Hungarian GP: Hamilton eases to his 22nd pole position at the Hungaroring
By Berthold Bouman
A dry and hot Hungaroring was ready this afternoon for qualifying for round 11 of the FIA Formula One World Championship: the Hungarian Grand Prix. Drivers were certainly not in a hurry to venture onto the track at the start of the first session, top teams who thought not to have any problems to make it into the second session stayed in the garage to save tyres.
The first real fast time in Q1 was set by Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, he lapped the circuit in 1m23.273s, not much later the Finn improved his own time and clocked a lap of 1m22.689s.
With ten minutes still to go the Hungaroring became a busy place and it was difficult to find enough space for a free lap, Massa was complaining over the radio he was being blocked by Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes, but engineer Rob Smedley calmed the Brazilian down — who at the time was fifth fastest.
With seven minutes to go Lewis Hamilton was leading for McLaren, he was followed by Bruno Senna, Raikkonen, Mark Webber, Romain Grosjean, and Sebastian Vettel was sixth. Fernando Alonso was 16th in the Ferrari and had to go out on a set of soft Pirellis to improve his time, he did so and clocked a lap of 1m22.095s, good for third place at the time.
Also Schumacher and Jenson Button went out on a set of the soft tyres to make sure they would make it into the next session. Interestingly enough, at that moment both Red Bull drivers were in the danger zone on 15th and 16th place, but they stayed in the garage and took a huge risk to be bumped out of the top 17, just to save a set of soft tyres. They were lucky as Kamui Kobayashi was the last to improve his time and the Japanese driver took 15th place, demoting Webber and Vettel to 16th and 17th place.
Daniel Ricciardo, Heikki Kovalainen, Vitaly Petrov, Charles Pic, Timo Glock and both HRT drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan did not make it into Q2.
First out in Q2 was Schumacher, who was in a hurry to set a timed lap, rumours suggest Mercedes has also been affected by the new engine mapping rules. The German ran wide and had to abort his fast lap, meanwhile his team colleague Nico Rosberg was also on track, and of course all drivers were on the soft tyres in Q2.
But it was another German, Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India, who set the pace in Q2 with a lap of 1m21.906s. Button soon took second place, but he was again visibly struggling with the balance of his McLaren. With still seven minutes on the clock, Paul di Resta, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Schumacher, Hamilton and Jean-Eric Vergne were in the drop-out zone.
Hamilton soon did what he had to do and seemingly effortless put his McLaren on P1 with a lap of 1m21.060s, six-tenths of a second faster than Raikkonen who was second. Just five minutes to go and both Mercedes drivers were on 14th and 16th spot, while Alonso was also in the danger zone in tenth place.
The Spaniard left the garage for a fast lap in his Ferrari and soon scored third place. Rosberg also improved his time and moved up the order, but Schumacher was still 16th. Just one minute to go, and now Rosberg was bumped out of the top ten by Pastor Maldonado in the Williams.
But Maldonado, on his fastest lap, ran wide through the dust and Schumacher who was right behind him trying to improve his time, had to back off and could not complete his last lap. Again seven drivers didn’t make it into the next session: Webber, di Resta, Rosberg, Sergio Perez, Kobayashi, Vergne and Schumacher.
Button and Hamilton didn’t want to take any risks in Q3 and were first out to set a timed lap on the softs. The rest stayed in the garage for the time being. But Hamilton made a mistake on his first timed lap, he ran wide and had to do an extra lap to take first place.
With five minutes left on the clock the order was: Hamilton, Grosjean, Button and Raikkonen, while the others still had to make their first run. The top four drivers went back to the garage, and now Vettel had the track all to himself, and took second place.
Maldonado again made a mistake, this time on his first lap and was forced to use the escape road but was able to continue his run and took fourth place at the time. Now Vettel was the only driver in the pit lane, so he apparently was not interested in taking pole, and probably wanted to save a set of softs, as he was in second position when he returned to the garage.
Hamilton improved his time and he took pole with a lap of 1m20.953s, his 22nd career pole position, and McLaren’s 150th pole position. Grosjean did an excellent job for Lotus and took second place, Vettel was third, Button fourth, Raikkonen fifth, Alonso sixth, Massa seventh, Maldonado eighth, Senna ninth and Hulkenberg was tenth for Force India.
Of course Hamilton was satisfied with his pole, “Our upgrades are working. Jenson and I always want more speed still — that’s natural for any racing driver — but the guys back at Woking, and here in Budapest, have done a brilliant job. Our car now feels fantastic. We’ve been fine-tuning its setup all weekend. Believe me: as long as we remain fully focused on developing our car, and getting good results, then anything is still possible for us this year.”
And he added, “My feeling is that the start of tomorrow’s race will be extremely important. I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to make a clean getaway off the line and then stay ahead while looking after the tyres. I can’t wait for tomorrow’s race!”
Grosjean was happy to be back at the top again, and said, “We came here after a difficult weekend at Hockenheim and to be honest I didn’t get off to the best start yesterday. We worked hard to improve things overnight and the car felt much better in practice this morning. I’m very happy and just a little bit surprised to be P2 on the grid. Today’s job is done, let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Vettel was less enthusiastic as he used too many tyres to get third position, “We didn’t get into qualifying how we would like and the rhythm wasn’t there straight away. We burned more tyres than we thought in the beginning, so we only had one new set for Q3. We know it’s difficult to overtake here, but hopefully we will have a good start. Tyre management will be crucial.”
The weather tomorrow is expected to be the same as today, sunny and hot with ambient temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius. Again the tyres will play an important role, as some drivers had to use an extra set of softs, while others did not. The used softs will degrade faster and as we have seen all season, the last few laps of the race will probably decided who will emerge as the victor of the Hungarian Grand Prix tomorrow.