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HUNGARIAN F1 GP A CRASH FEST

Esteban Ocon won the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix in what can only be described as unusual circumstances.

A race red flagged after a single lap with three cars damaged at the opening corner. The race started for a second time with a single car on the grid. The post race disqualification of the second placed finisher and a subsequent appeal process that leaves the final result and driver’s championship positions in limbo as the championship rests for the summer break.

After two days of hot and sunny conditions, with track temperatures hovering around sixty degrees, the Formula One grid assembled on a damp and greasy race track with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas cars of Lewis Hamilton ideally placed to avoid the vision sapping spray in the run to the first corner. Championship leader, Max Verstappen was immediately behind with the world wondering whether if there would be any reprisals from the preceding event.

As the lights disappeared amidst a backdrop of wheelspin induced spray, Hamilton made an excellent start to lead the field towards Turn 1. Bottas, who sat on the inside line, was not so fortunate. Excessive wheelspin saw the #77 slow to accelerate and he was passed along the pit wall by Lando Norris. It was in fact an excellent start for both McLaren cars as Daniel Ricciardo also made ground on the leaders from 11th on the grid to 8th.

All looked good for a moment, until they reached the braking marker. Bottas misjudged his braking point and slid into the rear diffuser of Norris. The impact lifted the rear of the McLaren briefly and skewed Norris towards the Red Bull Hondas of Verstappen and Perez on the outside line. Norris made heavy contact with the right side of Verstappen’s car while Bottas cannoned into Perez.

“Not much to say, it was a short race! I only really made it to Turn One. Until then, it was extremely good, I was into third place but then I got taken out and was just a passenger, Norris explained to McLaren Media.

Bottas later explained what had happened to Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Media. “

I had a poor start with lots of wheelspin off the line, lost a couple of places and then into turn one, he said. “I was right on the gearbox of Lando and locked the wheels. I misjudged the braking point – its always difficult starting a race in those conditions, youre always guesstimating grip levels and today I got it wrong. Ive spoken to Lando and Checo to apologise, it was my bad today and sometimes you have to hold your hands up.

A second incident began to unfold a little further back. Lance Stroll had responded to the incident ahead by turning early towards the apex of the corner. He also misjudged the corner and turned over the kerbs and onto the grass. He then slid back onto the circuit and careered into the side of Charles Leclerc, who had taken a tight line into the corner. The Aston Martin Cognizant barged into the right sidepod of the Ferrari and pushed Leclerc towards the middle of the track.

Daniel Ricciardo had maintained a mid line through the opening corner and had appeared to avoid the multitude of cars that skated across the run off area. He momentarily sat in second place until the now Stroll powered Ferrari thudded into the side of his car. The impact spun Ricciardo one and a half times and left him facing the last of the oncoming traffic. He eventually resumed at the tail of the cars that were still able to move.

“These races are fun for the fans because theres always chaos, Ricciardo told McLaren Media. Wet starts are never boring and its very tricky for us. I was halfway around Turn One and I thought Id escaped the mess. I could see one car in front and thought ‘Im P2! This is amazing! and just as I exited the corner, I saw Charles come into me, but Id suspected someone went into him, because he caught me really late in the corner.

There were a few other drivers making mistakes into the first corner and it cost a lot of us a race. Valtteri obviously cost Lando his race and Lance cost me mine.

Hamilton held a handy lead from Ocon, Vettel, Sainz, Tsunoda, Latifi, Alonso, Russell, Verstappen and Raikkonen as the Safety Car was called into action with Bottas, Leclerc and Perez all stranded at various point around the circuit.

Hamilton reported to his team that the track was littered with debris from the two incidents as he exited Turn 1 at the start of the second lap. Race Control agreed with the assessment and the red flag was displayed almost immediately. Max Verstappen had managed to complete the lap and returned to the pits for emergency repairs then headed back out with pieces of bodywork still peeling away from the Red Bull Honda.

The remaining cars toured back into the pitlane and parked in unison down the pitlane exit road. Teams rushed across to inspect their cars for damage and organise repairs as the Marshalls began the task of combing and clearing the circuit of debris. The delay also saw the emergence of the sun once more which quickly began to dry the damp tarmac surface.

Norris joined the list of retirees when his McLaren was pushed back into the garage with significant damage to the aerodynamics and bodywork of his car.

