Kimi Raikkonen: A World Championship and 19 years later, its time to hang up the gloves

Kimi Raikkonen announced this week that he will be leaving Formula 1 at the end of the season. Whilst this has maybe been expected for the last few years, and with the rumour mill in full swing, this could be the first piece of the puzzle for the 2022 driver line up. However, no matter when you first knew of his driving style, attitude, or outlook on F1, he has been a popular driver throughout his career.

The Early Speed

First coming to the grid as a young 21-year-old, he debuted for Sauber in 2001 at the Australian Grand Prix and immediately put in a strong performance, scoring a point and a P6 finish. He proved many critics wrong after driving in Formula Renault the year before – three racing levels below Formula 1 at the time.

Having impressed early on he was very quickly signed to McLaren for 2002, replacing the retiring 2-time world champion, Mika Hakkinen. This was a successful partnership, competing head on with Michael Schumacher and coming close to titles in both 2003 and 2005. He gained a reputation for being one of the fastest drivers on the grid and to this day is still applauded for his race craft and speed.

One of his greatest wins came in 2005 at Suzuka where, having started down in 17th, he had to fight his way from the back of the grid to win the race, having to get past an extremely quick Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher. Putting in fastest lap after fastest lap, he took the lead from Giancarlo Fisichella with an absolutely fantastic move on the outside of turn 1 with just 1 lap to go. This cemented his place as one of the best drivers on the grid.

The Iceman’s Championship

For the second time in his career, at the end of 2006 he was set to replace a world retiring world champion. Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher decided it was time for him to exit the sport seemingly for good at the time. Kimi Raikkonen had already attracted the attention of Ferrari, having been one of their main rivals for the last 5 years. This opening meant Ferrari signed him for their 2007 season, little did they know this would be a successful title battle.

With tensions boiling over at McLaren with teammates Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, Raikkonen was able to make up a huge points deficit which ended in a title fight between the Iceman, the Champion, and the Rookie at the final round in Brazil. It was a thrilling end to the season which meant that Raikkonen came out on top by just one point. A surprise champion but definitely deserved after his first few years in F1.

Raikkonen beat Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso to the championship by just one point in 2007 – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

The Comeback Kid

Raikkonen did have a contract with Ferrari until the end of 2010, however with Alonso becoming a free agent at the end of 2009, the Italian team paid him off in order to get Alonso in the car. Having been evenly matched to Felipe Massa for most of his time at Ferrari, putting Alonso in the car began to make some question Kimi’s performances because Alonso was comfortably outperforming Massa. As a result, Kimi spent 2 years out of Formula 1 and focused on Rallying and Nascar.

In 2012 however, Lotus were looking to get Raikkonen back on the grid and so he returned much to everyone’s delight. It was a great couple of seasons for the team and driver, with Kimi having the edge over teammate Romain Grosjean due to his experience. He took two wins with the team – first at Abu Dhabi then at Melbourne – and the car seemed to be working well for the Finn.

With confidence dwindling for Alonso at Ferrari, Raikkonen made his way back to the Red team in 2014 to partner the Spaniard in his final season there. He would eventually become teammates with Sebastian Vettel in 2015 after Alonso finally decided to leave for McLaren. He became the apparent number two driver as Vettel consistently outperformed the Finn until, at the end of 2018, Ferrari decided to swap their 2007 champion with their rising star Charles Leclerc.

Having come full circle, Raikkonen has spent the last few years with the team he made his debut with, now Alfa Romeo. He has had some great drives for the team and clearly enjoyed still being in Formula 1 despite not being at the sharp end of the grid. He famously made a cameo in the second season of Drive to Survive saying: “its more like a hobby for me”.

Raikkonen has been with Alfa Romeo since 2019 – Courtesy of Sauber Group Media

With 341 Grand Prix starts, he is the most experienced driver of all time. He has 21 race wins, 103 podiums, 48 fastest laps, a world title and 19 years at the pinnacle of Motorsport; he will definitely be missed among fans and the F1 paddock. He has provided many memories over the years and it will be exciting to see what he does next if he decides to race in other series. For now, we look forward to seeing a relaxed Kimi race the rest of the season before he gives up his hobby to focus on other things.

