Here are 10 things we learned from the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix…

1. Ocon seizes his big opportunity

Esteban Ocon earned a sweet slice of redemption in Hungary as he became F1’s 111th different winner and third new driver to stand on the top step of the podium in the past year. 

The Frenchman had a brilliant start to the year and initially outperformed teammate Fernando Alonso while the two-time world champion got back into the swing of things, but a tough run of four races outside of the points followed. 

A chassis change at Silverstone helped Ocon return to form as he scored points at Silverstone, but it was at Hungary where he really shone. Having out qualified Alonso, Ocon navigated the chaos at Turn 1 to find himself in an unlikely lead. 

Ocon was fortunate, but when the opportunity fell his way he grabbed it with both hands. He displayed nerves of steel as he resisted race-long pressure from a faster Aston Martin and never put a foot wrong despite finding himself in an alien position in F1. 

It was a thoroughly well-deserved maiden victory for Ocon, who provided yet another remarkable moment to saviour from what has been an epic 2021 season so far. 

Ocon’s sensational win will have also silenced anyone who questioned Alpine’s decision to hand him a new long-term deal so early in the season, or doubted his credentials. 

2. Alonso plays the team game

Another factor behind Ocon’s shock win was Fernando Alonso’s stunning defence from a charging Lewis Hamilton

The two-time world champion remarkably held off Hamilton for 10 laps despite a pace advantage in what was a masterclass in defensive driving, with Alonso positioning his car in all the right places to keep his former title rival at bay. 

The battle was a thrilling watch, but it was also pivotal to the outcome of the race. Had Hamilton’s progress not been halted, the Mercedes driver would have caught Vettel and Ocon. In the end, he ran out of laps. 

Ocon was quick to acknowledge Alonso’s defence, praising its importance to his win. Alonso revealed he used information he gathered from the trackside TV screens to understand how the situation was unfolding, rather than being instructed by Alpine to try and hold up Hamilton. 

After the race, Ocon said people had given him the wrong impression about Alonso ahead of his teammate’s arrival at Alpine and argued the role he played in his victory proved such misconceptions wrong. 

3. Red Bull count cost of ‘brutal’ setback

Red Bull suffered its second successive miserable race as both its drivers were taken out of contention in the first-lap mayhem triggered by Valtteri Bottas’ out-of-control Mercedes.

Erstwhile championship leader Max Verstappen was able to continue but suffered extensive damage to his RB16B which hampered his race. The Dutchman recovered to ninth place (after Vettel’s exclusion) despite having, as Red Bull boss Christian Horner put it, ‘less downforce than a Haas’. 

The two points Verstappen were able to salvage may well end up being vital come the end of the year, but in the immediate aftermath it will be a difficult result to swallow.

With Sergio Perez eliminated on the spot, Red Bull is filling the pinch of the cost cap having suffered yet more heavy damage to its cars, following Verstappen’s massive Silverstone shunt.

Horner also revealed fears that Perez’s engine could be a write-off. If that were the case, the Mexican would move onto his third and final power unit of the season at the Belgian Grand Prix. Honda will also be checking Verstappen’s PU that was involved in his Silverstone accident after it was changed ahead of Sunday’s race. 

Should both drivers have to move onto their third engines, they will likely face a grid penalty before the end of the season. 

As Horner summarised, it’s been a “brutal” couple of weekends for his side.

4. Momentum is with Mercedes - for now 

Before the British GP, Red Bull had enjoyed a run of five successive victories as Verstappen threatened to run away in the title race. 

But the events of the last two races have turned the championship fight on its head, with Verstappen’s 33-point advantage becoming an eight-point deficit to Hamilton heading into the summer break. 

Red Bull also trails Mercedes by 12 points in the constructors’, having held a 44-point lead prior to Silverstone. 

It marks a big swing of momentum in Mercedes’ favour and shows just how quickly the situation can turn around in F1. As such, things could quite easily swing back towards Red Bull once the second half of the season resumes. 

However, Mercedes has made real progress across the last two weekends to close the performance gap to Red Bull. 

Indeed, both Silverstone and the Hungaroring are tracks that were expected to suit the Mercedes, but the team has also make strides with better understanding its W12 that has helped unlock more competitiveness, while an upgrade introduced at Silverstone has been an additional welcome boost.

That knowledge will act as real encouragement to Mercedes heading into the three-week break. 

5. Bad timing for a Bottas blunder 

While the carnage caused by Bottas ultimately worked out - somewhat ionically - well for Mercedes, it came at a bad time for the Finn. 

