Lewis Hamilton has claimed his third pole position in a row, delivering a sensational qualifying performance to deny Sebastian Vettel the prime starting position for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Vettel seemed to have put himself in an almost untouchable position after his first flying lap in the final phase of qualifying, with the German clocking a lap over eight-tenths better than his nearest competitor.
The rest of the pack tried to respond on their final efforts, with Romain Grosjean getting within three-hundredths of a second of the Red Bull Racing driver, before Hamilton pulled a storming lap out of the bag to topple Vettel by a scant 0.038 seconds, despite Vettel managing to improve on his own flying lap.
It was much a surprise to the rest of the field as it was to Hamilton himself, with the Englishman reacting incredulously to the news when he was told of the result.
And while overtaking remains a supreme challenge around the tight and twisty Hungaroring, few expect that Hamilton will be able to maintain the pace of his closets rivals starting behind him in Sunday’s 70-lap race.
The main best poised to benefit from all of this is Grosjean, whose third-placed starting position gives him an all-important launch from the clean side of the grid that could prove crucial in getting him ahead of Vettel – never mind Hamilton – at the start. The impressive Frenchman shares the second row of the grid with Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes entry.
Despite showing better pace in today’s preceding practice session, Ferrari simply wasn’t in the hunt for pole position. Fernando Alonso was the better of the pair with the sixth-fastest time – one spot behind Kimi Räikkönen in the other Lotus – with teammate Felipe Massa seventh-fastest.
Major set-up changes saw a rejuvinated Daniel Ricciardo get his Toro Rosso into the top-ten once again. The Australian posted a time good enough for eighth-fastest, continuing the impressive qualifying form that has made him a prime candidate to take over from Mark Webber at the senior Red Bull team next year.
Speaking of Webber, the elder Aussie could only manage tenth on the grid. The veteran was once again handed all of the bad luck that seems to hit the Red Bull Racing garage, this time being hampered with a KERS problem throughout qualifying. Despite the horsepower disadvantage, he still performed supremely well to get himself into the Q3 shootout.
Webber starts behind Sergio Pérez, who managed to get his hastily-repaired McLaren running and into Q3 with a late flying lap in Q2. It was a strong showing from the Mexican, who took the alternative route of posting his Q3 time on the harder of the two Pirelli compounds to give him some strategic flexibility over those starting ahead of him. Teammate Jenson Button narrowly missed out on a Q3 spot himself, falling short by a scant four-hundredths of a second in a closely-contested middle session.
Adrian Sutil was another to narrowly miss out on a Q3 berth in his 100th Grand Prix. The German starts from eleventh place for Sunday’s race, while Force India teammate Paul di Resta struggled with an ill-handling car and fell at the first hurdle.
Sauber rookie Esteban Gutiérrez once again failed to make it out of Q1 as he continued his unimpressive rookie season. At least he managed to outqualify the Caterham/Marussia quartet – he didn’t look like he was even going to manage that for much of Q1 – and ultimately missed out on a Q2 slot by just a tenth of a second.
Of that final four, it was Charles Pic who again beat his rivals to nineteenth place on the grid, edging out teammate Giedo van der Garde. The two Marussias of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton completed the final row of the grid.
2013 Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:19.388|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:19.426||+ 0.038|
|3.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:19.595||+ 0.207|
|4.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:19.720||+ 0.332|
|5.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:19.851||+ 0.463|
|6.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:19.791||+ 0.403|
|7.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:19.929||+ 0.541|
|8.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:20.641||+ 1.253|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:22.398||+ 3.010|
|10.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||no time|
|Q3 Cut-Off – 1:20.545||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:20.569||+ 0.791|
|12.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:20.580||+ 0.802|
|13.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:20.777||+ 0.999|
|14.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:21.039||+ 1.251|
|15.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||1:21.133||+ 1.355|
|16.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||1:21.219||+ 1.411|
|Q2 Cut-Off – 1:21.612||Time||Gap**|
|17.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:21.724||+ 1.374|
|18.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:22.043||+ 1.693|
|19.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||1:23.007||+ 2.657|
|21.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||1:23.333||+ 2.983|
|20.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02||1:23.787||+ 3.437|
|22.||Max Chilton||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02||1:23.997||+ 3.647|
* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:19.778 by Nico Rosberg
** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:20.350 by Nico Rosberg