2021 Belgian GP: F1 is and will always be about business

image courtesy Lars Baron, Getty images / Red Bull content pool

What happened at Spa last Sunday was a farce. There is no need to mince our words.

Criticism, especially when it’s constructive and well-minded, is needed in times like these, when Formula 1 and the FIA have handled an admitedly difficult situation poorly.

The 3-hour stand-off to wait for the rain to ease off (never-mind stop at that point) was a remarkably bad decision, not only on hindsight, but also as we went through it.

Weather radars repeatedly showed that the rain was going to keep on falling for a long time. Michael Masi, the race director since Charlie Whiting’s untimely death back in March 2019, waited for an opening on the weather, which was about to come around 17:40 local time. That’s the reason they stopped the clock after 2 hours of no running (well, we had 2 laps, let’s not be too unreasonable!), only to have an hour in our hands to resume the race, even for such a short period of time.

Of course, the rain never really stopped, it didn’t even ease off. No such scenario was on the horizon in the first place.

F1, and the FIA as a result, took a decision solely based on two factors: the need to do a race for the spectators at home, and the need to put on a show for those at attendance at the track.

It was with great pleasure when I read that the race organisers, as well as F1 and the FIA will discuss on refunding the 70,000 spectators at Spa one way or another. They deserve their money back, since for some of them the memory of their first ever F1 race from the sidelines was an utter disappointment.

And let us be clear. Safety is paramount, and with such a poor visibility due to the standing water on the surface of the track, and the continuous rain falling on it, made the possibility of having a race (or, at least, a normal race) practically non existent.

That realisation that we, as fans, made quite early on, Masi and his team did too. But, they pushed on for a hopeless case.

And TV scheduling, the money that sponsors and promoters, broadcasters and shareholders made those responsible of the race being cancelled or not really anxious of the possibility of actually pulling the plug and calling it a day.

It is days like these that we all collectively realise that Formula 1 is and has always been a business – a well-run, pretty exciting, show-stopping business, mind you, but a business nonetheless.

And as a business, it has to cater for those that open and close the money faucet, those who keep the wheels rolling. Unfortunately for everyone else, this means exploiting loopholes in the already flawed rules and regulations, trying to find a way to continue and actually ‘finish’ the race.

When race direction saw that the potential of a somewhat normal conclusion to this already chaotic day was minuscule, it tried to push forward and actually award points – it saw this as a ‘natural’ way to put an end to all this. They put on the 60 minutes countdown to the end of the race, as if it was ever going to last more than 2 laps behind the Safety Car, in order to have an official classification.

Drivers were really perplexed by that decision, with some of them calling for a swift change around the rules on this issue, showing their dismay with the way it was all handled. It was a farce.

No one wants to see a high speed, no visibility passing through Eau Rouge and Raidillon, or a high speed crash like those we witnessed on Friday and Saturday.

But no one wants to wait four hours for nothing. And for a sport that takes proud in its technological prowess and its innovative ways, that was at the very least below par.

Formula One makes long-awaited Netherlands return: Dutch Grand Prix Preview

Well that was strange, wasn’t it? The teams arrive in the Netherlands this week after completing what is now officially the shortest race in history at the longest circuit on the calendar in Spa Francorchamps. Zandvoort happens to be one of the shortest tracks on the calendar by contrast; it has been a rather odd year this.

Nonetheless, it is a welcome return for the sport to an iconic circuit, and a track steeped in undulation, tantalising risk and edifying rewards. It is also the second race running where we will see the famous orange wall – for McLaren of course.

Ingratiating yourself with the fans though does not win races, and that is not what Formula One did last weekend either, presenting a Grand Prix described as “farcical” by World Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton, but impeccable weather at the seaside Dutch town, so a repeat of Sunday’s fiasco is not on the cards.

Lewis Hamilton suggested the fans should get their money back following a “farcical” Belgian Grand Prix

The 4.2 kilometre track played host to 28 Formula One Grands Prix before it exited the calendar in 1985, and it remains the only Dutch circuit to host a Formula One race – championship or otherwise – in spite of strong appeals for Assen to make its F1 debut. The irresistible Zandvoort, however, was selected as the holy grail of Formula One’s return to the Netherlands.

