Hungarian GP driver ratings: The big winners after drama and crashes aplenty, with Esteban Ocon on top
First-lap crashes, a first-time victor, and chaos throughout in Budapest as Esteban Ocon wins another F1 2021 thriller before the summer break; avoiding the early carnage was key to the result - but who shone and who suffered? Rating all the drivers.
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 03/08/21 4:49pm
Esteban Ocon: 10
Started 8th, Finished 1st
Formula 1 has its 111th race winner, and you will have to go some to find a more unlikely, and - as Esteban Ocon's fellow drivers attested - popular first-time victor.
Ocon was already having a good weekend before Sunday's race, reaching Q3 for the first time since the Monaco GP, but he probably would not have expected much more than that starting position of eighth come the chequered flag.
But then came the first-corner chaos, which Ocon masterfully avoided to take second, and then first, on track thanks to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton's tyre choice error. From there, Ocon - who has been highly rated for some time but who has not quite lived up to his promise since returning to the grid last season - held his nerve throughout the race to hold off his sole rival Sebastian Vettel in a seemingly faster Aston Martin car. "Esteban didn't do a single mistake," admitted an impressed four-time world champion.
A French driver delivering Alpine's maiden F1 win in their first-ever season; it doesn't get much better than that.
Lewis Hamilton: 9
Started 1st, Finished 2nd
Now that's what you call a rollercoaster of an afternoon. Lewis Hamilton went from joy - seeing his main rivals crash on the opening lap as he safely navigated the first corner from pole - to absolute despair after that decision not to pit before the race restart. In the end, second place and an eight-point title lead represents a more than solid return.
While his and Mercedes' strategy has to be questioned, there can be little doubt about Hamilton's form all weekend, with the seven-time champion nailing qualifying to lead Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen by three and four tenths, before an admirable race-day recovery after he dropped to the very back of the field thanks to his ill-timed pit-stop on the drying track.
Hamilton, who fought back from 14th, had to delve deep into his bag of tricks to do what other drivers struggled to do, overtake slower cars, on Sunday, with a high-speed pass on Yuki Tsunoda a particular highlight. Without being held up by Fernando Alonso in a very feisty duel, Hamilton could even have won on Sunday, but has to be happy with the result - and the big points swing to Verstappen - in the circumstances.
Carlos Sainz: 8.5
Started 15th, Finished 3rd
A Sunday turnaround for Carlos Sainz, who uncharacteristically crashed out in qualifying but more than made up for that with a typically storming race day.
Sainz made up places on the first lap, and could well have been in the shout for the win - he seemed to be the fastest midfield car, at least - if he was not stuck behind Tsunoda and Latifi early on. Sainz was very quick in clear air, but just could not hold off Hamilton in the closing stages, and you could sense the agony on team radio after the Mercedes got past.
Thankfully for the Spaniard, Vettel's penalty meant he rose to the podium places late on Sunday night - which has become something of an occurrence for Sainz; two of his four career top-three finishes have been confirmed long after the chequered flag!
Fernando Alonso: 9.5
Started 9th, Finished 4th
We have said it many times before this season, but Fernando Alonso proved once again in Hungary - days after his 40th birthday - that there's plenty of life in the old dog yet. Sure, his result was not as eye-catching as his team-mate's - whose better qualifying and race start paid dividends - but without Alonso, Ocon may still be waiting for that first F1 win.
That's because Alonso, in a much slower car and on older, harder tyres, managed to hold off a rampaging Hamilton for an incredible 10 laps, displaying all his fierce racecraft of old in the process. "It was amazing. It really, really was fantastic," admitted Hamilton afterwards. "When you're racing against a two-time world champion he probably is one of the hardest drivers - but fair." Without that dogged defence, Alonso may well have had a chance of overtaking Sainz for what turned out to be the final podium position.
Pierre Gasly: 9
Started 5th, Finished 5th
Pierre Gasly was one of the stars of Saturday - only just behind the second Red Bull - but his Sunday hopes looked to be over as he was caught in the first-lap melee, dropping to 12th and only ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi and Hamilton after the red flag.
But full credit to the Frenchman, some great race pace and nifty strategy brought him back into contention, and he was so much quicker than Tsunoda that AlphaTauri ordered a swap of positions. Take note, Red Bull, Gasly has to be an option for 2022 in this form.
Yuki Tsunoda: 7.5
Started 16th, Finished 6th
It was not a perfect weekend by any means, but a much-needed strong, and career-best, result for Yuki Tsunoda heading into the summer break.
A first-practice spin and Q1 exit in qualifying was far from ideal, but Tsunoda snuck up to P4 after the first lap and he could very well have had a podium sniff if he had overtaken Nicholas Latifi. But that he could not, and he was eventually overhauled by Sainz, Alonso and - after some AlphaTauri team orders - Gasly. Tsunoda still lacks the outright pace of his team-mate, but there were certainly some Sunday positives.
Nicholas Latifi: 9.5
Started 18th, Finished 7th
Seeing Nicholas Latifi run up in third for much of the early stages of the race summed up the crazy start, and while he was never going to stay there this was still comfortably the best weekend of the Canadian's F1 career, ending in his first points.
Even before Sunday, Latifi was much closer to Russell than usual - just a tenth behind in qualifying - and after being vaulted up to the leading positions in the race he handled himself well as he batted off faster cars, only slipping slightly down the order through pit-stop strategy.
