Lewis Hamilton dug deep and delivered a stunning lap to steal pole position from Sebastian Vettel during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, in doing so the Mercedes driver claimed his third successive top spot starting slot for the first time in his career and his 30th F1 pole which moves him one clear of his hero Ayrton Senna in the all-time pole winners list.
All credit to Silver Arrows as they kept their famed one lap pace under wraps until it really mattered – qualifying – as prior to that, during the free practice sessions, they gave little indication of what they had in reserve. But it soon became evident that they had kept the best for last, as Hamilton topped Q1.
But Vettel, whose pace in the Red Bull was well know throughout the first two days, managed his tyres well and arrived in Q3 with two fresh sets to play with. He popped a very impressive 1:19.506 and sauntered back to the pits to bolt on his second set of fresh yellow band Pirelli tyres.
But Hamilton, the 2008 world champio,n had an answer to that as he knuckled down and popped an astounding 1:19.388, all eyes were on Vettel as he took his second shot at the prize but fell short by a mere 0.038. Hamilton will start the Hungarian GP from pole.
Hamilton, who won in Budapest back in his rookie season in 2007 and again last year, appeared surprised that he managed to beat Vettel.
He said afterwards, “With the [high] temperatures, it pretty tough. I was really surprised when I came across the line and they said I got pole. I didn’t feel like that was a great lap.”
“I thought Sebastian had got it. I’m really surprised, I thought maybe he made a mistake or something. We brought some upgrades this weekend, the guys are working hard and it’s a result of all hard work they’ve put in.”
“Starting on pole definitely helps as it’s difficult to follow here. It’s a long way down to Turn One, but if you can get there first and try and hold position, it’s definitely advantageous. These guys [Vettel and Grosjean] are going to be ridiculously fast so trying to keep in front or holding onto them is going to be the challenge.”
For world championship leader Vettel, who is targeting his fourth world title this season, conceded that Mercedes were faster on the day but would be pleased that his main championship rivals were only fifth and sixth. Nevertheless he appeared to be fuming as he exited his cockpit and stormed into the weigh in area. He cooled quickly after that, perhaps after realising that his plight may not be so bad after all.
“There wasn’t much missing today but Lewis did a good job. I was pretty happy with both laps because I had two sets of new tyres, maybe I wasn’t aggressive enough in the middle,” reflected the Red Bull driver.
“It is stupid to sit and say, we should have done this, and we should have done that. Mercedes have good pace in qualifying so you have to be fair and respect that. I would have loved to have been a little bit faster and on pole but we have a good car and in a good position. We should have a good race tomorrow and I am quite confident,” admitted Vettel.
If Germany was the first phase of the Romain Grosjean renaissance, then Hungary looks to be another step in his redemption. The Frenchman has thus far outclassed his experienced teammate Kimi Raikkonen in Budapest, and will start from third on the grid after giving an impressive performance in qualifying.
Grosjean told reporters, “I like this circuit, but that’s not important. It’s been a good weekend, we’ve been working hard with the team trying to get best out of the car. The last lap was pretty good. The race is very long and it’ll be very hot but we will see what we can do to get the best result. Option tyres are tight to make work, but the medium tyres are OK on our car. I can try to have a go tomorrow.”
Nico Rosberg had to again play second fiddle to his teammate by 0.332 seconds, and will start fourth on the grid.
Fifth fastest Fernando Alonso will head up the third row of the grid in his Ferrari, with the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen beside him in sixth, and Felipe Massa in seventh heading up the fourth row.
In the ‘battle for the other Red Bull seat’ Daniel Ricciardo did his shares no harm by out-qualifying Toro Rosso teammate (and one time candidate) Jean Eric Vergne. The pair will start 8th and 14th respectively, Ricciardo having made it into Q3 but Vergne failing to do so.
After the three free practice sessions in Hungary it seemed that McLaren had made a step forward, and perhaps they have, but qualifying did them no favours as Jenson Button failed to make it out of Q2 and will start 13th. Sergio Perez,despite crashing heavily a couple of hours earlier, impressed as he made it through to Q3. He will start ninth, and will be the first driver on the grid with the white band medium tyres (the harder of the offerings at Hungaroring) bolted on for the start.
‘Why always me’ must be ringing through Mark Webbers head as he once again endured a KERS problem on his Red Bull which put him out of the running in Q3. He will start tenth.
Out of the top ten and enduring a surprising drop in competitiveness were the Force India pair, with Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta starting 11th and 18th. Something is clearly amiss in Hungary with the hitherto impressive and effective VJM06. Either the heat, or the new tyre structure or even a combination of both may have impacted their performance.
Di Resta, who failed to make it beyond Q1, was fuming afterwards when he spoke to BBC, “You tell me what’s gone wrong – the team is confused. It just didn’t switch on, it just didn’t happen. When team wanted more time, there was no way – that was it. We can’t go much further back. but we need to go forward. We need to find out why that was the way it was. We thought we’d probably cracked it but it showed we didn’t.”
On the other side of the coin Nico Hulkenberg again drove the Sauber as if he had stolen it, thrashing it around the tight and twisty bits to secure 12th place on the grid. By comparison his teammate Esteban Gutierrez was a Q1 victim, and 0.696 slower than his teammate.
The scene is set for what should be a tight contest, but the smart money would have to be on Vettel. Hamilton could well fall victim of Mercedes’ lack of race pace in the heat – and a heatwave is expected – but on the other hand the point and squirt nature of Hungaroring could play in their hands.
From a couple of rows too far down the grid, Vettel’s main title rivals Alonso and Raikkonen have it all to do. For the championship, the reigning world champion only needs to have his Red Bull finish ahead of that Lotus and that Ferrari – winning is not essential provided he can keep those two behind him.
But we all know such a scenario is not part of Vettel’s game plan… ever. It will be win or bust as always for Red Bull’s finest and that’s why we are in for a thriller on Sunday.
Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying – Saturday, 27 July 2013
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:20.646||1:19.992||1:19.426||12|
|10||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:21.264||1:20.503||No time||13|
|11||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:21.471||1:20.569||17|
|18||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:22.043||11|
|20||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:23.333||7|
|Q1 107% Time||1:25.974|