The amenity of the sand dunes surrounding the track results in a superb, flowing, tight and inherently difficult circuit, along with the infamous banked final corner.

The events of Spa leave us in the unusual position of three drivers – Sir Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz – sitting on decimal points in the standings, with Hamilton leading Verstappen heading into the Dutchman’s home race this weekend.

The nature of the track would tend to suit the Red Bulls, and the technical aspect of the track means that battles up and down the grid could be decided by which drivers are able to extract those extra few thousandths through the tough corners. This will be a tough race.

That detail may also bring Williams, who looked down and out at the end of 2019, back up into the points. George Russell’s podium in Spa was an inspiring moment for a team that has battled immensely to get back up the grid in recent times, and Nicholas Latifi’s  qualifying saw them score their second consecutive double-points finish in almost five years. Can they make it three in a row for the first time since 2016 too?

Lots to be excited about then, as Formula one finally returns to Zandvoort for the first time in 26 years. And hopefully we will get more than two laps this time!

The race that never was!

A rainy Spa on a Sunday after a wet qualifying? F1 fans everywhere anticipated the race with anxious excitement knowing both how good and how dangerous this race can be. Our first drama arrived 30 minutes before lights out as on the way to the grid Sergio Perez went over the paint at Les Combes and had little control as he slid into the wall. The car was not repairable before the scheduled start of the race and Red Bull were looking like they would have to take a DNS.

After two formation laps behind the safety car the start procedure was suspended, and everyone went back into the pit lane. It originally looked like the race had not started however, confirmed by Michael Masi, under article 6.5 of the technical regulations, the three hour window to complete a race started at the scheduled start time.

In the Red Bull camp, a fascinating conversation transpired between Johnathan Wheatly and Michael Masi as to whether Perez could re-join the race. Initially, Masi said he couldn’t because he had ‘outside assistance’, but the race had not officially started and therefore he could still make the start of the race. This actually caused Masi to check and get back to Red Bull. Masi confirmed almost 30 minutes later that Perez could start from the pit lane, much to Red Bull’s delight. It was then revealed that one lap had been taken off the lap count, suggesting Perez would be a lap down. However, with unprecedented circumstances, the regulations showed a loop pole which meant that Perez could start on the lead lap from the pitlane but could not start on the grid – eventhat was assuming they would go back to the grid. The confusion was mutual between fans, commentary, the teams, and the FIA.

After his team’s exceptional efforts, Sergio Perez’s crash and torrential rain cost him a chance at scoring points – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

The confusion continued as to whether we would be on lap two or lap 6. Regulations are not covered for this sort of event, but you can probably expect to see them changed after today. Added to the mess, the three-hour count down clock was stopped with an hour of the time left. This is a ruling which the stewards are allowed to exploit according to the regulations for these sorts of circumstances.

Just over two hours after the race was due to start, the message that every fan wanted – ‘race will be resumed at 18:17 local time – was issued, and it seemed a timed race would be on! There was still potential that this could just be laps behind the safety car but either way, those fans at Spa deserved to see some cars. Coming out of the pits the race had officially started and as long as two laps were completed a classification and half points could be awarded. Whilst the track looked OK in terms of standing water, the problem still remained that the spray made visibility virtually zero for the drivers. Because of this, the race was suspended again.

Just 10 minutes later the dreaded message saying the race would not resume was produced. Max Verstappen won with George Russell getting a P2 and celebrating on the podium after some brilliant work yesterday was absolutely deserved. The biggest loser was Perez, who, despite re-joining the race, finished 20th making it not really worth running.

Whilst anti-climactic compared to yesterday’s qualifying, it is worth saying that, yes they have started in worse conditions in past decades, but these regulations are here for the driver’s safety, which is the most important thing, and it was definitely too wet to race.

Some of the most exciting action came from the fans, who, despite the awful weather, stuck with it and were out in force. Every time the camera panned to them they were laughing and joking having a great time. Daniel Ricciardo went out to entertain the grandstand opposite the pitlane with a Mexican wave, and full participation was achieved! Some of the most loyal fans in the world.

We go to Zandvoort in seven days and hoping that the weather doesn’t follow F1 there.