Bottas had just been enjoying an upswing in form, turning in strong performances in both qualifying and the race at Silverstone and looked to be doing the same in Hungary. He had also played the team game at Silverstone by helping to ensure Hamilton’s fightback victory was possible. 

But all his recent good work was undone in a matter of seconds at Turn 1 in Budapest. It comes at a time Bottas is pitching to retain his seat for next year. He now faces the additional setback of a five-place grid drop for Belgium.  

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is set to make a final call over who will become Hamilton’s teammate out of Bottas or George Russell, who finally got off the mark to score his first points for Williams in Hungary as he continues to impress. 

In reality, a poorly-timed misjudgement probably won’t be a make-or-break influencer behind Mercedes’ decision, but it certainly won’t improve his chances. 

6. Vettel was brilliant - on and off the track 

Vettel’s disqualification should not take away from what was an excellent performance from the four-time world champion.

The German turned in arguably his best drive for Aston Martin yet as he relentlessly hounded Ocon in a 65-lap scrap for victory. A combination of a sluggish pit stop, lock up at Turn 1, and Ocon’s brilliant driving prevented Vettel from ending his two-year wait for a win. 

Like Ocon, Vettel profited from avoiding the first-corner commotion and it was a performance that fully-merited being on the podium. Exclusion for a fuel infringement was a cruel way for Vettel’s weekend to end, but he did himself and his team proud nonetheless. 

After a difficult start to life at Aston, Vettel has proved his doubters wrong with his recent strong performances. 

Vettel’s continued campaigning for good off the track - including his visible show of support for the LGBTQ+ community on the grid in Hungary - again underlined his core values that make him so popular. 

7. Ferrari gain on McLaren misfortune 

Ferrari and McLaren were unfortunate victims of the Turn 1 chaos, with both teams losing one of their drivers on the spot. 

For McLaren, the outcome was worse as Daniel Ricciardo also picked up damage that preventing him from finishing inside the points, compounding a tough day for the Woking squad. 

McLaren were wary of a renewed challenge from Ferrari at the Hungaroring but the team was not expecting to come away from the weekend with zero points. 

Ferrari endured frustrations of their own with Charles Leclerc taken out, but Carlos Sainz’s strong drive to P3 helped make up for the damage with an important haul of 15 points that move the team level with McLaren in their intense battle for third in the constructors’ championship. 

However, the Italian outfit has been forced to write off Leclerc’s engine, which it says was “irreparably damaged” after the hit from Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin. Ferrari says Leclerc is now “highly likely” to take a grid drop later this year. 

8. Latifi the hero as Williams finally bring home points 

After so many near-misses, Williams finally ended its two-year drought for points in Hungary as Nicholas Latifi and George Russell took seventh and eighth to give Williams its best result since Brazil 2017. 

Despite all of Russell’s heroics over the past two and a half seasons, it was Latifi who spearheaded Williams’ charge in the race, having expertly negotiated the Turn 1 carnage. The Canadian ran as high as third early on and produced the drive of his career to claim his first F1 points finish. 

Russell also had cause to celebrate after breaking his duck to net his first points for Williams, leaving the Briton visibly emotional after the race. 

It was a fantastic day for the Grove squad which has had to endure some tough times in recent years. It will hope Hungary will help spark its ongoing recovery effort to return to the front of the grid in the near-future. 

A 10-point haul has vaulted Williams above both Haas and Alfa Romeo and into eighth place in the constructors’ championship. Barring another crazy race, it could well prove to be a season-defining result. 

9. Schumacher shows he can hold his own 

Mick Schumacher may have finished outside of the points, but the Haas rookie had a rare opportunity to showcase his abilities in wheel-to-wheel battle against the very best.

With a recovering Verstappen battling his way back through the field after getting caught up in the first-lap drama, the Red Bull driver found himself squabbling over 10th place during the early stages.

Schumacher looked unfazed by the situation as he impressively kept Verstappen behind him for 10 laps, putting in a steely defence against much faster (albeit heavily damaged) machinery.

Verstappen finally got by on Lap 14 by muscling his way past the German with a bold, around-the-outside overtake at Turn 2 as the pair banged wheels.

Schumacher rightly felt proud to have not cracked under the pressure as he gained yet more valuable F1 experience.

10. A welcome period of respite 

After a manic few months of racing and 11 grands prix, F1 now has a welcome three-week break, providing the teams and drivers with a bit of down time to recover.

The COVID-affected 2020 schedule did not feature a traditional summer break due to the season starting in July. As a result, a frantic six-month period of action was followed by the shortest winter break in F1 history.

With 23 races planned and an intense second half of the season still to come - featuring three back-to-back triple-headers - the August break is a welcome one, especially for the team personnel who have been stretched to the limit.