BUDAPEST: Frenchman Esteban Ocon won a chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday while Lewis Hamilton finished third to take the Formula One championship lead from Max Verstappen.
Verstappen placed 10th after being taken out early in the race by Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in a first-lap crash that caused him and four others to retire.
Bottas, however, will have a five place grid penalty at the next race in Belgium after the Finn triggered chaos and collisions on the opening lap of Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
The race was halted after Bottas braked late and hit the back of Lando Norris’s McLaren, which then smashed into the side of Formula One leader Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and wrecked the race for both.
Stewards ruled Bottas caused an avoidable collision at turn one, in wet and slippery conditions, and also handed him two penalty points.
“The Stewards took into consideration the track conditions, however the driver of car 77 was fully to blame for the collision,” they said in a statement.
It was only the 24-year-old Ocon’s second podium, following a second-place finish at the Sakhir GP in Bahrain late last year.
Ocon finished ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr fourth ahead of Ocon’s team-mate Fernando Alonso.
The race restarted in absurd fashion with only Hamilton on the grid, while others were changing their tires because the track had dried. Hamilton had to do the same a lap later and came out in last place, a couple of spots behind Verstappen.
But a clever second tire change by Mercedes for hard tires on Lap 20 outwitted Red Bull and Hamilton moved ahead of Verstappen after he came in for new tires.
Now it was Verstappen’s turn to feel frustration as he was stuck in 11th while Hamilton was already up to fifth by Lap 35 of 70.
With 30 laps to go, the top four was Ocon-Vettel-Sainz Jr-Hamilton.
To give Hamilton a shot at victory, Mercedes made a third tire change with a little more than 20 laps remaining.
But he had to get ahead of the 40-year-old Alonso first, a driver with 32 wins, 97 podiums and among the most talented of his generation.
Alonso held off a first attack on Lap 55 and blocked him two more times on Lap 57 with stellar defending on the inside.
Alonso’s nous was enough to repel two more attacks as Hamilton was blocked again on the outside and they nearly collided.
When Hamilton finally got past him there were only five laps left and Sainz Jr just ahead. He overtook him but by then the front two were too far ahead.
Published in Dawn, August 2nd , 2021