Belgian GP: Verstappen takes pole ahead of Russell as Norris crashes at Eau Rouge

Max Verstappen has taken pole for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix ahead of Williams’s George Russell, who put in a great performance in challenging conditions. Lando Norris crashed at Eau Rouge in the early stages of Q3, raising even more questions about the barriers at that corner.

The beginning of Q1 was initially delayed for 12 minutes because of heavy rain, but when it began both Russell and Nicholas Latifi headed out on track as the sole cars on intermediates. It was a decision that every other driver soon followed when the rain eased, as the times began to tumble.

Intermediates were the tyres of choice for Q2 as well. Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas left it late to get a good lap in, being brought in for new sets and only moving out of the drop-zone in the closing moments.

The rain came down heavier for the start of Q3.

Sebastian Vettel was one of the first drivers to head out, and he almost immediately radioed his engineer saying he thought the session should be red-flagged because of how bad the conditions were.

It was indeed red-flagged a couple of minutes later, but only after Lando Norris crashed heavily at the Eau Rouge/Radillion complex. Vettel pulled up alongside the McLaren to check that Norris was okay, voicing some very angry comments over the radio. “What did I say?” he demanded.

At the time of writing, Norris has been taken for a precautionary x-ray on his elbow, but he managed to get out of the car on his own at least.

Following as his crash does from the six-car pile-up during W Series qualifying yesterday at the same corner, there is certainly a debate to be had over the barriers at Eau Rouge. Norris was sent spinning back across the track, and it was only good fortune that meant no-body was following close behind and put in danger of collecting him.

After a half an hour-long delay Q3 restarted.

Hamilton took provisional pole after the first runs, only to be bested by George Russell. It looked for a moment as if the Williams would actually take pole, only for Verstappen to cross the line and go fastest of all by three tenths.

More of the same can be expected for the race tomorrow in terms of weather, and we are certainly in for an interesting 44 laps!

F1 Returns from its summer break: Belgian Grand Prix Preview

After a summer break that never ceases to feel like an eternity, Formula One finally returns this weekend, as we head a 12-hour flight west of our last destination of Budapest to the beautiful town of Francorchamps for the 53rd championship Belgian Grand Prix.

The formerly eclectic list of winning constructors of this race has recently been taken over by Ferrari and Mercedes, who have between them taken all of the last six victories at Spa, but will there be a new conqueror here on Sunday?

Charles Leclerc took his first Formula One win in Spa two years ago – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

Red Bull have continuously proven a thorn in champions Mercedes’ side throughout the first half of 2021, and Max Verstappen would desperately like to win in Spa for the first time.

Though the young Dutchman will finally be able to enjoy a home Grand Prix next week, he always gets a massive following when the F1 circus heads to Belgium, and he will be grateful for that support this weekend.

Red Bull suffered catastrophic races in Silverstone and Budapest, scoring just two points over both races, following contact with Mercedes cars on both occasions. The Silver Arrows and Lewis Hamilton have thus taken advantage to lead both championships entering round 12 of the season.

A chain reaction crash started by Valtteri Bottas ended the race for both Red Bull cars, along with Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

And so it seems that a win has rarely been so predominant on the Austrian team’s list of priorities, so get set for a superbly competitive weekend of action.

This is amplified by what is quite simply one of the most remarkable and stunning racetracks in the history of the F1 championship, with a powerful first and third sector, sandwiching a tight, twisty middle sector that has always extracted immense skill and bravery from our drivers.

It thus gives us an exciting prospect in what has become in incrementally more competitive midfield as the year has progressed, with McLaren and Ferrari dead even on points following Carlos Sainz’s post-race podium in Hungary; a further 85 points separates them from fifth-placed Alpine.

Sebastian Vettel was stripped of said podium following a disqualification for a fuel infringement four weeks ago, as the three-time winner in Belgium seeks to claim his second podium with his new team.

Sebastian Vettel had his Budapest podium cruelly  snatched from him after a fuel infringement – Courtesy of Aston Martin Media

As the second triple-header of the year begins, F1 is finally back, as we get ready for one of the great tracks on the Formula One calendar.

Formula 1 drivers moving to IndyCar elevate the whole series

image courtesy of IndyCar/ Matt Fravor

Alexander Rossi, Marcus Ericsson, Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean, and most recently Kevin Magnussen (and potentially Alex Albon).

