The 2021 Hungarian GP was UNDOUBTEDLY the craziest race of the F1 2021 Season. And that’s a big statement because the 2021 season had been incredibly exciting and unique already before the Hungarian GP. We had some great races at the 2021 Azerbaijan GP, the 2021 Imola GP, and the 2021 Bahrain GP (just to name a few). The Imola GP was an especially crazy one with crashes and weather changes. But the 2021 Hungarian GP had a massive Lap 1 crash, CRAZY on-track battles throughout the race. AND ESTEBAN OCON LITERALLY WON THE RACE. I’m *still* in disbelief that the 24-year-old Frenchman actually pulled off the win.
It’s incredible how at the end of 2018, he was left without a seat in Formula 1. In 2020, he made a return to F1, and in 2021 his dreams have come true. Esteban Ocon is a Formula 1 race winner. He undoubtedly deserves the win, and I was incredibly glad to see that he didn’t crumble under the pressure of leading a race. When Lewis Hamilton pitted after the race restart (more on that later), Ocon’s engineer told him that he was leading the race. He kept his calm, kept going and held his lead. Sebastian Vettel, a 4-time world champion, piled on the pressure. Yet this young, 24-year-old French driver racing for a French team brought home the win.
But Ocon’s journey TO F1 was far more difficult than his journey through F1 leading up to this win. Esteban was born in a commune called Évreux in France. His family didn’t have much money, which made it incredibly difficult for him to pursue racing. Everyone said that it would be impossible for Ocon to reach Formula 1. His parents had to sell and sacrifice everything for his career.
For Ocon to be able to go to races, he and his family had to live in a caravan for a few years. Ocon was successful in his junior career, but he got incredibly close to having to quit racing when he couldn’t find a seat in GP3. But ART Grand Prix signed him, and Ocon was racing to his dreams. When Racing Point replaced Ocon with Lance Stroll, Esteban thought his career was over. He said he might’ve been “flipping burgers at McDonald’s” if Toto Wolff hadn’t intervened and helped Ocon secure a drive with Renault in 2020. And Ocon won his maiden race with that very same team (since Renault rebranded Alpine this year).
Ocon deserved to win the 2021 Hungarian GP, and he did a fantastic job. But you can’t help but give credit to Fernando Alonso, who is Ocon’s teammate. If Alonso hadn’t pulled off that brilliant defensive masterclass, Hamilton would’ve easily snatched the win from Ocon. I’ll go further into this later on in this post. Speaking of Hamilton, we witnessed the birth of the greatest F1 meme of all time. Yeah, I’m talking about the insane Red Flag restart with one car on the grid. JUST ONE CAR ON THE GRID. UNBELIEVABLE.
The last time we saw shenanigans like this was when the 2005 US Grand Prix started with just 6 cars on the grid. This is ANOTHER LEVEL. This is LITERALLY when the entire lobby disconnects on the F1 game. There’s just one lonely car sitting there on the grid. It’s simply mind-boggling and one of the most legendary moments in F1 history. At the Red Flag restart at the 2021 Hungarian GP, all the drivers were supposed to line up on the grid for a standing restart. However, all the drivers were racing on the Intermediate tire compound.
Those tires are for wet weather conditions, but not for heavy wet weather. But during the Red Flag period, the track had dried out. Everyone except for Lewis Hamilton pulled into the pits for a fresh set of tires instead of taking the standing start, which is why Hamilton restarted the race alone. Comment in the comments section a good caption for the image of the restart! The comments section is at the end of the post. The image of the restart is just below this paragraph.
The Opening Lap Mayhem
Coming to the Lap 1 madness, it’s clear which drivers were at fault for the unfortunate incidents at Turn 1. The conditions were very tricky with the cloudy skies and the wet track. Bottas got a terrible start off the 2nd grid slot, with Lando Norris and both Red Bulls passing him. To be fair to Valtteri, he did get quite boxed in coming into Turn 1. But he still braked too late, misjudged the braking point and rear-ended Norris. Bottas’s wheel broke, which meant he couldn’t turn and just T-boned Sergio Perez. Since Bottas rear-ended Norris, Norris had absolutely no control over his car. He ended up broadsiding Verstappen’s car, which meant that Bottas pretty much took out both Red Bull cars. I think he took the “team player” role a little TOO seriously. Or he was just bowling with F1 cars. Either way, he ruined Red Bull’s race.
Bottas wasn’t the only driver causing trouble at Turn 1, however. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll braked early into Turn 1, or so he thought. His car was all over the place and had no grip. The wet track was proving to be unforgiving. Stroll had no control over his car, with his front AND rear tires locking up. Because of that, he got on the grass just before the kerb for Turn 1, which sent him hurtling towards the apex of the corner. Unfortunately, Charles Leclerc was coming through the corner as Lance Stroll got on the grass and lost control.
