Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer believes the team's Renault power unit is within 10 brake horsepower of the best on the grid.

A strong start to the 2022 Formula One season has seen Alpine score points in each of the first three races.

Esteban Ocon has finished in the points in every race, though Fernando Alonso has failed to do so in each of the last two events, suffering misfortune in Saudi Arabia and Australia.

After struggling with engine performance last season, the team at Renault's Viry-Chatillon powertrain division concentrated on delivering a major upgrade for 2022.

Szafnauer has been impressed with the work they have done, the strength of this year's engine carrying extra significance because of a development freeze in place until the end of 2025.

"We think we've made a step on the power unit," Szafnauer said. "And we're within probably 10bhp of the best, and somewhere in the middle.

"I think Viry have done a brilliant job. And it's up to us now to keep developing the car.

"So that [the development freeze] allows us to work closer with our power unit team to make some improvements that we might be able to make with architecture changes on the chassis.

"Some other things that are still free to us. But also to now focus with what we have to improve on the chassis for the future."

Alonso was forced to retire in Saudi Arabia after a water pump failure led his engine to overheat, with Alpine unable to save that unit.

He was on a lap that may have put him in contention for pole in Melbourne, only for an oil pressure drop to force his engine to shut down in Q3.

The two-time world champion was last among the 17 drivers to finish the race, having seen several strategy calls backfire.

"It was O-ring on an oil seal," said Szafnauer of Alonso's qualifying failure. "The O-ring fretted, the oil leaked out.

"We have a fail-safe mode to try to save the engine, so when you see a drop in oil pressure, the fail-safe mode kicked in. And that's what happened. So the fix was an O-ring change."

F1 returns to action in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix this weekend at Imola, where Ocon and Alonso finished ninth and 10th respectively last year.

Mercedes will learn from a costly mistake at the Hungarian Grand Prix according to Lewis Hamilton, who will have to wait a while longer to win his 100th Formula One race.

In a thrilling race on Sunday, Hamilton – who is on 99 career victories – had to charge up through the field just to claim a podium finish at a track where he has won on eight previous occasions.

Hamilton started in pole position, yet a crash at Turn One caused by his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who has been handed a five-place grid penalty for the next event in the season, resulted in the need for the red flag.

Max Verstappen, Hamilton's championship rival, was involved, though the Red Bull driver managed to continue – albeit in a heavily patched up car.

Five other drivers, including Bottas, were not so fortunate, but upon the restart, Mercedes made an error when they advised Hamilton more rain was scheduled to arrive at the Hungaroring. 

However, the skies had cleared and the track had already dried up. With every other remaining driver electing to switch to dry tyres, Hamilton was left as the only car on the starting grid.

Mercedes realised the situation quickly but, by the time Hamilton had pitted, he was stuck last in 14th place, forcing him to battle his way back to secure a quite remarkable third place, behind maiden F1 race winner Esteban Ocon and veteran campaigner Sebastian Vettel.

"Today was definitely tough, we always make it difficult for ourselves," said Hamilton, who looked visibly exhausted on the podium.

"It's crazy to think we were the only ones on the grid at the start, but these things happen and we learn from them. I gave it everything, and I had nothing left at the end.

"I was telling the team how the track was through the formation lap, but they said rain was coming when I got back in the car, so I thought they had other information. I then saw everyone diving in [to the pits].

"We came in this weekend and didn't know how it was going to go and considering the circumstances today, I'll take it."

Hamilton and Mercedes at least had a better race than Red Bull. Sergio Perez was one of the drivers to crash out, along with Bottas, Charles Leclerc, Lance Stroll and Lando Norris, while Verstappen just scraped into the points in 10th.

It means Hamilton now holds a six-point lead over Verstappen at the top of the drivers' standings, while Mercedes also top the constructors' championship heading into an extended mid-season break, with the next race – in Belgium – scheduled for August 29.

"Again, taken out by a Mercedes, it's not what you want. From then on, I was missing the whole side of my car, the floor was damaged as well, it was almost impossible to drive to be honest. I still tried my best and I scored one point, it is at least something, but of course not what you want," Verstappen told Sky Sports.

"No, it's not [a reset]. These moments, they're just disappointing but I know that when we go again after the break I will be there again. I hope my car is going to be competitive, we'll find out.

"It's a lot of freak moments at the moment that have cost us a lot of points. We will never give up, we have to focus on ourselves, we'll keep pushing and see where we end up."

Ocon, meanwhile, was overjoyed to seal his first ever F1 race triumph. The 24-year-old Frenchman secured Alpine's maiden victory under its new name, and its first as a team since Kimi Raikkonen won the 2013 Australian Grand Prix.

"What a moment," Ocon said. "We've had some difficult moments this season, but we are back where we belong.

"Sebastian put me under big pressure but we managed to keep him off, so it's a great moment."

Lewis Hamilton was denied a 100th Formula One race win but charged up from last to finish on the podium in a dramatic Hungarian Grand Prix, leapfrogging championship leader Max Verstappen in the process.

There was chaos from the off at the Hungaroring, where Esteban Ocon triumphed to hand Alpine an unlikely victory.

Like two weeks ago at Silverstone, the race was suspended after a collision at Turn One. Unlike on that occasion, Hamilton – who started in pole has he hunted a record ninth win in Hungary – was not involved, but Verstappen was.

Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was at fault, with five drivers forced out in total. 

Verstappen survived, albeit with a damaged car, and an apparent mistake from Mercedes after the restart sent Hamilton down from first to last.

Yet the seven-time world champion battled back, leaving Verstappen – who just scraped into the points – well in his wake as he took top spot in the championship standings while Ocon celebrated a maiden F1 success.

After the furore at Silverstone, the pre-race build-up was dominated by talk of possible danger at Turn One, and so it came as little surprise when, in wet and greasy conditions, Bottas failed to judge the timing of when to brake.

Bottas, who was given a five-place grid penalty for the Belgian Grand Prix, Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and Charles Leclerc were all out by the time the red flag was raised, with Lando Norris, on a 15-race streak of finishing in the points, also unable to continue.

There was more drama to come. After the restart formation lap, only Hamilton started from the grid, with all other 14 drivers choosing to switch tyres as the rain eased off and the track dried.

By the time he had pitted, Hamilton had fallen to last.

The 36-year-old recovered, getting the better of Antonio Giovinazzi before, on the 21st lap, undercutting Verstappen, who was held up by Daniel Ricciardo's sluggish exit from the pit lane.

Hamilton continued his charge up the field, and at one stage it seemed like an incredible victory could be on the cards.

However, his push was held up by Fernando Alonso, who expertly held his own in a thrilling 10-lap tussle.

A frustrated Hamilton finally got beyond his former McLaren team-mate on lap 65, with Carlos Sainz's efforts to hold onto third proving fruitless.

Hamilton's remarkable run stopped there and, though a milestone success on the track where he won his first Mercedes triumph in 2013 alluded him, he has the championship lead.

Alonso's defence ultimately ensured victory for Alpine team-mate Ocon, with Sebastian Vettel holding off Hamilton to seal a second podium finish of the season.

IN THE POINTS

1. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.918 seconds
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +2.540s
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +15.018s
5. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +15.651s
6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1:03.614s
7. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1:15.803s
8. Nicholas Latifi (Williams) +1:17.910s
9. George Russell (Williams) +1:19.094s
10. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1:20.244s 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 192
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 186
3. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 113
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 108
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 104

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 300
2. Red Bull – 290
3. McLaren – 163
4. Ferrari – 160
5. Alpine – 75

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