Marcus Ericsson Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix by Chris Jones

All these drivers have at least one thing in common: they used to be Formula 1 drivers who moved to the IndyCar series in the past few years.

It is by no means the first time that we see this pattern: drivers from Formula 1 have consistenly looked outside Europe for their future endeavors, and IndyCAR (or CART for a brief period of time) was an attractive option. Nigel Mansell and Emerson Fittipaldi did the same, and they became CART champions and, in the case of Emmo, an Indy 500 champion.

However, in recent years, a lot of proper talent has been left with no F1 seat –  these drivers have to find an alternative, a way to move forward with their careers.

Excluding Alexander Rossi, who is an American and had always the opportunity to jump ship, should he need to, every other F1 driver who raced or is currently competing in IndyCar, is not from the US, nor has any firm connections with the other side of the pond.

This is especially telling of the appeal IndyCar has these days to a lot of drivers, like Ericsson or Grosjean, who came from F1 and are podium finishers and winners of their own in the series.

McLaren’s commitment is also a significant step into making IndyCar a prime opportunity for drivers, young or not, to get their names heard and their abilities shown to a broad audience. Colton Herta, for example, has become a household name in Europe, even though he is an American, driving in an American racing series, for an American team, just because so many European drivers have moved there and brought attention to the sport.

Fernando Alonso’s Indy 500 participations, although not successful, inspired other drivers try this route, see where it leads them.

Even before Romain Grosjean was out of F1, he was contacted by Coyne Racing to drive for them in 2021. A Swiss-born Frenchman did the unthinkable – or so it was a couple of years ago – and went on to become an IndyCar driver, and a podium finisher with solid chances to win his first race in the series this year. He is so impressed and enthousiastic about the championship, he even considers racing in ovals in 2022, despite denying such a proposition after his horrific accident at Sakhir last November.

Couple that with the TV deals to broadcast IndyCar in Europe (namely the Sky Sports one in the UK and the DAZN one in other countries in the continent), and you have a solely-American championship going international, at least in its appeal and recognition.

And believe me when I say it is important for IndyCar and the whole organisation that Roger Penske presides over, to find global recognition. That is, because even though the recent Music City GP was watched by 1.212 million viewers on NBCSN, the NASCAR races have consistently more viewers, topping to 2-2,6 million viewers on average. But, NASCAR has next to zero international audience – IndyCar must take advantage of that.

It is a paradox. IndyCar prouds itself to be an all-American single-seater series, yet it has a broad international (mostly European) audience, with an ever growing European grid. NASCAR will hold the US market, maybe until F1 takes over in the next years (if we take into account its current trajectory).

And let’s not forget that former F1 drivers joining IndyCar make the series more competitive, less predictable. Big names, such as Will Power, Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden have taken over the championship for the past few years, and they are all great drivers, don’t get me wrong on that one. However, they do not possess the kind of talent that Grosjean or Magnussen (who’s considering a move there), or even Lundgaard (who did an one-off appearance last Sunday at IMS, despite him having a food poisoning the night before) have. They are staples of the grid, they are champions, record-holders, winners. But, they are not the ones that will move Indy forward, let’s be honest.

IndyCar is in a prime position to get to the next level, attract new names, maybe new manufacturers, become global, get the respect it deserves, win over even the most skeptic motorsport fan out there – just because the current F1 grid is so saturated, it can’t afford to give every talent a racing seat.

Drivers know that, IndyCar knows that, Penske does too.

Sebastian Vettel’s justified DSQ doesn’t mean it’s not a harsh penalty

Main image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

It is a story of despair, one of highs and lows. In just 2 hours, Sebastian Vettel and the Aston Martin F1 Team found themselves with a podium at hand in Hungary, and then left with nothing.

It is without a doubt a great shame – a great drive after a dismal start for a lot of drivers, meant that Vettel could climb up the podium places, and then fight for the win with Esteban Ocon, losing out in the final laps.

However, it should be mentioned that the offence he and his team had done was punished not severely, but according to the rules.

