Esteban Ocon took a shock maiden Formula 1 win in a chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix, as Lewis Hamilton recovered from last to finish third and retake the championship lead from Max Verstappen, who was caught up in a lap 1 melee that eliminated several drivers.
A rain shower before the start saw all the drivers begin the race on intermediate tyres, and the lack of grip was clear as a multi-car incident at the first corner saw Valtteri Bottas, Charles Leclerc, Lance Stroll, Lando Norris and Sergio Perez all out of the race.
With debris strewn across the circuit, the race was suspended to allow the track to be cleared, and mechanics up and down the pitlane frantically tried to mend their drivers’ hobbled cars, with Verstappen notably suffering significant damage that affected the rest of his race, reports Xinhua.
The hot Budapest sun dried the track very quickly, and every driver barring Hamilton elected to pit for slick tyres at the end of the second formation lap, leading to the bizarre sight of the Mercedes being the only car on the grid for the restart.
This proved an error of judgment, as Hamilton was unable to make up the time necessary to make his own pit stop without all the others overtaking him, putting him 15th and last and setting the tone for an epic recovery drive.
Hamilton’s gaffe meant that Ocon assumed the lead, with the Frenchman avoiding the chaos on lap 1 to vault up the order, closely followed by the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel.
Though Vettel put Ocon under race-long pressure, the tight confines of the Hungaroring circuit made overtaking difficult, and the Frenchman held his nerve to score his first ever Grand Prix win, and Alpine’s first since 2013 in its previous guise of Lotus.
“What a moment, it felt so good,” said Ocon. “We had some difficult moments this season but we overcame them together with the team. We came back to a fantastic place and victory today! What can I say, it’s fantastic.”
Behind Ocon and Vettel came Hamilton, who had scythed his way through the field and might have been in contention for the win had he not come up against the robust defence of Ocon’s teammate Fernando Alonso, who held the Briton up for 10 laps.
Gasly’s teammate Yuki Tsunoda finished seventh on a good day for AlphaTauri, while there were celebrations at Williams as Nicholas Latifi and George Russell scored the team’s first championship points for two years with eighth and ninth places.
Struggling all race long with a damaged car, Verstappen could only finish 10th, and loses his lead in the championship to Hamilton, who has 192 points to the Dutchman’s 186. Despite not scoring on Sunday, Norris stays third with 112.
Formula 1 now goes on a four-week summer break before the action resumes with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on August 29.