F1 – Hungarian GP – Race

Szia, MiniFans! It’s time for the second round after the Silverstone incident, but this time with a welcome guest. Rain made an appearance a bit before the race, forcing Red Bull to forego its strategy of soft tyres as, even with the track not fully wet, the risk would not be worth it against Mercedes’ also intermediate tyres.

The start was a talking point during the weekend and, right before they all stopped on the grid, Alfa Romeo made a gamble with GIovinazzi. It was very eventful, but not between Hamilton and Verstappen, but due to Bottas’ mistake. The Mercedes driver hit Norris’ rear, who was barely more than a passenger as his car launched and hit Verstappen. Right behind them, Bottas took out Pérez. Another accident took place, with Stoll not stopping properly and becoming a bowling ball, taking Leclerc and Ricciardo out. Despite all the mess, only four cars retired (Pérez, Stroll, Leclerc, Bottas), but the others had massive damage, all while the timing tower had a very strange set up. A safety car came out at first, but a red flag was soon shown to clean up the track of the debris.

Stopping the race meant that teams could work on their cars and drivers out of position could think about how they’d go through with them. Ocon in second or Latifi in seventh were just some of the cars that weren’t where they’d expect to be in the second lap of the race, with Hamilton being the only one of the top dogs that had remained in position, as Verstappen, with a car that needed fixing but was still driveable, was back in thirteenth. His car was mended as well as the mechanics could manage it, but it was clear it would not be able to give to give as much as it usually does. Tyre choice was where it could get interesting, as the track was drying up. The warm up lap showed them how dry it actually was, so a train of cars trickled into the pit lane for slicks. The only one who took a risk was Hamilton, who was the only one staying on track and took the start alone. He pitted on the next lap, making him last.

The new race was led by Ocon, followed by Vettel and Latifi. The Frenchman was away from Vettel, while Verstappen was up to eleventh and Hamilton was taking risks to overtake even Giovinazzi. Latifi, in third, was the start of the slow train and his teammate, Russell, offered to compromise his race if necessary to try and help the team. Everyone was having massive problems to follow other cars and overtake them. When Verstappen finally went past Schumacher, small touch included, he was in the points, gaining a further position when Giovinazzi served his stop and go penalty for a precious incident in the pit lane.

When more stops started coming around, Hamilton was the first to put for hards, Verstappen following him on the next lap alongside Ricciardo but both still lost the position to the Mercedes. Ocon and Vettel, still first and second and pulling even further away from Latifi, got closer than ever. Sainz, in fourth after Tsunoda’s stop, convinced his team not to stop and got clean air, pulling very good laps and slowly closing the gap to Vettel to make his bet for the podium. Once he couldn’t make it work as well for himself, he also pitted for a set of hard tyres. He would eventually need to stop in order not to lose the position with Hamilton, as did Vettel and Ocon a handful of laps later, leaving Alonso leading the race for a couple laps before he was called to the pits while the pair fought for victory. With thirty laps to go, all stops were seemingly made, and cards were clearly on the table by all players.

Verstappen and his broken car were out of the points in eleventh before the team decided to give him mediums to try and score some points, as the stop only cost him a place with Raikkonen. Hamilton tried something similar, as Alonso was only getting closer and pulling fastest laps, setting an infernal pace. At the front, Vettel took out all his guns and ammunition, using all his skills, which include navigating around lapped cars, something Ocon hasn’t been too familiar with, while Alonso was all up the rear of Sainz’s car. For the first time in a long time, nobody was too sure who would not only win, but also make up the podium. Anyone in the top five was a feasible candidate.

Once Hamilton reached Alonso, who was not only fighting for a possible podium place but also protecting Ocon’s chance at a maiden victory (and, one could argue, his friend Sainz’s podium as well), the Spaniard seemed to occupy the whole track as Hamilton tried again and again to overtake him, but his first ever teammate in F1 has never been an easy driver to pass. A good handful of laps and uncountable attempts by the reigning champion, Hamilton finally managed to squeeze through and move onto another tough opponent, Sainz and his Ferrari, although he had an easier time than with the other Spaniard. With not enough time left for him to get to the front, attention drifted towards Ocon and Vettel as well as Sainz and Alonso. However, no more positions were exchanged and Esteban Ocon became the first winner for Alpine, as well as scored his own maiden victory in Formula 1. Vettel celebrated his second podium of the season, both banking on great starts and some luck. Yet another celebration broke in the lower positions, as Williams finally scored their first points, both cars making it into the top 10.

For the second race in a row, Verstappen leaves the track losing a massive amount of points via no fault of his own. Those who see paranoia in every detail would point out that both incidents that ended up in the Red Bull either fully out of the race or with the car so damaged that even scoring one or two points would be considered nothing short of a miracle were caused by a Mercedes driver, being less or more at fault, shortly after Toto Wolff said they’d need Verstappen to score no points while they won. Hamilton’s luck came up again after a massive mistake after the red flag, but eyes need to turn to Ocon, aided by Alonso’s blocking of Hamilton to achieve this first win, and Vettel, both navigating masterfully around the first corner mess.