esteban took P1, and Fernando took P5 on the road, and was promoted to P4 after Vettel’s disqualification.
Both drivers drove amazingly in their own regard. Esteban had the all-important track position thanks to cleverly avoiding the carnage on Lap 1, and then driving consistently to fend off Vettel and win the race. Fernando however, was probably the star driver of the race. After a chaotic start, he played the team game to perfection, holding off a charging Hamilton by battling him hard in a comparatively inferior car, and giving us fans a battle for the ages. He delayed Lewis’ charge, and once Lewis eventually made it through Fernando, he ran out of laps to catch Esteban. Alpine, hence had possibly their best weekend ever, and will hope to ride this momentum for the rest of the season as well!
Rest of the grid: What Happened?
Lance Stroll was classified as the first retirement, after he locked up and ploughed into Charles Leclerc and damaged his car badly, something Charles was very unhappy about. Leclerc was the next classified retiree, who was forced to retire through no fault of his own. His engine was also written off by Ferrari, which now certainly means that he will be forced to take a grid penalty at some point during the remainder of the season. Sergio Perez was hit very hard by an out of control Bottas, and the team told him to retire, so as to not damage the fragile inner components of the car. Valtteri Bottas was the next one to retire, and his slight misjudgement took out 4 cars, for which he got a 5-place grid drop for the next race at Spa. Lando Norris was an unfortunate victim of the melee, getting a fantastic start, but then getting rear-ended and subsequently having to retire, his 15-race continuous point scoring streak coming to an abrupt and unfortunate end.
Nikita Mazepin had a very unfortunate end to his race, becoming the victim of a wrongly-timed pit release by Alfa Romeo, and hence having to end his race in the pitlane. Antonio Giovinazzi got a penalty for speeding in the pitlane at the restart, and from there on his race was effectively ruined, as this setback meant that he was unable to make any progress in the crucial early stages after the restart. Mick Schumacher was the next finisher, finishing 13th on-track but being promoted to 12th, a good drive from the German, who even battled Max hard during the early stages of the race. Daniel Ricciardo finished 12th on the track, after a difficult Sunday, getting major damage from the Lap 1 skirmish, and was understandably disappointed to miss out on points. Kimi Raikkonen finished 11th, but was eventually promoted to 10th, getting a penalty for the unsafe release by his Alfa Romeo pitcrew.
Max Verstappen finished 10th on the road, being promoted to 9th. His car had absolutely no right-side bargeboard following the hefty impact, so it’s a miracle how he even managed to finish at all, a truly strong performance by the Dutchman. George Russell finished 9th and was promoted to 8th, and drove an outstanding race, in a great effort by him and the team, finally scoring some all-important points, which matter a lot to the team. Nicholas Latifi had a phenomenal race, finishing 8th and then being promoted to 7th, in a great showing by the Canadian. He was even running as high as P3 after the restart, but eventually managed to cling on to P8 on the track when the flag dropped, displaying immense pace. Yuki Tsunoda finished 7th and was promoted to 6th, and managed to score some great points in the process. He, however did have a spin, but held on to P7 on the road. Pierre Gasly finished 6th and was promoted to 5th, and he also managed to bag the fastest lap on the very last lap, though if his initial race start was not as chaotic as it was, he may have finished even higher.
Fernando Alonso had an amazing race, finishing 5th and getting promoted to 4th. His battle with Lewis was both incredibly entertaining, as well as very crucial to the eventual outcome of the race. Fernando displayed his true skill while battling with Lewis, holding off the much quicker Mercedes, while being on much older and harder tyres. Carlos Sainz finished 4th and was promoted to 3rd, a great result for the Spaniard, who started in 15th, and correctly went against Ferrari’s strategy to finish a fine 4th on the road, a great drive from him, recovering from a poor qualifying where he had a crash. Lewis Hamilton finished 3rd and was promoted to 2nd, the Briton doing very well to come back from a disastrous strategy call by Mercedes, which saw him run last of the running cars after the restart. Lewis did well to recover to P3 on the road, but his battle with Fernando surely hurt his chances of recovering to get victory. Sebastian Vettel drove a fine race, finishing P2 on the road, but getting disqualified for a fuel irregularity post-race*. He displayed fine pace throughout the race, and a slow pit stop while attempting to undercut Ocon also hurt his chances. Esteban Ocon, though was unstoppable. Consistent, calm and collected, the Frenchman drove an outstanding race, to claim his maiden win in F1, and the first for Alpine as well. After a difficult run of form, Esteban seems to be regaining momentum once again!
UPDATE (12/8): Today, Aston Martin have officially withrawn the appeal they submitted to the FIA. Sebastian has been disqualified, and everyone who finished below him moves up one place. Another interesting stat- this is the second time Carlos has inherited a podium after one of his rivals was struck with a penalty by the FIA, which means that now 50% of his podiums have come post-race!
*Sebastian’s disqualification has been officially appealed by Aston Martin, and as and when the final decision is reached, I will update the blogpost!
Who Shone, Who Sunk?
Who Shone: Hungary was a truly eventful race. As per me, not just one or two, but multiple drivers shone during the race.
- Esteban (calm and composed drive to claim his first win),
- Sebastian (brilliant effort to follow in dirty air for over 60 laps),
- Lewis (recovering very well from a botched strategy),
- Carlos (15th to 3rd, making his strategy while driving),
- Fernando (a battle for the ages, and true team spirit),
- Nicholas (first points after a consistent and measured drive),
- George (the long-awaited first points for Williams and being a valiant team player),
- Max (driving home “half a car” to the points).
All of them were fantastic in their own right, and all shone in Hungary.
Who Sunk: For me, only Valtteri and Lance sunk in Hungary. Both drove somewhat erratically on Lap 1, taking out multiple cars. Both received a 5-place penalty each, and also getting penalty points on their superlicence. Both will surely be eager to recover well from this at the next round at Spa!
Spa-Francorchamps is the next race, and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful F1 circuits to exist. Spa certainly has cemented its place in F1 history, and we can only hope that the 7-kilometre long circuit in the Ardennes will provide some exciting racing when the F1 circus races there!