Hamilton turns back the clock at Hungary
Lewis Hamilton showcased his genius to take a comfortable pole for the Hungarian Grand Prix, with his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, helping Mercedes lock out the front row. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen could only manage P3 as his teammate Sergio Pérez failed to reach the chequered flag on time for his final flying lap, ensuring the Mexican could only start P4. Pierre Gasly starts fifth for AlphaTauri, with Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Esteban Ocon, Fernando Alonso, and Sebastian Vettel rounding out the top 10.
Hamilton played the perfect strategic game, as he made sure he crawled out of the pits for the final Q3 run, with Verstappen and Pérez behind him. Hamilton’s calculated pace to the chequered flag made sure that although he made it through, Sergio Pérez failed to make the flag on time and could not put in a final qualifying time. Hamilton’s tactics were reminiscent of a similar incident that happened in Hungary 14 years ago when Hamilton’s then-teammate at McLaren Fernando Alonso held up the Brit for him to miss the chequered flag. Although Alonso’s tactics were blatant and had a penalty handed to him, Hamilton made sure he used all his experience to avoid any penalties.
With both the Red Bulls starting on the soft tyre compared to Mercedes having their drivers start on the mediums, it definitely is advantage Mercedes going into the race.
Qualifying 1 – Eliminated – Yuki Tsunoda, George Russell, Nicholas Latifi, Nikita Mazepin, and Mick Schumacher
Yuki Tsunoda got the session underway, heading out into some clean air, followed by Haas’ Nikita Mazepin and Kimi Räikkönen. Räikkönen went on top of the board, pipping Tsunoda by a couple of tenths with a 1:17.963.
Räikkönen though, was displaced comfortably by Bottas; once the Mercedes driver was on track, he set a 1:16.610s but was immediately displaced by his teammate Hamilton with a 1:16.424s. Both the Mercedes were eventually beaten by Verstappen, who went two-tenths clear of Hamilton with a 1:16.214s.
With just over two minutes to go, the Red Bull was still at the top of the timing charts, followed by the two Mercedes. As the final timings came through, it was a solid banker lap from Kimi Räikkönen that saw him qualify for Q2 for the first time in 5 races. AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was the shock elimination of the session as the young rookie’s tough weekend continued. The two Williams’ of Latifi and Russell, along with the Haas of Mazepin and Mick Schumacher, who sat out the session after a heavy crash in FP3, were the rest of those who joined the Japanese in failing to make Q2.
Qualifying 2 – Eliminated – Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll, Kimi Räikkönen, Antonio Giovinazzi and Carlos Sainz
Hamilton got the session rolling with 1:16.553s and was followed closely behind by Verstappen, who was two-tenths down on the Brit. Hamilton’s teammate Bottas was further down with more than half a second slower than the world champion.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who was pushing hard for his first flying lap, suffered a heavy crash as he spun off on the final corner that saw the session’s first red flag and effectively eliminated the Spaniard. As the session resumed, Bottas was the first driver on the track with just a little over three minutes to go. As the chequered flag came out, Verstappen went fastest with 1:15.6s. McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo suffered a significant upset by failing to qualify for the final top 10 shootouts. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, the two Alfa Romeo’s of Räikkönen and Giovinazzi joined the Australian in being eliminated in Q2.
Qualifying 3 – Mercedes turn on the heat!
Pierre Gasly lead the cars for the final top-ten shootout. The Frenchman was the first car out of the pit lane. Gasly’s top of the table stay, though, was a short one as Verstappen went quickest again with a 1:15.9s. But he was comfortably beaten by Hamilton, who was more than half a second clear of Verstappen with a 1:15.419s.
With two minutes left for the session, it was still Hamilton who held onto the provisional pole. As the final laps came through, no one could touch Hamilton’s timing as Mercedes locked out the front row with Red Bull following suit as they locked out the second row.
The Final Starting Grid
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Valtteri Bottas
3. Max Verstappen
4. Sergio Pérez
12. Lance Stroll
13. Kimi Raikkonen
14. Antonio Giovinazzi
15. Carlos Sainz*
16. Yuki Tsunoda
17. George Russell
18. Nicholas Latifi
19. Nikita Mazepin
20. Mick Schumacher
*Subject to gearbox penalties