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What we learned from the F1 Hungarian Grand Prix

A chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix resulted in a shock winner, some strong racing by the old guard and another momentum shift in the title battle. What did we learn from the Hungarian Grand Prix?

The Hungarian Grand Prix brought us so much action that it's hard to know where to begin. Esteban Ocon took a surprise first win in Formula 1, several drivers suffered thanks to chaos at Turn 1 and the title battle faced another dramatic twist. Here is what we learned from the Hungarian Grand Prix...

Ocon is a worthy winner

Admittedly Esteban Ocon had a helping of luck in securing his first F1 victory at the Hungaroring. Incidents at Turn 1 on the opening lap of the race caused several of the leading cars to either retire or fall back down the field, meaning that those in the middle and back of the grid - such as Ocon, who started from P8 - were able to sail through towards the front. Ocon was running in second ahead of the race restart, and jumped to the lead when Lewis Hamilton slipped down the order after making a pit stop. However, this cannot take away from the strong drive the Frenchman put in to stay at the front. Ocon faced pressure from the more experienced Sebastian Vettel behind in the Aston Martin, but kept a cool head and did not make any mistakes. It has been an up and down journey for Ocon so far in Formula 1; he even spent a year on the sidelines in 2019 after losing his seat at the former Racing Point outfit before making a comeback with Alpine in 2020. Given that he had a dip in form at the recent triple-header, this assured win will doubtless be a significant confidence boost for Ocon going forwards.

The old guard are as strong as ever

It was not so long ago that Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso - two of Formula 1's most experienced drivers - were facing questions over their abilities. Both drivers had a tough start to 2021 as they adjusted to their new teams, with Vettel having switched to Aston Martin from Ferrari whilst Alonso had returned to F1 with Alpine following a two-year hiatus. The fortunes of both soon changed though, with each driver eventually getting the upper hand on their younger teammates, and the Hungarian Grand Prix was a reminder of their talents. Vettel held on to his second place throughout the Grand Prix and fought hard to pressure Ocon into making a mistake in front. Whilst this was to no avail, it was a solid performance by the German. Meanwhile Alonso was one of the drivers of the day. The Spaniard showed he has lost none of his fight as he battled with Lewis Hamilton in the latter stages of the race and impressively kept the faster Mercedes behind him for several laps. Alonso eventually finished in fifth, continuing his recent strong run of results. UPDATE: Sebastian Vettel has since been disqualified from the Hungarian GP after the FIA were unable to take a one litre sample of fuel out of his Aston Martin for fuel checks, as required under the regulations.

Mercedes are leading again - but still make mistakes

It was a good day for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in terms of the championship battle; with Max Verstappen taking home Red Bull's only point, a third place for Hamilton means that he takes the lead in the Drivers' Standings, whilst Mercedes have gone back to the top of the Constructors' Championship. This will be a welcome result for the Silver Arrows as F1 heads into its summer break. However, it wasn't all smooth sailing. The team have occasionally made small errors at various points this season and seemed to do this again in Hungary by failing to pit Hamilton for dry tyres at the race restart, meaning he started from the grid by himself on intermediate tyres whilst every other car came in for drys. This resulted in the seven-times World Champion having to make a pit stop from the lead, which put him at the back of the field. Thanks to this, Hamilton faced the task of working his way back up - not an easy job at the notoriously difficult-to-overtake Hungaroring. Meanwhile Valtteri Bottas made an error of his own by causing the drama at Turn 1. The Finn misjudged his braking point in the damp conditions and drove into the back of Lando Norris in the McLaren, who then hit the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. Both Norris and Perez were forced to retire, whilst Verstappen continued but struggled due to the damage on his car. Such a big mistake is not ideal for Bottas given that his future with Mercedes is at stake.

Red Bull need a strong comeback

After scoring no points in the controversial British Grand Prix, Red Bull could have done with a solid points finish in Hungary. Unfortunately for them, things couldn't have really gone much worse, with Perez eliminated on the first lap whilst Verstappen was hampered by his damaged car. Verstappen managed to finish the race in 10th, taking home one single point. Given that Hamilton and Mercedes now have the momentum in the championship battle going into the summer break, this is not the result that Verstappen or Red Bull would have wanted. Verstappen has vowed to come back strong when the season resumes in Belgium later in August, and this will arguably now be a matter of urgency if the Milton Keynes-based squad are to regain the lead in the title fight.

Underdogs can have their day

As well as a shock winner, the Hungarian Grand Prix also delivered a definite feel-good result in the form of a double points finish for Williams. Nicholas Latifi was running in the top three during the early stages of the race, and eventually finished in P8 to score his debut points in Formula 1. Meanwhile teammate George Russell was just behind in ninth, bringing him his first points for Williams in his third season with the British outfit. Russell was understandably emotional after the race and spoke of how the result had come after three years of hard work. Of course the team were given a helping hand from the elimination of several cars ahead of them on the opening lap. But, as Russell pointed out, there has been more than one occasion where the bad luck fell on Williams and left them just missing out on scoring points; this happened as recently as the Austrian Grand Prix, where Fernando Alonso overtook Russell for the final points-paying position of 10th in the final laps. Sometimes it makes for a refreshing change to see the underdog get their day, and it was certainly Williams' day at the Hungaroring.

The Hungaroring can be exciting

In the past, the Hungarian Grand Prix has sometimes had a reputation for not necessarily being one of the most exciting races on the calendar. This even seemed to be the expectation amongst some of the drivers on Saturday; Charles Leclerc, for example, said that he feared there would not be much overtaking given how difficult this can be at the Hungaroring. Unfortunately this proved to be true for Leclerc as he was eliminated on the first lap due to an incident with Lance Stroll. But for those still in the race, there was no shortage of action, both in terms of overtaking and pretty much everything else that could be thrown at a Grand Prix. There was changeable weather, a very unusual restart with one car on the grid, unexpected drivers at the front, and several entertaining battles, particularly that between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Maybe some of its critics will think twice before writing off the Hungaroring in the future.

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