Friday, August 7, 2020

Hungary Qualifying Notes: Lewis’ 90th pole, Red Bull struggle.

Lewis Hamilton claimed his ninetieth Formula 1 pole position this afternoon in the qualifying session of an unusually cold weekend at the Hungaroring in Budapest, Hungary.

The six time world champion now has more pole positions than Alain Prost, Juan Manuel Fangio and Niki Lauda combined, and 22 more than Michael Schumacher. An absolutely outstanding achievement that will probably never be beaten.

Lewis has had a season of mixed emotions so far. The Mercedes driver missed out on a podium in the season opener, due to a five-second penalty after a collision with Alex Albon.

He then responded a week later in the Styrian GP taking his 89th pole position, qualifying 1.2 seconds ahead of the field in wet conditions. Lewis held the net lead for the entire race, in an emphatic Merc 1-2.

The Silver Arrows have been in a class of their own in this delayed 2020 season, having an advantage of 41 points in the constructors championship. That’s over double the tally of the 2nd placed team, McLaren.

Steiermark Grand Prix, Sunday 12th July 2020. Spielberg, Austria. XPB Images/James Moy Photography

Heading into the qualifying session we expected it to be a Mercedes front-row lockout, in front of at least one Racing Point and maybe there was a shot of Max Verstappen sneaking an off the pace Red Bull onto the podium.

Ferrari had been looking a little bit faster these past few days, aiming for both cars in Q3 for the first time this year. McLaren were struggling for pace yesterday but must’ve corrected their suspected issues overnight, as they were where they should be by FP3 this morning.

Renault have been the 6th quickest car this weekend, pretty much throughout. They were aiming to get one car into the third Qualifying session.

Pierre Gasly had been having issues with his Honda power unit for the entirety of Friday in the Alpha Tauri. Danil Kvyat was lacking pace, in and amongst it with the Williams, Alfa Romeo and Haas drivers.

There wasn’t much between those final 3 teams. Making a tight scrap to reach those final places in Q2.

How It Happened – Qualifying – Hungaroring

Qualifying 1

Let’s start at the back of the grid and Q1, both Haas and Alfa Romeo cars were eliminated and didn’t show many signs of being close to those above the knockout zone. Danil Kvyat was the unlucky 5th driver to miss out on the second qualifying session.

For the first time since Italy 2018, Williams Racing got both of their cars into Q2. It was a massive achievement for both the team and their two drivers, one that looked highly unlikely this time last year. George Russell sounded delighted on his team radio with what seemed like a monster of a lap. He shouted, “That’s a lap, that’s a lap!”

George Russell made it into his second career Qualifying 2 session.

Both Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon avoided a Q1 elimination pretty comfortably, showing a hefty gap between the midfield and those teams below the midfield.The McLaren and Ferrari drivers got through easily, the Prancing Horse seem to have an alright package in this low/medium speed track.

Racing Point lead the timesheet but are by far the 2nd best car around the Hungaroring. Sergio Perez’s fastest lap was 8 tenths quicker than the lead Red Bull of Verstappen. Him and Alex Albon had what seemed like an awful car to handle. The two Mercedes drivers advanced to the next qualifying session with ease.

Qualifying 2

Lewis Hamilton put in a whopping time in his first run, he lapped 8 tenths faster than Sebastian Vettel and Verstappen on Medium tyres. The other two were on softs! Racing Point also decided to attempt to start the race on the harder, medium compound tyre but getting through to Q3 didn’t prove to be easy, unlike the Merc’s.

After the first run, the two RP cars were 1 second down on Lewis Hamilton and were at serious risk of being eliminated, should the track have evolved. Luckily, the Pink Panthers set just a quick enough set of second lap times to have a strategical advantage over their competitors in tomorrow’s race.

Things went from bad to worse for Red Bull, Alex Albon was only 13th fastest after his first lap on softer tyres, due to a tad bit of front wing damage. That package overall doesn’t look as good as it did in winter testing and is all over the place in terms of balance. The car’s drivability seemed to change lap by lap.

Next came the second Q2 run where we saw Albon try and get into Q3, which quite frankly is where that car should be. Now as we know, the lap times got slower, which already was a disadvantage for the Thai driver. Alex failed to improve on his lap time and qualified behind his best friend George Russell in the Williams.

