Declan Quigley: La Marseillaise blasting out from the PA was a refreshing change
It was all going swimmingly until Esteban Ocon headed to the pitlane.
For Lewis Hamilton, his bid for a 100th Grand Prix victory in Hungary looked to have been greatly aided by his teammate Valtteri Bottas’s first corner indiscretion which harpooned the entire Red Bull team in one fell swoop.
Instead, it may inadvertently have cost him the win.
Bottas’s hefty nerf on Lando Norris into turn one at the wet first start and the pinball knock on that caused shards of carbon fibre to be distributed liberally around the Hungaroring meant a red flag stop to clear the track.
The rain subsided during the interval and as the remaining cars headed out on their formation for a second start they discovered a fast-drying track.
Esteban Ocon, lying a magnificent second after avoiding the early mayhem, peeled off into pitlane and the entire grid, apart from Hamilton, followed the Frenchman in for a fresh set of slicks.
Had Hamilton done the same thing no doubt someone would have stayed out with hopes of leading but Ocon made it easy for everyone else to dump their intermediates for dry weather tyres immediately.
Thus, Hamilton sat on the grid in splendid isolation, his race badly compromised from the outset. It was as peculiar as it was frustrating for Hamilton.
Had Bottas not crashed at the first start the track would have dried when the race was underway and Hamilton could have picked his pit stop from the lead.
Should Hamilton have gone to pit lane with Ocon et al? Well it’s easy to say in hindsight. It was definitely an easier decision for the Alpine driver who then drove a brilliant race to hold off Sebastian Vettel throughout, their private scrap facilitated in no small margin by the presence of Nicolas Latifi’s relatively pedestrian Williams acting as a buffer for the first half of the 70-lap race.
Thereafter Hamilton fought like a man possessed to recover from the last place he found himself in when he made his first stop. His late race duel with former teammate Fernando Alonso was typically robust and hugely entertaining.
Alonso delayed Hamilton for long enough that Ocon and Vettel were unthreatened in the leading two positions to the finish. Should reverse grid races be explored in this current age of experimentation?
Hamilton’s third-place contributed to a remarkable save for the Mercedes team who leave Hungary with a six-point lead in the driver’s championship, an eventuality that they’d have taken your arm off for heading to Budapest.
Max Verstappen battled manfully with a damaged Red Bull to recover a single point for tenth. It was a tough day out and another missed opportunity for a driver who led by more than 30 points less than a month ago.
A day to forget for the Dutchman, so. For Esteban Ocon, it’s one that will live long in the memory as he took his maiden F1 success and a first win of any kind since 2015. He’s just the fourth different winner this year and la Marseillaise blasting out from the PA was a refreshing change.