Being unable to provide 1 litre of fuel after the qualifying session and the race is almost always a violation of the rules worthy of a Disqualification from the results. This litre must be retrievable by the FIA and the technical officers in order for them to take a sample and test it on the laboratory for potential illegality regarding the fuel.

And it’s one of those rules that are not to be interpreted by the stewards. The punishment is set, and the stewards are there to award it.

This fact sits especially hard with the Silverstone team, which is in a close fight in the constructors’ standing with AlphaTauri and Alpine, and with Vettel’s 2nd place points (which he may not get after all) they could close the gap from their rivals.

Since the team lost its right of appeal after yesterday’s hearing, the FIA and the stewards justified their decision, with the following exempt from their statement being particularly telling:

“For the assessment of whether or not the one-litre requirement was broken, it does not make a difference why there was less than one litre.

“There may be a couple of explanations why at the end of a race the remaining amount is insufficient. In any case, it remains the sole responsibility of the Competitor to ensure that the car is in conformity with the regulations all times (Art. 3.2 FIA International Sporting Code) and it shall be no defence to claim that no performance advantage was obtained (Art 1.3.3 FIA International Sporting Code).”

All of the above suggests that the FIA does not take into account the reason that the team did not have the 1 litre in its car’s tank (this time, it was a fuel pump malfunction, a rare but possible failure).

Which, as a fact, makes the DSQ punishment even harsher. This is not to say that not having the required fuel in the car after the end of the race is not a reason not to be punished for, but it’s another thing to hand out the same penalties for every type of illegality.

It was clearly not intended by the team to not have the required quantity of fuel to present to the technical officers, and still they got disqualified. And from that failure, they lost a miraculous podium finish.

FIA knows this system of hard, not flexible penalties in some aspects of the technical rulebook has to be somewhat amended in the next years.

From the dawn of F1, all rules are there to deter the teams from making dangerous decisions, and that is the reason that sometimes they are so severe in their impact. That means that sometimes, they are unfair as well.

Not all offences are equally severe, and not all of them are the same. It is one thing to not have 1L of fuel because you decided to burn it all to gain some advantage, and another to have a fuel pump failure and lose some fuel that you did not want to.

Although, it should be mentioned that the stewards are consistent in those types of punishments. Their life gets easier in that regard, because they go by the book, quite literally.

And they should not get more severe in their decisions in other occurrences just to make up for the harsh punishments in other incidents.

Dr. Helmut Marko compared Vettel’s DSQ with Hamilton’s 10 second penalty in the Silverstone accident:

“It is clear why Vettel almost ran out of petrol, because a normal race had been calculated and then he simply used more in the fight with Ocon – no driver saves petrol in this situation. Where is the relation there compared to Hamilton’s offence?

“Then there is Hamilton’s statement about Fernando Alonso’s dangerous driving. [Alonso] drove sensationally, defended optimally, and then this statement from someone who shoots out a competitor a race before.”

This seems an unfair comparison. Race control has ”wiggle-room” in those type of incidents, with Hamilton & Verstappen or the Hamilton & Alonso battle – that’s why they are completely inconsistent.

But, we should first change the severity for some type of offences, if those offences have been a result of a malfunction, or an accident.

Let’s be more flexible. Especially in the budget cap era, no penalty should be given without taking into account all the factors.

F1 heats up before the summer break

Formula One heads for its traditional summer break after the Hungarian Grand Prix, and a few of the drivers will be glad to see some sun after a sprinkling of rain caused chaos on lap one at Budapest.

It looked like a mistake from one Mercedes had created the perfect opportunity for the other. Valtteri Bottas’ wet-weather prowess has come into question after disappointing performances over the last twelve months, and taking out Lando Norris – as well as both Red Bulls – will give extra ammunition to those who think his time at the Silver Arrows should come to an end this season. The fact that George Russell is taking part in this week’s Pirelli test for Mercedes will only add fuel to the fire.

The events of Budapest have increased the pressure on Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

With Lewis Hamilton being the only front-running car left unscathed, it should have been straightforward for the Brit to claim his hundredth victory in Formula One after the red flag. But nothing is ever simple in Formula One. Out on his own in the record books, Hamilton was left out on his own on track as all the other cars came in for slicks. One lap later, the reigning champion was last with it all to do. Mercedes have history for making strange strategy decisions when forced to think on their feet (for example, pitting Lewis at Monaco 2015 and handing victory to Nico Rosberg), and this was another case of them being caught out when things go astray from the plan.

