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Opening corner carnage in Hungary leads to Esteban Ocon’s first F1 victory

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Frenchman Esteban Ocon has taken has claimed his first Formula One race win in a wild Hungarian Grand Prix, where a first corner incident triggered by Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas took out five cars and led to a re-start where just one car was on the track.

From the moment he took the lead on lap six Alpine driver Ocon never put a wheel wrong and held off Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, with Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton third.

“What a moment. It feels so good,” Ocon said.

“We had some difficult moments this season that we overcame together.”

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It was the first time a French driver won a grand prix with a French team using a French engine since 1983, when Alain Prost achieved the feat.

Race winner Esteban Ocon (right) celebrates with his teammate Fernando Alonso.(

Formula One via Getty: Dan Istitene

)

The carnage at the first corner sent five cars out and Max Verstappen down through the field with plenty of damage.

With rain falling onto a slippery track Bottas, who started second on the grid, ran into the rear of McLaren’s Lando Norris which led to a chain reaction and debris strewn all over the track. 

Norris was sent into Verstappen’s Red Bull, while Bottas’s broken car rammed into the side of the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez.

The series of crashes led to Bottas, Norris and Perez exiting the race, while the carnage continued behind them.

Vettel’s Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll was also travelling too fast into the first corner and tried a move up the inside before slamming into the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, which ended both their races.

The shunt on Leclerc sent him into the side of Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo, who was on the verge of climbing into the top three. 

After two laps behind the safety car the race was stopped to clear the wreckage from the track. 

Hamilton all alone before epic charge to third

Verstappen came into the pits before the race was stopped with a red flag, which in turn led to strange scenes, with Hamilton’s Mercedes the only car to re-start the race on the track, with every other car electing to re-start from the pit lane after changing tyres from intermediates to slicks.

On a drying track, Hamilton had no choice but to pit once he had completed the lap to put on his own slick tyres, and came out several seconds behind at the back of the field.

Lewis Hamilton at the re-start of the Hungarian GP
Lewis Hamilton completes the re-start of the Hungarian Grand Prix by himself.(

Sky Sports UK via Kayo

)

A furious Hamilton told his team not to fail him again in the race, as he tried to climb up the field from 14th. 

Verstappen, with a damaged car, was in 11th and struggling. 

Hamilton began to pick off cars at the back of the grid and hadn’t been able to make a large number of passes but on lap 19 Mercedes pitted him and he was able to successfully undercut both Verstappen and Ricciardo.

He then charged through the field but could not pass the Ferarri of Carlos Sainz, who was on fresher tyres so witt 22 laps to go Mercedes again pitted Hamilton for fresh rubber.

Hamilton, now in fifth, started mowing down his rivals with fast lap times and was on the back of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso with 15 laps to go. 

But Alonso, former acrimonious teammate and former world champion made life difficult for Hamilton as he stifled multiple passing attempts with some brilliant defensive driving.

But the pressure finally told as the slightest brake lock-up from Alonso allowed Hamilton to pass and quickly catch Sainz who had been running in third.

Verstappen loses championship lead

Max Verstappen at the Hungarian Grand Prix
Max Verstappen looks on as his team tries to repair his damaged car during the red flag.(

Getty Images: Mark Thompson

)

Ultimately that final move from Hamilton gave him back something he has craved, the lead in the drivers’ championship.

Two weeks ago, Verstappen had a 32-point lead, but two grands prix later, he sits in second, six points behind Hamilton, after being part of two lap one collisions not of his doing.

After crashing out at Silverstone following a shunt with Hamilton, Verstappen and Red Bull were hoping for better luck in Hungary. 

But the latest first corner incident did even more damage to his championship hopes as all he could manage was a single point for 10th position.

“Again, taken out by a Mercedes. I was missing the whole side of my car,” a frustrated Verstappen said.  

“It was almost impossible to drive.”

Bottas has been given a five-place grid penalty for the next race in Belgium due to causing the first corner crash.

Ricciardo also struggled with damage to his car after the opening lap melee.

He sat in 10th for multiple laps behind the Williams of George Russell, but was never able to overtake. 

The Australian ultimately was passed by Verstappen in the closing laps, dropping him outside of the points.

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