Ocon wins dramatic Hungarian Grand Prix from Hamilton after Vettel DQ

Esteban Ocon netted his first Formula One victory, winning the Hungarian Grand Prix from Sebastian Vettel and pole sitter Lewis Hamilton after a dramatic start to the race saw Max Verstappen punted off the track at the first corner in wet conditions.

It meant that Hamilton led the race, but as the circuit dried, a tactical error from Mercedes saw the champion staying out on intermediates as the rest of the field pitted for slick tyres. Not for the first time, it was a simple mistake that would cost the Englishman victory.

Fighting back through the field, he closed to within a second of Ocon and Vettel but time lost trying to pass former teammate Fernando Alonso meant the Alpine driver was left celebrating a deserved first victory. Hamilton’s third place was later amended to second after post race scrutineering found Vettel’s Aston Martin too light on fuel.

“What a moment. It feels so good, you know,” said first time winner Ocon. “We had some difficult moments this season that we overcame together with the team and we came back to a fantastic place in Silverstone and what can I say, it’s fantastic so congrats to Fernando as well because I think the win is also due to him with the fights that he did so it’s teamwork and fantastic today.

“A big thankyou for the trust that everyone is putting in me. In difficult moments when we are out of Q1 and P17 you don’t know where you are and the team kept a big trust and we are back where we belong.”

After a torrential downpour of rain an hour before start time, the track dried enough for the field to start on intermediate tyres.

And it was carnage at the start, Bottas braking too late and punting the fast-starting Lando Norris into Verstappen, Hamilton’s title rival dropping down to ninth as Charles Leclerc, Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez also suffered in the ensuing concertina effect.

The resultant mayhem brought about a red flag and the saving grace for Verstappen was that it allowed the Red Bull mechanics to affect a repair on the Dutchman’s car. He restarted an unlucky 13th but the big beneficiary was Ocon, the Alpine driver jumping six places to second place ahead of Nicholas Latifi and Sebastian Vettel.

Ocon was the first to roll the dice, swapping his intermediates for medium tyres followed by the rest of the field, only Hamilton restarting the race on the same tyres. It appeared to be a huge mistake for the usually tactically aware Mercedes team, Hamilton having to pit a lap later and re-joining dead last.

With the Hungaroring being the tightest and twistiest of all circuits behind Monaco, track position is of vital importance with overtaking opportunities few and far between. It led to Mercedes taking a strategic gamble on lap 20, pitting their man in clear air for hard tyres.

The undercut seemed to work, Hamilton gaining places on tyres that seemed to work better than the mediums, gaining rapid places and into the points within a couple of laps. It triggered a flurry of stops as the remainder of the field swapped old rubber for new sets to take them to the end.

When the dust settled it was Ocon who found himself in the net lead just ahead of Vettel, Hamilton having taken Yuki Tsunoda around the outside with a bold move at Turn 4 just under half distance.

Alonso led with 30 laps remaining at the same circuit where he last led a grand prix some seven years previously. But that would be short lived, another stop required to take him to the end. And with Hamilton pitting for a set of medium tyres 22 laps from the end, it was ‘Hammer Time’ once again and an intriguing race to the flag.

After several laps of hounding his former McLaren teammate, Hamilton finally got the move done with five laps remaining before setting about Carlos Sainz. It led to a grandstand finish, Hamilton taking the Spaniard and a podium position.

But it was Alpine team who trumped the field with their strategy after the opening mayhem, Ocon coming home to win the race from Vettel and Hamilton, meaning the defending champion leads by eight points going into the long summer break after Vettel’s disqualification and Sainz’s promotion to 3rd.

“First of all I have to say a huge congratulations to the Alpine team and to Ocon,” said a magnanimous Hamilton. “He’s been a shining star for some time now so it’s been a long time coming I’m really, really happy for him. Great to see Aston Martin up there, their best result so far and I know there’s more to come.

“Otherwise its been an amazing crowd this weekend, thankyou for being here, We always make it difficult for ourselves and crazy to think we were the only ones on the grid at the start but these things happen and we learn from them. I gave it everything and I had nothing left at the end.”

And it was also some cause for celebration for the Williams Racing team, partnered by Acronis, who finally secured some well overdue points thanks to Nicholas Latifi and George Russell finishing in 8th and 9th positions respectively.


Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.