That’s why he crashed into Leclerc’s sidepod. Next to Leclerc was Daniel Ricciardo, who was trying to go around the outside of Turn 1. For a second, he thought he made it through the madness. But Stroll almost Leclerc into a spin, which meant Leclerc had no control over his car and hit Ricciardo. Then Leclerc hit Ricciardo AGAIN which sent the McLaren car into a spin. It’s clear that Bottas and Stroll caused these major crashes. The teams surely have to spend large amounts of money after the crashes from this race. Perez, Bottas, Stroll, Norris and Leclerc all retire from the race because of the melee. Check out F1’s Top 10 Onboards video on YouTube to see some crazy onboards from Lap 1, including Alonso’s INSANE view of all of the madness!
Why Verstappen Was So Slow When Hamilton Was Flying
I feel really bad for Verstappen because he was absolutely helpless in this situation. That Lap 1 incident left him with a badly damaged car for the rest of the race. Hamilton clearly had no damage from the crash on the opening lap. It looked like Verstappen could score more points than Hamilton after Mercedes’ pitstop disaster. At the Red Flag restart, Mercedes decided not to pit Hamilton and let him take the start, which proved to be the worse strategy. Hamilton had to wait for the lights to go out and then do a lap with wet-weather tires driving on a dry circuit. That obviously lost him a lot of time.
When Hamilton did eventually pit, he came out of the pitlane in dead last. So it looked like Verstappen might just keep his championship lead. That’s when Hamilton began his charge through the field. After all of the craziness of Lap 1, and after an incident between Mazepin and Raikkonen in the pitlane ruled Mazepin out of the race, a total of 6 cars were out of the race. This meant the last place was 14th place. So Hamilton was only 3 positions behind Verstappen. Come to Lap 14, and Verstappen is seriously pressurising Mick Schumacher in the Haas. The Red Bull driver was trying to secure the final points position (10th place).
Schumacher was putting up a great fight, despite being in the slowest car on the grid. We saw the Mick Schumacher that won the F2 2020 World Championship. We saw some great skill and fighting spirit, signalling a bright future ahead for Schumacher. But this battle on the track also showed great skill from Verstappen, since he was driving a badly damaged car.
As you can see, Verstappen sustained major damage to the right sidepod and the right bargeboard package. In fact, most of the bargeboard package was completely missing, as you can see in the image above. Norris hit Verstappen’s car so hard that the entirety of that area broke off. Verstappen also sustained damage to the floor of his car. It’s a lot of damage and it’s the reason why Verstappen was a sitting duck in this race. The Dutchman got lucky because the impact from Norris could’ve caused terminal damage to Verstappen’s suspension or the wheels. That would’ve ruled him out of the race completely.
The floor damage and the loss of the bargeboard area lost Verstappen a big chunk of downforce. That meant his car had lesser grip and stability than it did before sustaining any damage. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner thinks that Mick Schumacher’s Haas car had more downforce than Verstappen’s. And that Haas car is nightmarishly slow and unstable. Another factor to include is that having lower downforce means the tires undergo a lot more stress. Verstappen’s tires would be wearing out faster, which further reduced his pace.
Hamilton’s car had absolutely no damage that affected his car’s performance. Mercedes also nailed his strategy by pitting him for a fresh set of mediums on Lap 47. Actually, he technically pitted for a 4th time, because he pitted once during the blue flags, once to change onto the dry tires, once for a set of hard tires, and then he pitted for the 4th time to change onto the mediums. Those fresh mediums worked a treat, and Hamilton was flying. He could’ve won the race, despite all of the setbacks and traffic. But one man stood in his way to deny him the win.
Fernando Alonso’s Heroic Defence
There was no way that Ocon would’ve won the 2021 Hungarian GP if it wasn’t for his teammate. Fernando Alonso put up a mighty fight to hold off Hamilton for an astonishing 11 laps. On Lap 54, Hamilton came within Alonso’s DRS range. With Hamilton being less than a second behind, it looked like he would easily overtake Alonso, right? WRONG. There’s a very important saying in racing. Catching up to a driver is one thing, overtaking them is another. And this scintillating battle proved just that.
Fernando Alonso was running in 4th place, while Lewis Hamilton was on his charge to the race win. Hamilton had been on his fresh tires for a mere 7 laps, and he was already in 5th place. With the kind of pace that Hamilton had when he caught up to Alonso, it looked like Hamilton would easily get past the Spaniard. But Alonso nailed his defensive manoeuvres every time Hamilton launched an attack on him. The Hungaroring circuit is notoriously hard to overtake on, meaning overtaking spots are limited. Turn 1 and Turn 2 are the main overtaking spots, but if a driver is feeling punchy, and if they have a slipstream from the car ahead, they can try and overtake through Turn 4. And that’s exactly where Hamilton was attacking Alonso.
Alonso was very smart in his defending. One of the main characteristics of each of these corners is that they’re fairly narrow and that the driver on the inside line generally has the advantage. Alonso knew that which is why he took the inside line and secured that racing line every time Hamilton attacked him. On top of that, on the exits of Turns 2 and 4 in particular, Alonso respectfully squeezed Hamilton out and retained his position. He didn’t squeeze Hamilton too much – he left the amount of space he needs to leave according to the rules. But at the same time, he squeezed Hamilton enough so that Hamilton couldn’t get past him.