George Russell: 9
Started 17th, Finished 8th
At long last for George Russell, and you could see how much those first Williams points meant to him. The funny thing is this was not even his greatest weekend of a superb season - he was knocked out in Q1 for the first time in 2021 and trailed Nicholas Latifi, which is certainly a rarity, in the race.
However, Russell said his last stint, as he held off both Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen, was one of his best in F1, while he was also a big team player as he instructed Williams to sacrifice his race to help Latifi's.
Max Verstappen: 8
Started 3rd, Finished 9th
Max Verstappen's last two races show just how much the title momentum can swing, with his 32-point title lead now a eight-point deficit. But there was not much more the very unlucky Dutchman could have done in Hungary.
"Again taken out by a Mercedes," said Verstappen after Bottas' shunt into Norris soon collected his Red Bull, which Max had moved into second place off the start after a slightly below-par qualifying. Verstappen had significant damage from there - his struggle to overtake a Haas summed that up - and two points was about the best he could manage. Heading into the summer break, it's now advantage Hamilton in the championship.
Kimi Raikkonen: 8
Started 13th, Finished 10th
The familiar 2021 position of 11th became a post-race 10th for Kimi Raikkonen thanks to Vettel's penalty, and Kimi would likely have finished even higher if not for his unsafe release penalty in the pits. An overtake on Ricciardo in the closing laps secured his second points finish of the season. A decent weekend for Raikkonen, with Alfa Romeo's best qualifying of the season, too.
OUTSIDE THE POINTS
Daniel Ricciardo: 6.5
Another driver who was on the edge of retiring his car due to damage, sustained in the Stroll-Leclerc crash, Daniel Ricciardo understandably struggled for pace - stuck behind Russell's Williams for much of the race and then passed by Kimi late on. Out in Q2 in qualifying, a weekend to forget all in all.
Mick Schumacher: 8
For the first time this season, we got to see Mick Schumacher in true wheel-to-wheel combat, and it's certainly fair to say the German held his own. Driving tenaciously - much like his father used to - after the restart, Schumacher frustrated Verstappen for more laps than you would expect, and that was not his only stern defence of the afternoon.
Points were always going to be a tough ask given his speed deficit, but an impressive Hungarian GP nonetheless - with his only blemish of the weekend that final practice crash.
Antonio Giovinazzi: 5.5
A very disappointing race for Antonio Giovinazzi. He was the only driver to gamble for slick tyres ahead of the race start, but then surprisingly ditched that strategy for the post-red flag restart. That left him needing another stop to get back onto medium tyres, and in trying to make up ground he sped into the pit-lane - resulting in a stop-go penalty. He said in clear air he felt quick, but could not even get ahead of the Haas of Schumacher in the end.
Sebastian Vettel: 9.5
Started 10th, Finished 2nd (pre DSQ)
What a crushing post-race penalty for Sebastian Vettel. The four-time world champion fought valiantly on Sunday - he was so close to race-leading overtake, and race-leading undercut - before settling for what was still a superb second place. However, an insufficient fuel sample disqualified a faultless Seb on Sunday night. Aston Martin intend to appeal the decision.
DID NOT FINISH
Due to how many drivers exited the race early - and the penalties handed out - we are ranking the DNFers this week.
Nikita Mazepin: 6
Nikita Mazepin thought he had avoided the early chaos as he headed to the pits after the red flag - but his race was then ended in bizarre circumstances after Raikkonen's unsafe release. Very unlucky, but given his pace over the weekend he almost certainly would not have been in the running for points.
Valtteri Bottas: 4
Valtteri Bottas would have left Budapest as the most unpopular man in the paddock after his mistake - kicking off the first-corner carnage by braking too late and shunting into Norris - led to race-destroying damage for many drivers. Starting second, Bottas would have hoped for a Hamilton challenge on Sunday to bolster his Mercedes 2022 hopes, but he heads into the summer break with a grid penalty coming his way, and plenty of doubt about his future.
Lando Norris: 7
All was going well for Lando Norris, who had a comfortable qualifying advantage over team-mate Ricciardo and then overtook Bottas at the start of the race. But he was then shunted into by the Mercedes, knocking him into Verstappen and McLaren decided his car simply had too much damage to attempt the restart. The longest points-scoring streak in F1 comes to an end.
Sergio Perez: 6.5
Sergio Perez suffered another alarming qualifying deficit to Verstappen in Hungary, and he was only just ahead of Gasly in the AlphaTauri, but he looked to have made up for that with a decent start from fourth. Unfortunately for the Mexican, his race was ended through no fault of his own as he turned into Turn 1 as Bottas charged into him. Make that zero points from the last two races for Perez, not the way he would have wanted to head into the summer break.
Lance Stroll: 4.5
Lance Stroll often shines in the wet but, after a decent start, he made a big error by braking too late into the first corner, unable to avoid the Ferrari of Leclerc despite his best efforts. Like Bottas, a Belgian GP grid penalty was deserved.
Charles Leclerc: 7
Charles Leclerc's eyes probably lit up as he dove to the inside of the first corner, avoiding the Bottas-Norris-Verstappen-Perez carnage. But enter Stroll, careering into the side of Leclerc's Ferrari and ending his race hopes. Given Sainz's speed, Leclerc may well have won the Hungarian GP without that DNF.