The Hungarian Grand Prix had some negative elements to it: it’s never nice to see cars wiped out at Turn 1. And we lost out on some interesting threads to follow as a result, like the latest instalment of Lewis Hamilton versus Max Verstappen, or what McLaren’s Lando Norris could have done.
But we still had an immensely enjoyable race that threw up some really likeable stories.
ESTEBAN OCON’S WIN
On his day, when everything is singing, he’s happy, he likes his car, he’s got the team around him and he just feels there’s just something to prove – Esteban Ocon can be stunning.
At his peak, Ocon can be part of the elite group of next generation drivers because there’s a reason why Mercedes rated him so highly for so long. The problem is that those days don’t come around that often. That’s not to say Ocon’s base level as a grand prix driver is average – he’s very good. He’s just not quite in the absolute top tier often enough.
In Hungary he was at his best. And it was a brilliant result. He’s such a nice guy and comes from humble beginnings. There’s just a lot to like about him and his story. To see a guy who a couple of years ago wasn’t even on the grid win a grand prix is amazing. I’m really happy for him.
I don’t care what Lewis Hamilton was saying at the time, Fernando Alonso’s defence was never dangerous. Robust? Sure. And he got really close to crossing the line on the run Turn 4 on one lap. That was one that really angered Hamilton, but he still wasn’t dangerous.
I think that was just an automatic driver complaining from Hamilton because it was a defensive masterclass from Alonso. The old dog’s got some tricks left in him and it shows that Hamilton can still learn a thing or two in certain areas.
It was Alonso at his absolute best. He didn’t need anything from the team, he’s intelligent and aware enough of the significance to know he was about to make or break Ocon’s bid to win when Hamilton caught him.
OK, he made a mistake to finally let Hamilton pass but to hold Hamilton off for as long as Alonso did with the pace deficit was absolutely incredible. It was one of the best drives of the season. I’m really won over by Alonso in this comeback. He looks fantastic.
VETTEL AT HIS BEST
We’re still waiting to see what happens with Aston Martin’s appeal of Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification but it changes nothing about what I enjoyed from Seb at the weekend.
I was back in the paddock for this race and I was watching from above before the start when they came out to do the pre-race ceremony and Vettel was wearing a shirt with the colours of the Pride flag in the shirt. It put a smile on my face – I like it when Vettel quietly goes about making a point.
Like Ocon, Vettel ended up inheriting a really strong position. We shouldn’t hold that against him – of course it requires a big slice of luck to put a midfield car on the podium. But Vettel’s had that fortune twice in 11 races now and twice he’s driven faultlessly after inheriting track position.
Vettel had a slightly faster car than Ocon but we know what the Hungaroring is like. We saw Hamilton struggling to overtake cars that were considerably slower than him. So Vettel shouldn’t be marked down because he didn’t overtake Ocon to win.
It’s a shame to lose a hard-earned podium. That’s just a matter of process. It’s not that Vettel didn’t have enough fuel in the car, it’s that they couldn’t get the fuel out of the car using the correct process required to check the sample. It seems a slam dunk penalty to me but it’s still a shame.
WILLIAMS IN THE POINTS
I saw on Twitter that Williams put a big sign up outside the factory to celebrate its double points finish.
My first opinion was that it was a little bit much for a few points but on reflection, I get it.
This means so much to them, something they’ve worked really hard for. The result has come about from fortunate circumstances but no one can say they haven’t deserved points on merits this season with the performance they’ve had at times.
Sometimes you just need things to go your way and it was a really faultless drive from both Nicholas Latifi and George Russell. Like the other big winners in this chaotic race, there was nothing unfortunate about the job they did in executing the opportunity in front of them.
It’s been a real slog for Williams over the last few years, but they’ve never given up. It’s a lesson in perseverance and full credit to them. I doubt that this is the first of many points finish but it is going to probably guarantee them eighth in the championship so they’re going to be well rewarded for it financially.
THE ONE-CAR RESTART
The incredible sight of a one-car start will stay with me forever.
The last time we had a minority number of cars taking the start was obviously Indianapolis in 2005. We had five more cars that time but obviously in much more controversial circumstances…
This was far more enjoyable to see. You’re never gonna see it again. So I enjoyed it – what a curiosity!
It would have been even funnier if we’d had no cars as they would have had to do the full start procedure, with the five red lights, even with no-one on the grid!
HONOURABLE MENTION: VERSTAPPEN/HAMILTON RECOVERIES
As for the title protagonists…I can’t have more sympathy for Max Verstappen than I do after this event. He was utterly luckless. How his car didn’t suffer terminal damage in that first corner crash caused by Bottas I have no idea.
How he had enough performance to fight back into the points equally mystifies me. That’s the hardest point (or two, if Vettel’s disqualification is upheld) Verstappen will earn all season.
Hamilton also did well. He and Mercedes made the wrong decision thinking they could start on intermediates but I understand how that kind of thing can happen.
Mercedes’ position in the pitlane meant Hamilton would always lose several places if he stopped as he’d have to wait for the full train of cars to come past him before being released. And being first on the road is always the hardest position to commit to pitting as you have the best track position to forfeit.
Hamilton did a good job to get back to third on the road from there.