Written by Vyas Ponnuri, edited by Apostolos Papgeorgiou
With the 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix not too far away, what better time would it be to look back at last year’s crazy and manic Grand Prix, which saw action even before the lights went out, as well as after the chequered flag, and gave us a surprise winner too. Qualifying saw Lewis Hamilton take his 101st pole position in Formula 1, with his teammate Valtteri Bottas taking second place. The Red Bulls locked out the second row, Max Verstappen starting ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez.
Light rain just before the start of the race led to all cars having to start on the intermediate tyres. As the lights went out, Bottas got a poor start and was passed by Lando Norris in the McLaren. What followed was pure carnage: Bottas braked too late, went into Norris, who then went into Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and damaged the right hand side of his car’s sidepod. Bottas then went into Sergio Perez, damaging the Red Bull’s engine. Bottas, Perez and Norris were out on the spot. Further back, Lance Stroll braked too late, and went into Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari, who then spun Daniel Ricciardo around. Leclerc and Stroll were out of the race, but Ricciardo was able to continue, albeit with damage to his McLaren. The race was then red flagged to allow marshals to clear the track.
As the race resumed, it was noticeable that the track had dried enough to allow the drivers to change to slick tyres. All drivers, barring race leader Hamilton, came into the pits immediately to change to dry tyres. The seven-time champion was the only driver to take the start on the intermediate tyre. He lost a lot of time to the other drivers on a dry track, with George Russell coming out of the pits in second place, in the Williams. He had to give back five positions later, as he had taken them in the pit lane, which was not allowed. Hamilton pitted for medium tyres, which saw Esteban Ocon lead the race in his Alpine, ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin, and Nicholas Latifi’s Williams in third place. Hamilton re-joined in 14th and last place at the time.
The race then settled into a rhythm, with Ocon and Vettel pulling away from the pack, and Hamilton making a comeback from last place. He eventually caught up to Ricciardo and Verstappen, his championship rival, by lap 19 and managed to undercut both drivers after the round of pit stops, setting off to catch up to the top ten. The leaders, Ocon and Vettel, made their pit stops onto the hard tyres on lap 36 and 37 respectively, and maintained their positions, with Vettel almost passing Ocon for the lead.
By lap 48, Hamilton had made his way up to fourth place, behind Ocon, Vettel, and Carlos Sainz. Sensing an opportunity to win the race, he opted to pit for a new set of medium compound tyres, coming out behind Fernando Alonso’s Alpine. What would follow was a masterclass in defence from the Spaniard, who thwarted Hamilton’s attempts to overtake him for 12 laps, until lap 66, when Alonso locked up and Hamilton managed to get past. It was too late, though, as he would manage to close up to Vettel on the last lap, and Esteban Ocon took the chequered flag, ahead of Vettel and Hamilton.
It was his first win in Formula 1, and Alpine’s first since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, when they were known as Lotus. It was also the first win for a French driver driving a French-powered car, with a French team, since Alain Prost in the 1983 Austrian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel was disqualified after the podium ceremony, for not providing the required 1-litre fuel sample to the stewards, which saw Hamilton claim second and Carlos Sainz get a podium for Ferrari. Further back, both Williams drivers, Nicholas Latifi and George Russell were classified seventh and eighth respectively, bringing home Williams’ first points in more than two years.