The best Formula 1 season in years somehow stepped up the drama levels another notch at an extraordinary Hungarian Grand Prix.
It was a race that had everything. A shock winner, a multi-car pile-up on a chaotic first lap and one of the most surreal sights in F1 history - a single car on the grid for a start.
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That car was Lewis Hamilton's, after he and his Mercedes team made a misjudgement in not coming in for a change to dry-weather slick tyres when every other driver on the grid did.
That mistake left Hamilton down in last place after five laps in a race in which his team-mate Valtteri Bottas had already inadvertently taken out both the cars of their rival Red Bull team, further worsening the already dire relations between the two title contenders, and leading to a frosty exchange between their respective bosses.
Through the chaos came Esteban Ocon to take a most unlikely but well deserved victory for the Alpine team. A win thanks in no small part to team-mate Fernando Alonso, who used all his experience and renowned race-craft to hold back Hamilton for a crucial 10 laps when the seven-time champion was hunting a win in the closing stages.
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A most unlikely maiden victory
Ocon's victory was made in the chaotic opening seconds of the race, when Bottas and Aston Martin's Lance Stroll made separate errors and collided with many of the leading contenders.
On a wet track, Bottas made a poor start from second on the grid behind Hamilton and then, as rivals swept past him, misjudged his braking point for the first corner.
He smashed into the back of Lando Norris' McLaren, which rammed Max Verstappen's Red Bull, before an out-of-control Bottas then collected the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez.
Behind, Stroll made the same mistake, dodging to the inside on to the grass to avoid Ocon and smashing into Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, taking him out.
Ocon, who had started eighth, had chosen the inside for the first corner. After the near-miss with Stroll, the track opened up in front of him, and he found himself in second place behind Hamilton.
The race was stopped to clear the track of debris, and at the re-start Ocon led the rest of the field into the pits for slick tyres at the end of the formation lap.
Hamilton had been radioing to his team all the way around that the track was dry, but they knew that if they pitted they would definitely lose places, as they would have to hold Hamilton until all the other cars that pitted came past, to avoid an unsafe release. And while they expected some cars to pit for slicks, they thought some would stay out.
They thought their best bet in that context was to stay out, but they were wrong. Hamilton was left alone on the grid and by the time he had done a lap on his intermediates with the others on slicks, he had lost enough time that he rejoined last.
For Ocon, now in the lead, the job was far from done. Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was right behind him in his Aston Martin. The pair built a lead as Williams' Nicholas Latifi, normally a back marker, held up the rest of the field, but it soon became clear that Vettel was quicker.
Ocon, though, drove with calm assurance throughout under heavy pressure to deliver an impressive win.
"Esteban made the difference," Vettel said. "He drove fantastic and he didn't make a mistake."
A winner from humble origins
Like so many first-time winners, Ocon was somewhat overwhelmed. "It's an awesome moment in my career," he said.
Ocon has not had an easy road to this moment. F1 has a bit of a reputation these days as being a playground for the sons of extremely wealthy men - Vettel's team-mate Lance Stroll is the son of his team owner; Latifi's father is one of the richest men in Canada.
But Ocon comes from a humble background. At one point, his family sold their house to fund his career and they lived in a caravan for a time.
He has paid his dues in F1, making a debut in 2016, losing his seat at Force India (now Aston Martin) at the end of 2018 when Lawrence Stroll bought the team, and spending a year as reserve driver for Mercedes before returning to the grid with Renault last year.
Having morphed into Alpine - the French car giant's niche sporting brand - for 2021, Ocon started the season well and was recently rewarded with a new three-year deal.
His future assured, he has now paid his team back handsomely.
"What a moment," he said. "It feels so good."
A big helping hand from a legend
Ocon was quick after the race to offer his gratitude to Alonso, without whose efforts he may well have lost out to Hamilton.
The world champion was closing on the leading bunch of Ocon, Vettel, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and Alonso hand over fist after a second pit stop for fresh tyres, and had his sights set on victory.
Hamilton's pit stop dropped him behind Alonso, and he rejoined 12 seconds adrift of the Spaniard. Alonso, who celebrated his 40th birthday on Thursday, was on his own charge at this point, quicker than all three cars in front of him and with his own fleeting hopes of victory, he later admitted.
Within five laps, Hamilton was on his tail and so much quicker that the Mercedes seemed sure to go by. But Alonso is possibly the best racer - in terms of knowing how to position his car in attack and defence - on the entire grid. And he held Hamilton off for 10 thrilling laps, well aware that in doing so he was securing his team's victory.