At this point, Hamilton would have snapped your hand off at the opportunity to take a podium, but it was another performance that took the fans (and his) breath away, dicing his way through the field on one of the trickiest tracks for overtaking on the calendar. Red Bull will certainly be hoping that Lewis’ usual post-summer break performance boost is not as potent this year, otherwise Max Verstappen may have his work cut out if he is to retake the championship lead.

Hamilton’s marvelous recovery to the podium in Hungary saw him re-take the championship lead – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

Although Bottas’ first lap catastrophe didn’t lead to retirement for Verstappen, the damage done to the floor and barge board pretty much ended any chances of a competitive finish for the Dutchman. Crash damage in this cost-limited season is much more problematic than usual, and with Max’s engine from Silverstone being irreparably damaged, at least one grid penalty after the break is almost a certainty.

For the second race weekend in a row, Red Bull suffered from a first lap incident – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

All this drama allowed a young gun and an old hand show exactly why they belong in Formula One. Esteban Ocon drove superbly to keep Sebastian Vettel at bay, the Frenchman taking Alpine’s first ever win in the sport as a constructor, and the first since 2013 for the team based at Enstone. This may not have been possible were it not for the dogged defending from his teammate, Fernando Alonso. Almost inch-perfect with his car placement until a lock up at turn one allowed Hamilton through, Alonso showed the kind of performance he was known for in his original F1 foray, and a performance which will quiet those detractors who believe one of Alpine’s juniors should be in that seat. Yes, it’s a shame for Christian Lundgaard, Oscar Piastri and Guanyu Zhou that their path is blocked by a 40-year-old, but you aren’t going to find many 40-year-olds who can perform like the Spaniard.

Fernando Alonso superbly, and crucially, kept Lewis Hamilton away from the lead battle for several laps – Courtesy of Renault Sport Media

The drivers get a chance to recuperate for four weeks before the final twelve races of Formula One’s longest ever season. Thanks to a Mercedes resurgence and some bad luck for Red Bull, it looks like we may need every one of those to decide the championship.

Ocon on top in a dramatic race at Hungary

Esteban Ocon took his first Formula 1 victory and the first for the Alpine team in a chaotic race at the Hungaroring, after multiple drivers were taken out at the first corner.

15 minutes before the race start, rain started to fall on the track. Adding to the anticipation, it started light but was due to continue for the first 30 minutes of the race and get heavier before mostly drying out by the end of the race. Intermediate tyres on to start, Lewis Hamilton indicating on the radio he was ready for the fight in the rain. Hamilton and Max Verstappen are both known for performing well in the wet, possibly a leveller but definitely exciting!

Lights out and all eyes turned to Verstappen and Hamilton. Both got a great launch, but Valtteri Bottas had an absolutely dreadful start with wheel spin from third. Lando Norris got in front of him off the line but was tapped by Bottas from behind who had missed his breaking point. Norris then crashed into Verstappen and Bottas hit Sergio Perez. Norris and Verstappen managed to carry on with significant damage, but Bottas and Perez were out.

Further back in turn 1, Lance Stroll tried to avoid some cars by heading towards the apex, but ended up on the grass and collected Charles Leclerc who hit and spun around Daniel Ricciardo. Unfortunately, that was the race over for Leclerc.

Ricciardo kept going and Stroll was able to keep driving after damage to the front of his car. A red flag was called to gather the debris left around turn 1. This allowed the Red Bull team to fix Verstappen’s car, potentially saving him from retirement. Norris and Stroll then had to retire due to the damage from the incident.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull (Mark Thompson, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool)

Hamilton was still in P1, but others had benefited from a high attrition first corner. Ocon and Sebastian Vettel were the biggest winners, starting P2 and P3 respectively. Yuki Tsunoda was in P5, Carlos Sainz P4 and the Williams’ were P6 and P8 whilst Verstappen had really lost out and started in P13. A fight from the back was on after quick recovery work by Red Bull. There was a standing re-start as the sun came out to a now quickly drying track, but the question then was slicks or inters?

