Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG F1 team mastered a soaking wet track to take an exciting pole position at the Hungarian GP. The two Finns – Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen – claimed P2 and P3, after both being on provisional pole for a while. Hamilton’s title rival – Sebastian Vettel could only manage P4. Carlos Sainz of Renault and Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso rounded off the top-six.
Hamilton Takes an Exciting Pole in the Wet
Q1: Vettel tops while Leclerc drops out in mixed conditions
The first qualifying session started under cloudy and humid conditions with air temperatures at 25 degrees C and track temperatures at 31 degrees C. Seeing a partly wet track and imminent rain, all cars started out on the green-striped intermediate tyres. Raikkonen set the initial benchmark time after the first runs.
With no rain falling yet, most cars reverted to slick ultrasoft tyres for second runs and lap times started falling. Vettel went fastest with a time of 1:16.666s, while Ricciardo just managed to scrape through with a 1:18.540s. Surprisingly, Ricciardo was the only driver on the yellow-striped soft tyres. Drivers who dropped out at the end of the session were Charles Leclerc, Stoffel Vandoorne, Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon and Sergey Sirotkin. Marcus Ericsson out-qualified his teammate and managed to get into Q2.
Q2: Vettel tops again as rain starts falling and Ricciardo drops out
The second qualifying session started on a drying track with most cars on the slick ultrasoft tyres. Vettel was the only driver to start on intermediate tyres. But, with rain starting to fall mid-way into the outlap of most drivers, only Vettel completed the lap, setting a benchmark time of 1:28.636s. All other drivers went back to the pits to change to intermediate tyres. With conditions deteriorating, Vettel’s benchmark time remained fastest for Q2.
Lance Stroll spun and hit the barriers taking out his front-wing. Raikkonen also spun but managed to stay out of trouble. Kevin Magnussen took on the blue-striped full wet tyres first and then all the rest of the drivers followed suit. Ricciardo left it very late to drop out in 12th position. Nico Hulkenberg was another surprise drop-out at 13th. Others in the drop zone were Fernando Alonso, Marcus Ericsson, and Lance Stroll. Both the Toro Rosso drivers managed to scrape through to Q3.
Q3: Rain starts pouring for an anti-climax
The top-ten shootout started under pouring rain and all the cars started on full wet tyres. With Vettel going fastest in both previous sessions and Raikkonen looking strong, Mercedes were looking to salvage the second row. Even though Hamilton set the initial benchmark time after the first runs, Raikkonen came up with a fine lap to claim provisional pole for a long while. Numerous Finnish fans in the grandstands gave out a huge cheer sensing a long overdue pole position for Kimi. Vettel could not match his teammate this time around.
In the dying minutes of Q3, Mercedes pitted both their drivers for a new set of wet tyres. Bottas responded with a great lap to just pip Raikkonen’s time. Then entered the modern day “regenmeister” – Lewis Hamilton with a nail-biting lap of 1:35.658s claimed his sixth pole position at the Hungaroring. Carlos Sainz did well for a career-best P5, as did Pierre Gasly for P6.
The Last Word – Sunday’s race might be a see-saw in either wet or dry conditions
With Ferrari looking strong but unable to take pole, Mercedes’ front row lockout will be challenged by the red cars in a dry race. The Red Bull cars had a lackluster qualifying but may well be strong in the race. Toro Rosso looked strong while Hulkenberg and Leclerc will surely fight back after an unexpected grid slot. Though Hungaroring is notorious for lack of overtaking opportunities, this time you can expect the unexpected.
The complete qualifying time-sheet:
|6||10||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:18.577||1:31.286||1:37.591||25|
|7||33||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:16.940||1:31.178||1:38.032||24|
|8||28||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:18.429||1:32.590||1:38.128||25|
|12||3||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:18.540||1:36.442||21|
|18||31||Force India Mercedes||1:19.142||12|
|19||11||Force India Mercedes||1:19.200||11|
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