“The boys did a great job trying to get the car fixed and get me back out during the red flag, but it was impossible as there was just too much damage. It’s a huge shame, but it wasnt our fault,Norris said to McLaren Media.

By the time the cars were despatched from the pitlane for a second start to the Hungarian Grand Prix, the circuit was much drier. Hamilton lead the intermediate shod field for the formation lap only to find those behind the leader all make for the pitlane entry and a switch to slick tyres.

It presented the bizarre image of a solitary Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 on the starting grid and the rest of the field lined up in single file at the pit exit and forced to wait until the Mercedes had cleared the line.

George Russell headed that queue and led Ocon, Vettel and teammate Latifi towards Turn 1 in pursuit of the leader. The Williams driver looked set to take over the lead as they caught Hamilton, only to suddenly drop back to 7th with what was thought to have been a flat tyre. It was later revealed that he had been told by the FIA to give back the positions gained during an illegal move in those pit stops a few moments before.

That frantic visit to the pitlane claimed another victim when Kimi Raikkonen was released by the Alfa Romeo mechanics into the path of Nikita Mazepin. The two cars touched which broke the right front suspension of the Haas and saw the car retired.

The race leader quickly found that the track conditions had changed. Yeah, Its dry, Hamilton radioed to his engineer as it became apparent that the move to slicks was the correct decision. He stopped and joined the rest of the field on medium tyres at the end of the lap, which dropped the #44 to the rear of the field.

Am I last? Hamilton queried to his engineer after the stop.

Yes the whole field pitted,” came his engineer’s reply, followed by a stony silence.

Ocon inherited the lead from Vettel and Latifi as drivers cautiously navigated the track and made sure that they remained on the racing line and well clear of painted surfaces that may conceal unwanted traces of moisture.

By lap 14 the order remained largely unchanged with Ocon in the lead, just over a second clear from Vettel and Latifi in the Williams. Tsunoda, Sainz, Alonso, Russell, Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Schumacher rounded out the top 10, with Verstappen battling to pass the Haas.

The Red Bull Honda looked to pass, but Schumacher was doggedly holding onto the position until Verstappen ran around the outside at Turn 2 then tucked back aggressively to complete the pass with a touch of wheel on the approach to the next corner.

Not bad with half a car, Verstappen’s engineer radioed to his driver in acknowledgement of the move.

Hamilton had struggled to gain places and sat in 11th place behind Gasly and Verstappen when called into the pits once again on lap 20. The hard compound tyres were fitted to the #44 with the intention of releasing Hamilton into clean air.

Ricciardo and Verstappen stopped a lap later and became easy prey for Hamilton, who passed Verstappen at the pit exit and then claimed 10th place from the Australian at the exit of Turn 1. The former teammates then became embroiled in a battle for 9th place with Schumacher and Russell. Ricciardo and Verstappen displaced the Haas in short order on lap 35.

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team had decided upon a two stop race strategy for Lewis Hamilton and had told their driver to push every lap on the harder tyre, with a move to another set of medium tyres later in the race.

Whats our target for the finish man, Hamilton asked his engineer on lap 35.

Were fighting for a podium Lewis. Its going to be hard. I know you can do it, came the reply.

Vettel made his stop on lap 37 for the hard tyre, hoping that the undercut would give him track position. An issue with the left rear tyre delayed him by around a second, which proved to be critical a short time later. Vettel returned to the track behind Alonso in 3rd. Ocon was asked for a maximum push in anticipation of a scheduled stop for the race leader.

Ocon made his stop on lap 38 and emerged just ahead of the storming German. The Alpine engineers told their driver that the out lap was critical to the outcome of the race as he barely managed to stay ahead. That one second delay for Vettel had made all the difference.

Verstappen stopped once more on lap 41 having remained behind Ricciardo throughout the middle portion of the race and resumed on the medium tyre. Hamilton did likewise on lap 48 with a new set of yellow-walled medium tyres soon fitted to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1.

With 20 laps left to run, Hamilton once again spoke to his engineer. How many cars are you going to make me overtake?” he asked.

Four cars to overtake for the win, came the reply. We can do this, Ocon 20 seconds up the road, hes doing 22.8. Youre P5 at the moment.

Lewis you can win this, team boss Toto Wolff then interjected.

Then came Fernando Alonso.