Alonso’s defending was top-class. He defended aggressively while keeping it legal. His defence was very well-calculated, and you could tell that he has over 18 years of experience in Formula 1. What you couldn’t tell was the fact that he’s 40 years old. Alonso turned 40 on the Thursday before the race weekend. However, he said he feels 25 years old, and there’s no doubt about that. His performance and defence at the 2021 Hungarian GP show that he’s still got it in him.
WILLIAMS SCORED DOUBLE POINTS
THE F1 WORLD HAS LITERALLY BEEN WAITING FOR THIS FOR 3 YEARS!!! Since the 2019 German Grand Prix, Williams Racing have gotten INCREDIBLY close to scoring world championship points. And here at the 2021 Hungarian GP, they’ve finally done it. What’s even better is that BOTH of their drivers scored points, bringing them a crucial 10-point haul. It was an incredibly emotional achievement for the team and many F1 fans. The struggle to get to scoring points like this was HUGE. We could see how difficult it was in front of us, which means that it was probably even harder behind the scenes.
Williams is a team with such a rich history, and their recent struggles have been painful to watch. But ever since last year, they’ve been on the rise. And this year, we finally have more than just a small glimmer of hope. Williams has 10 points to show that they’ve achieved their first goal. They’ve gotten incredibly close to scoring points in the last 2 years, especially with George Russell. There have been some excruciating moments, like when he was running in the points, but then had to retire from the race because of Power Unit issues at the 2021 Styrian GP. You could see how important this points finish was when he teared up during his post-race interview.
What’s even more mind-blowing about this is the fact that Nicholas Latifi *somehow* managed to finish ahead of Russell. It was mainly because the order was all jumbled up after the red flag restart. Russell fell down the order because he had to return positions at the restart since he only came out of the pits ahead of everyone else because he gained an advantage by being at the end of the pitlane.
Instead of queueing behind the other drivers in the pitlane, he drove into the space right next to the actual driving lane, which allowed him to come out of the pitlane and was now effectively the leader of the race. Since he didn’t go in the queue, he had to return a couple of positions to other drivers. Along with that, the Williams car just didn’t have enough pace to stay in a high position. Latifi came out of the pitstops in around P3 and was then ahead of Russell. But he too fell down the order. P8 and P9, which then turned to P7 and P8, is a fantastic finish for Williams. They’ll surely be celebrating this for a while. But how did their race result turn into P7 and P8? Unfortunately, it’s because one of the drivers ahead was disqualified.
Vettel’s Painful Disqualification😭
Disqualifications are always painful, but this one REALLY stung. Vettel claimed his 2nd podium of this year and his 2nd podium with Aston Martin. He finished in 2nd place after not being able to secure the win due to the circuit being difficult to overtake on, and because of the notorious dirty air from Ocon’s car. But that’s still a fantastic result and a great haul of points. It got a lot of people, including me, feeling nostalgic. For the first time since 2019, Vettel was fighting for a race win, albeit with Esteban Ocon, who had never fought for a win before the 2021 Hungarian GP.
But the terrible news came a couple of hours after the race, when the FIA revealed that it was likely that the stewards would disqualify Vettel. The issue was with the amount of fuel left in Vettel’s car after the race. The rules say that every car that finishes the race must have at least a litre of fuel left in the fuel tank, so that the FIA technical team can take a 1-litre sample and send the sample to a lab for the FIA to run some tests on the fuel sample. The FIA said that Vettel’s Aston Martin could only provide a 0.3-litre sample.
The stewards soon confirmed that they disqualified Sebastian Vettel, which promoted Hamilton to 2nd and Sainz to the podium. It was really sad news, and it was completely undeserved. Fortunately, there’s still some light at the end of the tunnel. Aston Martin have started their appeal procedure to appeal Vettel’s disqualification. The team states that their data indicated that there was 1.74 litres of fuel remaining in the car, which is why the team can appeal the decision.They initially appealed the decision immediately after the disqualification, and then took it further after this evidence was discovered.
“After Sebastian Vettel’s drive to second place on the road in the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday August 1st, he was disqualified from the results when a 1.0-litre sample of fuel was not able to be taken from his car after the race (a requirement as set out in the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations),” the team said in their statement.
“There was and is no suggestion that Vettel’s Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team AMR21 car benefited from a performance advantage from the alleged regulatory breach, or that it was deliberate.
“Since the team’s data indicated that there was more than 1.0 litre of fuel in the car after the race – 1.74 litres according to the data – the team immediately reserved its right to appeal, and has requested a right of review alongside the appeal procedure, as a result of having discovered significant new evidence relevant to the sanction which was unavailable to it at the time of the FIA stewards’ decision.”
Hopefully, confirmation of the final decision comes soon. The next race in this season is at the Belgian GP, which takes place on 27-29 August after the summer break. Last year, the mandatory break, which includes a mandatory factory shutdown for the teams, was preponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the break takes place as usual. During this break I’ll be publishing a couple of F1ntastic features, so keep your eyes peeled for those! Stay safe, and enjoy F1ntastic!