Lewis Hamilton finally put Mercedes top of the timesheets this afternoon in qualifying for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix, just edging the Red Bull of reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel who will start 2nd.
The session saw Mercedes set fastest times in each of the three qualifying segments, proving once again that the MGP W04 is the sport’s car to beat this season.
Q1 saw the usual crop of Marussia and Caterham victims, but the big name included in the drop zone was that of Paul Di Resta, who branded the session his ‘worst qualifying of the year’.
‘We can’t understand why we don’t have the speed from the softs’ complained the Scot who finds himself in the first cull of drivers for the 3rd time this year. He was joined by Esteban Gutierrez who did his best to recover from missing FP3 with an engine problem but had to settle for 17th.
Q2 proved a close call for Mark Webber who was struggling with yet another KERS failure, but he battled through the falling temperatures as cloud covered the circuit and scrambled through to the final session with 8th place, joining potential replacement Daniel Ricciardo who once again managed to push his Toro Rosso into Q3.
It was less successful for Jenson Button, the Briton dropping out in 13th after hitting understeer in his final run that scuppered his hopes of making it through; to rub salt into the wounds it was team mate Sergio Perez who ensured McLaren had at least one car in the top ten shootout by beating the 2006 and 2011 Hungarian Grand Prix’ winner by a slender, but vital 0.2 seconds.
Adrian Sutil and Nico Hulkenberg made it an all-German affair in 11th and 12th, while Jean Eric Vergne followed Button ahead of the Williams duo of Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas.
The final session itself began tamely as the runners tentatively felt their way round the circuit, until Sebastian Vettel showed his hand with a lap some 0.8 seconds quicker than his rivals. Romain Grosjean was first to respond in the dying moments, but could only get within 0.1 of the Red Bull driver in an effort that saw him beat team mate Raikkonen by some 0.2 seconds. Rosberg was next to challenge, but he too came up short and slumped to 4th by the chequered flag as team mate Hamilton blitzed the track to claim his 4th pole position of the season for Mercedes. Vettel responded with a lap just 0.038 slower, but must fancy his chances in the race considering Mercedes woeful tyre management record so far this year.
“I was really surprised when the guys told me over the radio that I was on pole today. It was a good lap but I thought Sebastian had done enough. So it’s fantastic – and also to get three pole positions in a row. It’s great to start from the front but, like we know, the race is where we score the points. Looking to tomorrow, this is a tough circuit to overtake on but it’s also a long run down to the first corner, and both Seb and the Lotus cars will be really quick. We have a good car but the race will come down to how we use the tyres. We are working hard to improve in that area and we had some reasonable long runs yesterday.” Lewis Hamilton
“I put a strong lap in and had two sets of new tyres; I was pretty happy with both laps, maybe on the second I was losing out a bit in the middle sector and perhaps I wasn’t aggressive enough, but it’s no help to sit here now and say we should have done this or that. At the end of the day my lap wasn’t quick enough. Mercedes have a very strong qualifying pace. I would have loved to have been a little bit faster and be on pole, but it still puts us in a great place for tomorrow. We have a good car and good race pace.” Sebastian Vettel
“It’s been a good weekend so far with the car consistently showing strong pace. Setting the fastest time in practice this morning was a good sign, and the car was handling really well throughout each qualifying session. I think tomorrow will be very open and a lot will depend on strategy, traffic and things like that, so if we can put everything together there’s the strong possibility for a good result.” Romain Grosjean
“When we run fresh rubber, I can’t get enough front-end in the car – we’re maxed out – so I’m struggling. In a way, that’s a positive – because it means we’ve introduced downforce to the rear of the car. And hopefully that situation will change for the race, when you can play around with things in the cockpit a little more, and there’s generally less rear grip for everyone. I’m a little disappointed as I’d hoped for a bit more here. I think that’s because it’s been difficult to balance the car – but, hopefully, we’ll show a little bit more pace in the race. I’m sure we can still have fun tomorrow.” Jenson Button
“A tough session and I am a bit confused as to why we struggled so much on the soft tyre. Throughout all the sessions we’ve looked more competitive on the softs, but in Q1 they just didn’t switch on. We’ve given ourselves a lot of work to do tomorrow, but we will go away and come back refreshed and ready to fight. We need to move forward so we will think hard tonight about the strategy, but at least we have plenty of new tyres available. I think the main puzzle we need to solve is what happened to our performance today so that we can bounce back tomorrow.” Paul Di Resta
“What I do feel positive about today is my pace relative to my team-mate, especially as we had a mistake that lost me time on my quick lap. My objective has been to try to improve on my qualifying pace and it is nice to see all the hard work paying off there. Although tomorrow will be a challenging race, I’m confident that we can make up some of the ground we have lost with a good strategy and our normally improved race pace.” Max Chilton
CLASSIFICATION – QUALIFYING – HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX
|10||Webber||Red Bull||No Time|
|18||Di Resta||Force India||1:22:043|
|20||Van Der Garde||Caterham||1:23:333|