Ocon hails Alonso’s role in shock Hungary triumph

Jon Wilde
Esteban Ocon celebrates winning the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix

Esteban Ocon celebrates winning the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix

Esteban Ocon recognised the important part played by his Alpine team-mate Fernando Alonso straight after clinching a remarkable Hungarian Grand Prix victory.

The Frenchman benefited from a crazy start to the race caused by a rain shower just before lights out, sneaking up the inside into second position as Valtteri Bottas caused carnage at Turn 1 by running into the back of Lando Norris while Lance Stroll took out Charles Leclerc.

The race was red-flagged and upon the restart, with the sun shining on a quickly-drying Hungaroring track, Lewis Hamilton, who had been leading, was the only driver to line up on the grid as all the other 13 that remained in contention entered the pits for slick tyres.

Hamilton, realising the error, pitted on the next lap, but that left Ocon and Sebastian Vettel out in front as Nicholas Latifi, running third in the Williams, held up the rest of the field on a circuit where overtaking is notoriously difficult.

Latifi helped Ocon but so did Alonso much later when Hamilton was launching what he hoped would be a race-winning charge. For several laps, the Spaniard held off the Mercedes in a thrilling duel and by the time the seven-time World Champion got past it was too late, ultimately finishing third just behind Vettel, though that became P2 for Hamilton after Vettel’s disqualification.

For Ocon, it was a first Formula 1 triumph, his previous best placing having been second at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.

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“What a moment, it feels so good,” said the 24-year-old, whose form had recently taken a downturn after being given a new three-year contract by the Alpine team.

“It’s the first victory obviously since Renault came back into Formula 1. We had some difficult moments this season that we overcame together with the team. We came back to a fantastic pace at Silverstone and victory today, what can I say? It’s fantastic.

“Congrats to Fernando as well because I think the win is also thanks to him with the fight he did (and) his teamwork on that, so it’s been a fantastic day.”

Alonso, who previously had a reputation for not being the easiest to work with, waited for Ocon to arrive on foot in the paddock having parked his car on track and gave his younger colleague a warm embrace, the duo also having toured alongside each other during the in-lap.

“It has been awesome to work with Fernando since the beginning of the year,” added Ocon. “We are forming a real shock duo, I would say. We are working together, pushing the team to try and improve and get closer to the pack in front.

“Everyone told me a lot of things about Fernando but everything is wrong. I can tell you he’s a fantastic guy inside working and I’m really enjoying the collaboration we have together

“And a big thank you to the team for the trust everyone is putting in me. In difficult moments when you are out of Q1, in P17, you don’t know where you are exactly and the team kept a big trust and we are back where we belong, so that’s fantastic.”

After the race, while it will have done nothing to dilute his joy, Ocon received a reprimand from the stewards having not parked his car in the correct place.

Instead of stopping at the numbered boards by the Race Control tower, he came to rest at the end of the pit lane and had to run back, jubilantly punching the air.

The stewards report stated: “Ocon explained that he missed the pit entry and figured that the best place to stop would be close to the pit exit. He apologised and confirmed to be
more careful next time. The stewards do not assess this as a breach of parc ferme regulations.

“Ocon did not follow the race director’s instructions, however, and therefore a penalty (reprimand) is appropriate.”