Hamilton was the only one starting on the grid, so the race was in the pits with everyone coming in for slicks. George Russell came out on top, and with Hamilton pitting after it looked like Russell would lead the race, but Russell was told by the FIA to give back the places he’d taken in the pitlane. Mercedes didn’t come out well with Hamilton boxing after the restart and ending up last and importantly behind Verstappen. So, on lap 5 Ocon was leading the race, with Vettel P2 and Nicholas Latifi P3. Hamilton was catching Verstappen who still had damage, so the race was on!

Verstappen managed to get past Pierre Gasly but then became stuck behind Mick Schumacher for five laps before passing him with a daring move through Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4. They did touch but both were able to carry on. Meanwhile Hamilton was struggling behind Gasly, locking up a few times but both Gasly and Hamilton managed to pass Schumacher in the next two laps.

Hamilton stopped for hard tyres on lap 20 in an attempt to change the strategy and go longer. Red Bull and Verstappen responded so made the stop just one lap later. Ricciardo pitted at the same time as Verstappen, and he came out in front of the Red Bull. Hamilton was coming down the straight as the pair came out of the pits. Hamilton took advantage and got past not only Verstappen but also Ricciardo, putting a vital car between the Championship rivals.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (Wolfgang Wilhelm / Mercedes AMG)

On lap 32, Hamilton was the fastest car in the race passing Tsunoda into P5 with a fantastic move while Verstappen was still behind Ricciardo in P12. This move caused Ferrari and Sainz to react, and with enough gap Sainz pitted and came back out in P4 with fresh tyres ready to defend against Hamilton.

Meanwhile Schumacher was doing a great job in the Haas to keep 4 drivers behind him. However, after many laps of battling, Russell finally made it past Schumacher on lap 33 with a brave move on the outside of Turn 2. Schumacher then begun to lose places rapidly to Ricciardo and Verstappen on the next lap, very important for Verstappen in terms of the championship.

From the front, Vettel pitted with a slow stop but came out in P3, ahead of Sainz and Hamilton. Ocon told to push but Alpine appeared to have the advantage with both cars in the podium places fight. A good stop meant Ocon came out ahead of Vettel, but Vettel tried to fight it into Turn 4. Sadly for him nothing came of it and with only Fernando Alonso in front of Ocon it looked to be an Alpine win from lap 39.

It wasn’t over at the front though. Sainz and Hamilton in P3 and P4 were catching the leaders at a rapid pace. However, Hamilton pitted on lap 48 for the mediums. He came out behind Alonso, but this would mean he could push to the end of the race, with flashbacks to Hungary 2019 and Spain 2021. Vettel got closer to Ocon through the back markers in an attempt to pass him for the lead. On lap 50 the fight was not over with Vettel having DRS and the pressure piling on Ocon.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin (Courtesy of Aston Martin media)

Verstappen finally made a move on Ricciardo for P10 on Lap 61 and the final points position. This could be an important point for the championship and impressive driving considering the significant damage still on his car from lap 1.

On lap 57 a brilliant battle between Hamilton and Alonso began, Alonso defending and making the Alpine the widest thing on the track. This epic battle continued for over 10 laps, but Hamilton was eventually close enough when Alonso made a rare mistake and locked up into Turn 1. This did create problems for Hamilton though, who was on a mission to get to the front. However, catching Sainz on older tyres in P3 meant that just two laps later, Hamilton was in the podium places, but the gap was too big for Hamilton to catch Vettel in P2.

Esteban Ocon won the Hungarian Grand Prix! The first win for him and a great turn around since a relatively poor run of form. Vettel was in P2 after a great drive from the restart. Sainz was P4 ahead of Alonso, Gasly sneaked in a fastest lap right at the end in P6, and Tsunoda was P7. Both Williams finished in the points with Latifi P8 and Russell P9, which is vital for the constructors and their first double points finish since 2018. Russell finally managed to get those illusive points in a Williams!

For the championship Hamilton gained points on Verstappen, who finished P10, and leads going into the summer break. This has been a real swing in momentum after the British Grand Prix in the favour of Mercedes and Hamilton. It is all to play for as the teams regroup and look to improve for Spa at the end of August.