Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was untouchable in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix as he claimed pole position ahead of Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen to make it an all red front row, with Mercedes having to settle for a second row start.
Vettel had the edge throughout qualifying, and in the end his lap 1:16.276 – the fastest lap ever at Hungaroring – claimed top spot on the grid by 0.168 of a second better than his closest rival. The Maranello outfit clearly making a good step forward overnight.
Vettel said after claiming his 48th F1 career pole, “The car has been incredible all day. We made a good step forward. I like this track a lot and it’s been really enjoyable. It’s a front row for us so we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
“Nothing changed over-night. The last race wasn’t great for us but that doesn’t matter now. I’m very happy where we are as a team. The main task comes tomorrow. Nothing has been won today,” added Vettel
Raikkonen did well to leapfrog from sixth to second with his final run, a tenth short of the top time, he said, “It was a bit disappointing because I felt I had it quite comfortable but couldn’t really finish better. It is good to get second though.”
“We have been pretty happy with things. I managed to improve my car for the qualifying. So far so good, but tomorrow will be a long race,” added the veteran Finn
Valterri Bottas was fastest of the Mercedes drivers, claiming third place on the grid but a quarter second down on the pole winning time.
Bottas reflected, “We have still got work to do but we’ll see how we get on tomorrow. We are clearly not performing as we should, or as we want. It highlights we still have work to do with the car. It’s going to be a long day but there’s hard work to do.”
Lewis Hamilton was out of sorts for most of the session, complaining of vibrations with just about every set of softs he bolted on to his Mercedes. Although he did deliver a blistering lap to claim top time at the end of Q2, but could not replicate the speed in Q3 in which he aborted his first run and then fell four tenths short on his final run. He will start from fourth.
Hamilton summed up, “It’s not been the easiest, most straightforward weekend. The car felt pretty good, we made some improvements in qualifying and the laps were generally good apart from Q3.
Asked if he was surprised by the pace of Ferrari, the Briton replied, “Not really, we knew they were quick and we were aware of their pace. I don’t know if they brought an upgrade but I think we did quite well considering. You can’t overtake here so it’s most likely going to be a train unless we can do something on strategy.”
The third row will be an all blue affair. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fourth fifth and Daniel Ricciardo sixth. The Australian dominated day one 24 hour earlier, but a hydraulic problem in FP3 in the morning may have compromised his afternoon.
Nico Hulkenberg was seventh fastest in the Renault, but is set for a grid penalty while his teammate Jolyon Palmer, who had a torrid first day, was 11th best, albeit half a second down on his teammate in Q2. The Englishman is still the only driver not to out-qualify his teammate this season.
Both McLaren’s made it into Q3, with birthday boy Fernando Alonso eighth and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne ninth. Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz rounded out the top ten.
Star of the day was no doubt Williams reserve Paul di Resta who was told an hour after FP3 that he would replace Felipe Massa in qualifying and the race in Budapest.
Despite a four year break from Formula 1, in a car he was driving for the first time, he impressed by qualifying 19th, with only 45 km running. In the end he was only seven tenths down on teammate Lance Stroll. A remarkable performance, under circumstances, by Di Resta.
For the record it was Ferrari’s first front row lockout in Hungary since 2004 when Michael Schumacher took pole position ahead of team-mate Rubens Barrichello, the German legend then led home a Ferrari one-two in the race.
The major news before the qualifying was that Felipe Massa, who had been unwell on Friday, was again ill during final practice. The decision was taken for the Brazilian to sit out the remainder of the weekend, and so, after the necessary approvals had been given by the FIA, the team called on reserve driver Paul Di Resta, who last race at the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix for Force India, to take over.
The Scot, a DTM regular, had never driven a real world 2017 Formula One car before the start of Q1 but he quickly began to feed himself into the session rising steadily to a time of 1:21.075.
At the top of the order it was Vettel who set the pace, the German posting an early time of 1:17.244. That was almost matched by Max Verstappen who ended up two hundredths of a second behind the German, with Kimi Raikkonen third with a lap of 1:17.364.
In the drop zone with a minute to go were, Williams’ Lance Stroll, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein and Di Resta who improved to a time of 1:19.868.
That wasn’t enough to save him from elimination but the Scot had done an excellent job under the circumstances, beating P20 man Ericsson into the bargain. Ruled out ahead of Scot were Magnussen, Williams team-mate Stroll who finished in P17 just seven tenths ahead of Di Resta, and Wehrlein.
Magnussen, perhaps, had the most to feel aggrieved about. The Dane set an identical time to Force India’s Sergio Perez of 1:19.095, but the Mexican progressed by virtue of having set the time first.
Vettel again impressed from the off in Q2. Third on track when the pit exit opened the German soon laid down an impressive marker becoming the first man into the 1m16s bracket with a time of 1:16.802.
Verstappen came closest to matching that, setting a time two tenths adrift of the German in the opening runs. Hamilton lay third ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.
In the drop zone ahead of the final runs were Renault’s Jolyon Palmer – just under four hundredths of a second behind Force India’s P10 man Esteban Ocon – Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat, Haas’ Romain Grosjean and the second Force India of Perez.
Sainz was the one to make a late charge, with the Spaniard claiming P10 with his final flying lap. Palmer looked like he might threaten Sainz’s time of 1:18.311 as he put in a PB in the second sector but the Briton’s pace faltered in the final sector and he lost out to the Toro Rosso by a tenth. Eliminated behind Palmer in P11 were Ocon, Kvyat, Perez and Grosjean.
At the top the bulk of the top six from the first runs opted to stay in the garages for the second runs. Mercedes’ drivers were the exception and though Bottas could find no improvement beyond P5, Hamilton ratcheted up his pace and took P1 with a time of 1:16.693. He and Vettel were the only drivers into the 1m16s at this stage. Verstappen was third ahead of Raikkonen, Bottas and Ricciardo. Both McLarens also made it through to Q3 for the first time this season.
Vettel again set the early pace in Q3 with a lap of 1:16.276. This time though Hamilton couldn’t respond. The Britons first run was compromised by a mistake in Turn 4 and when the opening runs were done he found himself in P9 with just one more chance to make an impact. Bottas took P2 ahead of the final runs with Verstappen third and Ricciardo fourth. Hulkenberg sat in fifth ahead of the McLarens of Alonso and Vandoorne.
And in the final runs, Hamilton was again unable to respond as he had in Q2. The Briton reported a vibration on his tyres early in the lap and though he pushed hard he could only set a time good enough for third place. His time of 1:16.693 also left him vulnerable to attack from the Red Bulls in P5 and P6. Neither Verstappen nor Ricciardo could find enough time on track to improve position.
In fact the only driver to make significant gains in the final runs was Raikkonen. The Finn rose from fifth position and a time of 1:16.878 to a front row start behind his team-mate with a lap of 1:16.444 that pushed Bottas to third.
With the Red Bulls in fifth and sixth, seventh place went to Hulkenberg, though the Renault driver will take a five-place gearbox-related grid drop tomorrow. Alonso was eighth ahead of McLaren team-mate Vandoorne while Sainz qualified in 10th place.
Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring – Qualifying, Best Lap Times
|5||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:17.266||1:17.028||1:16.797||14|
|6||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:17.702||1:17.698||1:16.818||14|
|12||31||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:18.843||1:18.495||16|
|14||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:19.095||1:18.639||15|