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F1 Hungary: Chaos at the start sees Ocon the race winner, Hamilton second, Verstappen ninth

Budapest, Hungary, Aug 1/21 (GRW): The story of this race was told in the first few hundred metres from the start. Valtteri Bottas, who had started on the front row alongside Hamilton was slow off the mark and he fell back behind Lando Norris and Max Verstappen. But then, on the rain soaked surface, he braked far too late into the first corner and slammed into Norris who, in turn, side-swiped Verstappen. This eliminated both Bottas and Norris and left Verstappen with a damaged car which, even though it was repaired as well as possible, was crippled for the rest of the race.

The race went red and everyone had a chance to try to fix their damaged cars. Now, with Hamilton in the lead for the standing start restart – and his strongest rivals out of the race or crippled -- he looked to be set to be the easy winner of the race – but that wasn’t to be.

After the twenty-some minute red-flag period, the cars came out for a new formation lap in preparation for the restart. But just then, it became clear that the track was almost completely dry now and it was time to change over to dry tires. The pit crews are unable talk to the drivers during the formation lap and Hamilton simply drove around and took up his pole position on his intermediate tires – clearly the wrong choice – as became obvious when every other car came down pit lane to change over to slicks.

Hamilton alone on the grid, the lights went out and he shot out far ahead while everyone else took the restart from pit lane. Of course, Hamilton had to pit now to change his tires and he emerged behind everyone else. Verstappen, whose car had sustained serious damage including the loss of half his barge board, had pitted immediately after the big melee and this had droped him halfway down the field. Now, with the race underway for real, he was down in twelfth place – with a wounded car trying to catch back up – no real hope of a good result.

Had Hamilton not failed to pit when all the others did just before the second restart, he would have won the race for sure. As it was he fought his way back towards the front on a circuit which, despite two DRS zone, was almost impossible to pass on. He did well to finish third. Verstappen, as expected, never had any pace and he struggled to work his way back up to tenth and a single point at the finish. Hamilton was awarded 15 points for third, moving him back into the lead in the drivers’ championship by six points.

Oh. I’m down to the sixth paragraph and I haven’t mentioned the race winner. When Hamilton pitted after the restart and fell to the rear, Esteban Ocon (Alpine) inherited the lead ahead of Sebastian Vettel (Aston-Martin) and, even though Vettel might have had an slight edge in speed over Ocon, he chased him for all the remaining laps unable to make the pass and he had to settle for second behind Ocon.

Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) finished fourth after Hamilton got past him with four laps to go. Earlier, Hamilton had been stuck in fifth behind Fernando Alonso (Alpine) for 24 laps. That delay may well have cost Hamilton his chance to win this race. Bottas, the cause of the first corner ‘big one’ was penalized five grid positions as of the next race.

Out of this mess of a race, one driver, Ocon, had reason to be happy. ““What a moment. It feels so good. It’s the first victory since the Renault group came back into Formula 1. We had some difficult moments this season that we overcame together with the team, we’ve come back to a fantastic pace in Silverstone and victory today. What can I say? It’s fantastic, so congrats to Fernando (Alonso) as well because I think the win is also thanks to him with the fight that he did, his teamwork, all that. I think it’s been a fantastic day.”

If you want more details on how this race ran its course, study the lap chart and the results page at the bottom of this story.

I know that many people contend that race fans just go to the races to see crashes. I don’t think that applies to any real race fans. For my part, I have the idea that some races are satisfying and some are not – and the ones that are satisfying are the ones where superior car preparation, race strategy and driver skill determine the outcome. And the unsatisfying ones are those where the outcome is due to factors other than these – most often crashes or simply bad or good luck. A recent example of a really terrible race and one that should be an embarrassment to NASCAR was the mess of a truck race at Knoxville’s dirt track. And, of course, unsatisfactory is my grade for every crash-fest race at Talladega and most of them at Daytona.

Today, the start of the race was a mess and an embarrassment. After that, aside from the fact that none of the most deserving drivers – Verstappen, Bottas, Norris, Perez – got the finish they deserved. (Hamilton’s third-place finish is different in that the damage here was self-inflicted) those who were left to race all-out gave us a great display of F1-style racing. For me, that race-long battle between Ocon and Vettel was worth the price of admission and went a long way towards making up for the disappointing events at the start of the race.

Postscript: After the race the Technical Delegate reported that they had not been able to obtain a one-litre sample of fuel from Vettel’s car after the race in accordance with the regulation. They were only able to get a 300mL sample. Given that the regulation had not been complied with, Vettel was disqualified and, when the final version of the race results are published, he will be counted as a non-starter. Talk about an unsatisfying way to see a performance like Vettel’s race-long pursuit of Ocon end up in the garbage can like this!

This disqualification will give Hamilton three more points and Verstappen one more point for a net gain of two points.

NOTE: The current ‘final’ results continue to show Vettel as the second-place finisher pending the outcome of the appeal filed by Aston-Martin against the disqualification.

With F1 now taking its summer break, and with the two contenders for the championship title so close together, we can look forward hopefully to a second half of the 2021 season in which the two contenders fight it out for the title. Let’s hope that the contenders settle it on the track using their race skills and not in a gravel pit or in the barriers somewhere.

F1 will now take its summer break and the next F1 race will not be until the end of the month, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on August 29th.

• Click HERE for the Lap Chart

• Click HERE for the REVISED Results + Points

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