"The team didn't tell me anything," Alonso said, "but I knew more or less what the situation of the race was. I was looking at the big screens.
"I knew Esteban and Vettel were fighting and they were, like, two corners in front of us and with 20 laps to the end and Lewis coming two or three seconds faster that was enough [for Hamilton] to win the race probably.
"I knew every lap I could hold him behind was gold for Esteban's win.
"I thought honestly I could not hold him for more than one or two of laps, but in the last couple of corners he seemed to struggle a little bit to follow me and it was enough to open up a gap on the straight and defend.
"I think he learned a couple of different lines in the last three corners after the 10 laps behind me and he was able to pass Carlos in just one lap applying those new lines."
Hamilton complained on the radio a couple of times about what he saw as over-zealous defending, but admitted afterwards: "Now, looking back on it, it was amazing. It really, really was fantastic.
"It's a really difficult circuit to overtake on in general, and to follow particularly in that last sector, but great, great wheel-to-wheel battles.
"He probably is one of the hardest drivers - but fair. [Although] I'd say today was maybe a little bit on the limit."
Ocon interrupted: "He has to do that to keep you behind!"
To which Hamilton replied: "Yeah, I totally get it and I would do the same for my team."
Hamilton finally got by with five laps to go, when Alonso, with Hamilton closer behind than ever, ran slightly wide into Turn One, which was enough for the Mercedes to make the move into Turn Two. Sainz was quickly dispatched, and Hamilton crossed the line less than a second behind Vettel at the flag.
"We lost a lot of time behind Fernando and that made Esteban win the race and that is good," Wolff said. "And you know the thing with karma, maybe we didn't deserve to win today.
"He defended hard. Maybe one thing on the straight was tough, but he races well. His race-craft is enormous and you can see the result. He made Alpine win the race with a young French driver and when you're out there that's what you're supposed to do."
The effect on the title fight
Hamilton's recovery drive was excellent and that, coupled with a bad day for Verstappen, has given the Mercedes driver a six-point lead going into the summer break.
Verstappen's race was effectively ended by the first-lap crash, which badly damaged his car. The team taped up the car in the relatively brief red-flag period but when the race re-started, Verstappen's Red Bull was wounded.
On the right-hand side, it was missing chunks of its floor, and the entire section of aerodynamic shapers behind the front wheel. Together, these account for a huge amount of downforce. "It was almost impossible to drive, to be honest," he said.
Verstappen was 11th at the re-start and in a healthy car would have been expected, like Hamilton, to make up a lot of ground. Instead, he "drove his heart out", as Horner put it, and managed to snatch 10th on the road towards the end of the race.
The last two races have not been happy for Red Bull. Verstappen went to the British Grand Prix with a 32-point lead in the championship, only to crash with Hamilton at Silverstone and then be taken out by Bottas' error in Hungary. The result has been a 38-point swing in Hamilton's favour.
Not only that, but there is a strong possibility that Verstappen is looking at grid penalties later in the year. Honda had hoped that the engine in his car in the Silverstone crash would be salvageable. They checked it in Japan between the two races and ran it on the first two days in Hungary, but then discovered a crack and had to change it for the race.
The result is Verstappen is now on his third and final permitted engine, and it won't be easy to eke out the remaining engine miles they have for however many races remain in this Covid-affected season without taking a fourth.
Another bad sign for Red Bull is that for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix in early May, Mercedes had a clear performance advantage in Hungary.
To make their car balanced and driveable, Red Bull had to take off rear downforce and run a smaller rear wing, something a team would never normally do in Hungary, where what's wanted is as much downforce as possible.
Mercedes expect this will be a one-off. But there is no doubt that an upgrade introduced by Mercedes in Silverstone has moved them forward, and at the same time Red Bull seem to have lost the prodigious straight-line speed seen in France and the two races in Austria. Mercedes do not understand this, as they have not added any more power.
Unsurprisingly, all this has left Horner in a foul mood. Wolff tried to apologise to him after the race for Bottas' error, as the two crossed paths during their TV interviews, but Horner brushed him off.
"Is he going to pay the bill?" Horner said witheringly, before going on to complain that the sport needs to look at the issue of teams losing cars and engines through no fault of their own when a budget cap has been introduced this year. Complaints that got short shrift from McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl, for one.
Horner described Red Bull's fate in the last two races as "the brutality of racing".
But he added: "You know what? We're within the difference of a first and second place in points differences. We've had some hugely bad luck the last couple of races but we'll brush ourselves down, and we will come out fighting for the second half of this championship.
"There's a long way to go and and it's going to be epic the second half of the year."