For the best part of 10 laps the Alpine driver kept the #44 at bay, banging wheels more than once as the 40 year old used all his years of experience to defend the position. It also helped to optimise  his teammate’s place at the head of the race.

By lap 65 Ocon held a 1 second lead over Vettel, with a further 7 seconds to Sainz in 3rd. Hamilton  still trailed the Ferrari by a further 1.3 seconds with Alonso, Gasly, Tsunoda, Latifi, Russell and Verstappen the top 10 runners. Ricciardo had held the final points scoring position but was eventually overtaken by the Red Bull Honda with the benefit of fresher, softer rubber.

Hamilton moved ahead of Sainz and into second on lap 67, but by then any chance of victory was long gone with Ocon over 10 seconds further up the road.

Ocon took the chequered flag for his first Grand Prix victory from Vettel and Hamilton. Sainz, Alonso, Gasly and Tsunoda were the top 7, while Latifi and Russell finished 8th and 9th for Williams. It was the first double points scoring finish for the team since Italy in 2018. Verstappen salvaged one point for 10th, while Kimi Raikkonen took 11th from Ricciardo in the final laps of the race.

Formula 1 Grand Prix winner! Its unbelievable and it definitely has not sunk in yet, Ocon exclaimed to Alpine F1 Team Media. What a moment, allez les bleus! 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]. I was happy to manage the pace as best as possible at the front and it all worked out well today. What a fight from Fernando too, his amazing teamwork at the end played a huge part in the win and it was great to share the moment with him.

The results saw Hamilton regain the championship lead from Verstappen, which was some consolation for the British driver on one of those days where strategy throws a curve ball at the finish.

Today was definitely tough, Hamilton admitted to Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Media. Its crazy to think we were the only ones on the grid at the start, but these things happen in an unpredictable race, and we will learn any lessons that need to be learnt. I gave it everything today and I had nothing left at the end. I came into this weekend not knowing how we would perform and considering the circumstances today, Ill take P3!

For the Williams duo, it was also something of a milestone. In addition to the double points score, it was the first point scoring finish for Nicjholas Latifi and the best points finish for George Russell.

It is an amazing result for the team, and I am so happy for us, Latifi said to Williams Media. The team has been knocking on the door of points for a few races now, so to get both cars in the points and to move up to P8 in the championship is amazing.

“Im so happy for everyone and Im a bit lost for words, Russell explained to Williams Media. It was an incredible race. My final stint was probably the best of my whole career as I was fighting like crazy, fending off Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Im just so pleased for everyone because its been a big slog over the last two-and-a-half years for me, and three-and-a-half years for the team, so these points are really deserved. Really well done to Nicholas too, he made an amazing start and drove a really great race. Finishing eighth and ninth, we couldnt really have done much more today.

Sebastian Vettel said that there was a sense of disappointment with the result, with a race win so tantalisingly close on the day.

Second place is a great result and we can be proud of our performance, but when you are that close to victory, you always want more, Vettel told Aston Martin Cognizant Media. At the start of the race, I could see the contact ahead of me, so I took the inside line and found myself with the leading cars. From then on, 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.

Vettel’s disappointment was exasperated hours later when the German was disqualified from the results after a post race technical infringement when the required one litre of fuel was unable to be extracted from the Aston Martin AMR21.

The Steward’s report read;

“After the race it was not possible to take a 1.0 litre sample of fuel from car 5.

The team was given several opportunities to attempt to remove the required amount of fuel from the tank, however it was only possible to pump 0.3 litres out. During the hearing in [the] presence of the FIA technical delegate and the FIA technical director the team principal of Aston Martin stated that there must be 1.44 litres left in the tank, but they are not able to get it out.

This figure is calculated using the FFM or injector model. Given this situation, car No. 5 is not in compliance with the requirements of Art. 6.6 FIA technical regulations.

According to Art. 6.6.2 competitors must ensure that a 1.0-litre sample of fuel may be taken from the car at any time. The procedure was followed however the 1.0-litre sample of fuel was unable to be taken.

The stewards determine to apply the standard penalty for technical infringements. Therefore they took into account, that it shall be no defence to claim that no performance advantage was obtained.

Aston Martin immediately lodged a Notice of Intention of Appeal, with the car impounded and the matter to be decided by the FIA International Court of Appeal.MORE TO COME…

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