Alpine’s Esteban Ocon took his first Formula 1 victory in an extraordinary and crazy Hungarian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton regained the lead in the world championship for the first time since May after regaining third place after completing the last five laps of the race.
Title rival Max Verstappen suffered a wet start strewn with incidents but managed to save a point for 10th place in a badly damaged Red Bull.
A race with some of the craziest opening laps in Formula 1 history has left Hamilton with a six-point lead over Verstappen as the sport enters its three-week summer break.
A first-corner pile-up on a slippery track left Hamilton briefly ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Ocon and Aston Martin on the first lap before the race was signaled with a red flag to clean up the mess scattered around the track.
Extraordinarily, when the race resumed Hamilton was the only car on the grid for a second start because behind him all the other drivers made pit stops for the dry weather slick tires because the sun was out and the track was almost dry.
Hamilton had to stop at the end of the next lap, falling to the back of the pack, leaving Ocon to push Vettel back for the remainder of the race.
Vettel tried to overtake on several occasions, but Ocon – a former young Mercedes driver – held his ground during the 70 laps to secure a superb first victory.
And Ocon’s teammate Fernando Alonso was instrumental in securing the victory for the Frenchman, as he valiantly defended against Hamilton for 10 laps in the final stages of the race.
Hamilton, who worked his way to fourth from last place, made a pit stop with 23 laps to go to fit new tires and make a bold bid for the win.
The Mercedes driver had the pace to make it happen and could have done it, if Alonso hadn’t held him back lap after lap with a display of tough racing gear, sometimes just on the verge of acceptability.
When Hamilton finally passed Alonso with five laps to go, he passed Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz two laps later and charged up to the top two, finishing just 0.8 seconds behind Vettel, Sainz fourth and Alonso fifth.
What the hell happened at the beginning?
A race that will go down as one of the most remarkable ever was captivating from start to finish, and the action was caused by the rain which started about half an hour before the race.
At the start on a wet track, Hamilton teammate Valtteri Bottas misjudged his braking point and crashed into McLaren’s Lando Norris, who was pushed towards Verstappen. Bottas also released Sergio Perez’s second Red Bull.
The Finn was fined five grid places at the next race in Belgium on the last weekend of August.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was briefly looking for seventh behind Hamilton only for Aston Martin’s Stroll to make a mistake, brake too late, slip on the grass and crash into the Ferrari, which then toppled McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
With debris all over the track, the red flag was thrown and the cars returned to the pits, where Red Bull began trying to fix Verstappen’s car.
The damage was extensive, with pieces of the ground missing and all of her right barge missing, causing a significant loss of downforce.
Verstappen started in 13th place and had to deal with a long afternoon struggling with an unbalanced car and lacking a lot of grip. But he fought valiantly and managed to separate Ricciardo from last place of the points in the final stages.
How did Hamilton finish last with a header?
By the time the race resumed, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining, but all the drivers were on intermediate tires when they set off on the formation lap for another standing start.
Hamilton was telling his team the track was ready for the slicks but he didn’t get in – although everyone else did. This created the surreal site of a single car on the grid for the start of the race.
The extra pace the slick tires gave the rest of the field meant that when Hamilton pulled up for his own slicks the next time around he was pushed back to 14th after dropping six cars. The question became how much ground he could recover on a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult.
He had made three places when he came to the pits on lap 19 for new tires, the idea being to ride in clear air and then regain places on those with older tires in front of him.
On lap 46, Hamilton was up to fourth behind Ocon, Vettel and Sainz when he returned to the pits for new tires.
The move dropped him another place behind Alonso, but the hope was that he could overtake all the cars ahead to secure an unlikely victory.
But Alonso, who was showing a brisk pace himself and had moved closer to the rear of Sainz, had other ideas and, in one of the biggest defensive driving displays in years, held the Mercedes back a lot. faster for 10 mind-blowing laps, before raced a little too deep in the first corner with five laps to go, giving Hamilton the chance to pass into the second corner.
And the winner?
Ocon led the race throughout Hamilton’s first stop.
Vettel had more pace, but Ocon drove with great maturity to push the German back the entire race.
A slow pit stop by Vettel and Aston Martin halfway through the race allowed Ocon to breathe the next time around without too much pressure and keep the lead.
In the remaining laps Vettel came close a few times but Ocon was still just out of reach and he held on for his first win.
It was the team’s first victory in its new Alpine guise and the first since Kimi Raikkonen won the 2013 Australian Grand Prix when the team was known as Lotus.
Pilot of the day
What happens next?
A three-week break before the season resumes on the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps circuit for the Belgian Grand Prix.