After the lap was completed, we heard a snippet of Alex’s radio where he spoke to his engineers in devastation, stating, ”I just just told you, I told you don’t put me out in traffic guys”. You can’t help but feel sorry for the poor lad. Things aren’t going right for Red Bull at the moment.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the race George stuck up for his mate telling Simon Lazenby and Johnny Herbert, ”I don’t know what the hell is going on and I feel really bad for him, because he’s being made to look like an idiot and he’s absolutely not.” Part of the interview is available below.

In the rest of the session, Charles Leclerc put in probably his best lap this season, as both Ferrari’s went through to Q3. Both Renault’s were knocked out, Danny Ric lost control of the car in sector 3 on his final run. Pierre Gasly lost power but got through in 10th. George Russell’s effort for P12 was 1.4 seconds faster this year than his quali lap last season.

Qualifying 3

At this point, we knew what was coming, a straight-up fight for pole position between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Mercedes have dominated all weekend and barring a rain stricken race, the two of them could gain the maximum amount of drivers championship points. To be fair to the two of them their times were pretty close, but we all knew who was going to claim pole position in Hungary.

It was obviously going to be Lewis, It’s his best track. The six-time world champion has won 7 times in Hungary and adds a seventh pole position in Budapest to his long CV. His lap of a 1:13:447 was a new track record, beating out his teammate’s effort of a 1:13.554.

Moving over to the rest of the field, Lance Stroll was 3rd place after his first run and remained in that position throughout the rest of the session. It was nice to see someone different at the post-qualifying interviews. A great achievement for Stroll, especially with the fact the track is the complete opposite of Monza. His teammate Sergio Perez had his first lap time deleted due to him exceeding track limits, but his second run earned him P4 on the grid.

Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc will be very happy starting P5 and 6, it’s a great chance for the Scuderia to pick up some world championship points. This shows that Ferrari aren’t too bad when on the less power reliant tracks. Monza and Mugello are going to be a nightmare couple of weeks for them though.

Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari at the Hungaroring – Photo by Scuderia Ferrari.

Now onto Red Bull, AHHHHH! Max Verstappen’s first run saw him 1.2 seconds off the pace and suffering another problem with a Honda power unit. We heard a radio clip of the youngest ever F1 race winner asking his engineer “Is that it for us”. His team did get him out for a second time, just, but the lap wasn’t there with the Dutchman starting 7th tomorrow.

Rounding out the top 10, McLaren qualified 8th and 9th, with Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz starting in that order. Pierre Gasly didn’t go out in Qualifying 3, his problem persisted.

For more on the Hungarian GP and all things F1, visit our dedicated F1 page here. Meanwhile, follow us on Facebook for more opinions and analysis right to your timeline.

The full Qualifying Classification is available below.

PosDriverConstructorQ1Q2Q3
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes01:14.90701:14.26101:13.447
2Valtteri BottasMercedes01:15.47401:14.53001:13.554
3Lance StrollRacing Point BWT Mercedes01:14.89501:15.17601:14.377
4Sergio PerezRacing Point BWT Mercedes01:14.68101:15.39401:14.545
5Sebastian VettelFerrari01:15.45501:15.13101:14.774
6Charles LeclercFerrari01:15.79301:15.00601:14.817
7Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda01:15.49501:14.97601:14.849
8Lando NorrisMcLaren Renault01:15.44401:15.08501:14.966
9Carlos SainzMcLaren Renault01:15.28101:15.26701:15.027
10Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri Honda01:15.76701:15.508
11Daniel RicciardoRenault01:15.84801:15.661
12George RussellWilliams Mercedes01:15.58501:15.698
13Alexander AlbonRed Bull Racing Honda01:15.72201:15.715
14Esteban OconRenault01:15.71901:15.742
15Nicholas LatifiWilliams Mercedes01:16.10501:16.544
16Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari01:16.152
17Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri Honda01:16.204
18Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari01:16.407
19Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari01:16.506
20Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari01:16.614

For more on the Hungarian GP and all things F1, visit our dedicated F1 page here. Meanwhile, follow us on Facebook for more opinions and analysis right to your timeline.

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