Current championship leader Sebastian Vettel will start on pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix, ahead of his team mate Kimi Raikkonen, after Ferrari secured their second front-row lockout of the season.
After a rather lacklustre Friday in the Free Practice sessions for Ferrari, the Italian team went back to the drawing board with a new set up for Saturday, which ultimately proved to be the right decision as the car looked ominously fast throughout Free Practice Three and Qualifying. Vettel’s pole position lap, a 1:16.276, was a new track record at the Hungaroring, and the first pole for Ferrari at this circuit in a decade.
“It’s great but especially after the talk after the last race, which was a bit much,” Vettel said after the session in an apparent response to criticism of Ferrari following the British Grand Prix. “We give the answer on the track.”
Raikkonen will line up second for Ferrari, giving the team a front row lock for the first time since Monaco back in May of this season. Although Vettel did not improve on his time in the final run, he did look to be under pressure from a resurgent Raikkonen till the Finnish driver made a mistake in the middle sector, giving Vettel the breathing room he needed and the pole position. “I felt like I had it comfortably but I couldn’t really finish it,” Raikkonen admitted after the session.
Sunday’s race was tipped to be a must win for Ferrari following some less than stellar results for the team since their last win at the Monaco Grand Prix. And indeed the front row lock out is the first major step towards securing the race win.
The Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas qualified third today, just under two tenths of a second slower that the Ferrari of Vettel. While his team mate Lewis Hamilton was fourth after abandoning his first top ten shootout run due to vibrations from his tyres. Despite topping the time sheets in Q2, Hamilton didn’t look happy in the third part of Qualifying at a track he is considered something of an expert at. His fate was sealed when he ran off track at turn four on his opening Q3 lap, and fourth was the best he could hope for.
“It’s not been the easiest, most straightforward weekend. Getting past the Ferraris will be almost impossible unless they have problems.” A rather downcast Hamilton said after Qualifying.
He won’t be the only one rather downcast by the result today, as it was not quite the qualifying session Red Bull would have been predicting. Having topped both of Fridays Free Practice sessions with Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian driver could only manage sixth today, behind his Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen in fifth. Nether Ricciardo or Verstappen really looked to be in the hunt for pole today despite the suggestions on Friday that they could make this a three way fight.
It was a positive qualifying session for the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, who managed to put his car into seventh place, though he will have a five place grid penalty due to an unscheduled gearbox change. Despite this the team can be proud of the fact their car does not seem to have lost the pace it was showing during Friday’s Free Practice sessions.
Renault were not the only team to have a positive qualifying session, as both McLarens made it into the top ten, qualifying eighth and ninth respectively. The team’s effort was led by birthday boy Fernando Alonso, who outqualified rookie team mate Stoffel Vandoorne. McLaren are aware the power weakness of their Honda engines will not be exposed around Hungaroring, and they are aware this is the best chance they have for a serious haul of points if they wish to climb off the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship this weekend.
Carlos Sainz was the final driver to make it into the top ten, officially qualifying in tenth. Though with Hulkenberg’s demotion he will start ninth alongside Hulkenberg’s team mate Jolyon Palmer, who will inherit tenth place.
However the story of the qualifying session was the return of Paul DiResta at Williams, who only found out he would have to fill in for a sick Felipe Massa an hour before the session began.
Following Friday’s free practice sessions Massa went first to the on track medical centre, and then onto a local hospital complaining of dizzy spells. Despite been given the all-clear to race, Massa completed just 12 laps if Free Practice Three this morning before stopping his session early. Soon after the end of Free Practice Three Williams released a statement confirming Massa will not be taking part in the rest of the weekend.
That resulted in DiResta having to step into the car in his role as the team’s official reserve driver for qualifying, despite never having driven a lap in the FW40. His first flying laps in the car were during Q1, as he looked to familiarise himself with the car while setting a competitive lap time. In the circumstances, splitting the two Sauber’s and qualifying 19th was a highly praiseworthy effort by the Scottish driver.
“I’m not going to lie, I was scared, nervous, anxious,” Di Resta admitted. “I’ve not driven one of these cars for three-and-a-half years, apart from 10 laps I did in a 2014 car, and then you get thrown into qualifying which is the deepest of all deep ends – it’s like jumping off a cliff and seeing how you fight for survival.”
Despite Ferrari taking the glory today in Qualifying it is still all to play for in the race tomorrow. It is worth nothing that only two of the last nine pole sitters have gone on to win the race in Hungary, and with drivers wanting to go into summer break on a high, you can bet the race is going to be interesting.
Hungarian GP Qualifying
1) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari: 1:16.276
2) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:16.444
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes: 1:16.530
4) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: 1:16.707
5) Max Verstappen, Red Bull: 1:16.797
6) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull: 1:16.818
7) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault: 1:17.468 (Five place Gearbox Penalty yet to be applied)
8) Fernando Alonso, McLaren: 1:17.549
9) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren: 1:17.894
10) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso: 1:18.912
11) Jolyon Palmer, Renault: 1:18.415
12) Esteban Ocon, Force India: 1:18.495
13) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso: 1:18.538
14) Sergio Perez, Force India: 1:18.639
15) Romain Grosjean, Haas: 1:18.771
16) Kevin Magnussen, Haas: 1:19.095
17) Lance Stroll, Williams: 1:19.102
18) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber: 1:19.839
19) Paul DiResta, Williams: 1:19.868
20) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber: 1:19.972
Feature Image Credit: Williams Martini Racing Press Release