‘Alonso repaid Alpine faith in one race at Hungary’

Date published: August 4 2021 - Jamie Woodhouse

Fernando Alonso Esteban Ocon

Mika Hakkinen believes that Lewis Hamilton would have taken victory from Esteban Ocon in Hungary, if it were not for Fernando Alonso.

The damp conditions at the start set up a classic Hungarian Grand Prix, one where Ocon found himself out in front and clear from the threat of the usual front runners.

Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez were out after first-lap contact, a crash triggered by Bottas, while title challenger Max Verstappen suffered heavy bodywork damage in the shunt.

Hamilton meanwhile, was the only driver to take the standing race restart, while all other remaining runners dived into the pits for dry tyres.

Once the Briton pitted on the following lap, he came back out into the race last, and so the reality of the task ahead began to set in.

Hamilton is somewhat of a specialist though when it comes to recovery drives, but his lightning progress was delayed for 10 laps by a defensive masterclass from Alonso in the Alpine.

The team have said that the Spaniard’s efforts were crucial in protecting Ocon from the approaching Hamilton, and two-time champ Hakkinen is certain Ocon would not have won that race without Alonso’s assistance.

Fernando Alonso Lewis Hamilton

Check out all the latest Fernando Alonso merchandise on the official Formula 1 store

“Like everyone else I have never seen one car line up on the grid before, so it was really extraordinary to see Lewis Hamilton on his own after the red-flag restart,” Hakkinen wrote in his Unibet column.

“The team should really have pitted him so that he could switch tyres like everyone else, and when he fell down to last place it seemed impossible that he could still score a podium finish.

“But Lewis loves a challenge, particularly a recovery drive.

“I really believe he would have won the race had Fernando Alonso not managed to keep him behind.

“When you consider that Lewis finished the race 4.5 seconds behind Esteban Ocon, and was lapping so much faster, Alpine really can thank Fernando for using all his experience to keep the Mercedes behind. That was a really fascinating duel to watch.

“In one race Fernando has repaid Alpine for the faith they have shown in him.

“I think it is brilliant that Alpine have won a Grand Prix. The last time a French car and engine won race was with Alain Prost at Renault in 1983, so this is a very special moment for Alpine – in its first season for the brand in F1 – and for the Renault Group.

“It will really give the team an enormous boost, and is a perfect result for Ocon after recently signing a new three year contract.”