It was the battle of F1 Champions when Hamilton came up against Fernando in the Hungarian GP. He may be 40 years old, but the former World Champion kept the defending World Champion behind him for 10 laps. The moves were reminiscent of Fernando of the 2000s.
Fernando not only denied Hamilton his 100th F1 victory but also made sure teammate Esteban Ocon took his first F1 victory. Let’s not forget all the factors that resulted in the Alpine taking the victory. The chaos on the opening lap meant it was a chance for the lower teams to take big points.
Hamilton was almost 4 seconds faster than the cars ahead of him. It was only a matter of time before he would take the race lead and his 100th F1 victory. But it took 10 laps for him to get past Fernando and that made all the difference. Hamilton was left with only 3 laps to chase down the victory.
Fernando managed to place his car perfectly at the exit of Turn 2 for a number of laps to stop Hamilton from getting the cutback for Turn 3 or a run into Turn 4, frustrating the Briton. Hamilton complained about one of Fernando’s aggressive moves over the radio, but the stewards did not see a need to take any action.
Fernando can still tango
Fernando deservedly won Driver of the Day for his effort. Speaking after the race he said how important the battle was to secure the win for Ocon and Alpine. And also to reduce the deficit for Verstappen. “It was hard to keep Lewis behind – but it was important for the team”.
Fernando said he was aware of the race situation by looking at the big screens around the track and didn’t need Alpine telling him how crucial it was to delay Hamilton’s rise through the ranks.
“No, the team didn’t tell me anything, but I knew more or less what the situation of the race was,” he explained. “I was looking at the biggest screens, I knew that Esteban and Vettel were fighting, and they were like two corners in front of us.
“With 20 laps to the end and Lewis coming two or three seconds faster, that was enough to win the race probably, so I knew that every lap I could hold him behind, that was gold for Esteban’s win.”
It was never going to be a straightforward win for the Alpine. Ocon drove a perfect race, leading for 65 laps after the restart. An error by Mercedes saw Hamilton on the intermediate compound tyres while the rest of the grid chose to pit for dry compounds. This meant Hamilton had to pit on the first lap after the restart and had to rejoin in last position.
Fernando’s performances this season have been incredible. Alpine hired him to help them develop their car and Fernando brings mountains of experience with him. Now the 2-time World Champion is a regular top 10 finisher. He has helped the team to 5th place on the constructor table.
Alpine’s Sporting Director Alan Permane praised Fernando for his performance. “Incredible, absolutely incredible. Honestly, he’s happy for us, he’s happy for Esteban, but I know he’s frustrated. Because he wants to, you know, he wants to win.”
“If he’d have got past him on the first lap, like he got past Carlos [Sainz, ahead of Alonso in third] on the first time past I’m sure Lewis would have been there.
“I think what we would have done is then just drop back a bit, give Seb the DRS and use that to protect a little bit but I don’t know if we would have held him off.”