The Hungarian Grand Prix is usually associated with hot weather, hot track surfaces, tight corners and the reputation of being Monaco without the walls. This year, the lead-up to qualifying has been in the shade of cloud cover, rain and cooler temperatures.
After a dominant performance in Austria, and leading the practice sessions, could Mercedes make qualifying a ho-hum affair? Would Red Bull get the balance and drivability cured so Max Verstappen could take the fight to the German team? With temperatures in the mid-60’s all weekend long, who would get their tires to work best? Qualifying started on dry tarmac with overcast skies that looked intent on making it a wet affair.
The cars were all lined up at the start waiting for the green light because there was a 90% threat of rain during the session so banker laps were critical at this point. To the south of the circuit, rain clouds were moving in.
Renault’s cars were waiting in the garages while all the other teams were out for initial laps. A gamble that would be betting on rubber being laid down for a grippier track prior to the rain coming. That gamble was correct.
Max Verstappen set the benchmark but was quickly replaced by both Mercedes with Bottas leading Hamilton with a 1:15.484s. Both Racing Points slotted 3rd and 4th quickest with Ferrari in 5th and 9th with Leclerc leading Vettel.
With 13 minutes left, both Renault’s came out for their initial laps. Esteban Ocon led Daniel Riccardo with an 8th and 12th respectively. Lewis Hamilton jumped to the top with a 0.064s advantage over Bottas. Lando Norris jumped up to 7th ahead of Vettel. Ricciardo threw down a run that moved him to 6th with Ocon languishing in 11th on their second runs with just 8:30s left in the session.
The Alpha Tauri’s made additional runs with 5:30s left leaving Daniil Kvyat in 11th just ahead of his teammate Pierre Gasly in 12th who radioed that he had issues with his power unit. The Alfa Romeo’s were still languishing in the elimination zone and behind the Williams of George Russell.
With 5:20s left, Alex Albon was struggling down in 15th and in the elimination zone while his teammate, Verstappen, was up in 7th. George Russell jumped up to 3rd with a terrific lap suggesting the track was improving and the teams immediately reacted to get all the cars out. The track evolution had all the teams panicking to get out with just 1:40s left in the session.
Albon jumped to 7th with Vettel sliding into 4th only to be knocked down by both McLaren’s. Both Racing Points led the timesheet with Hamilton in 3rd. Williams managed to get both drivers into Q2! The first time they’ve done that since Monza in 2018.
Out in Q1- Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Grosjean, Magnussen, Kvyat
First out was the Williams of George Russell looking to squeak into the Q3. Most cars came out with the Soft compound tires on. Mercedes and Racing Point came out on Mediums. Hamilton set a benchmark at 1:14.261s and Bottas followed but was two tenths off the pace. Vettel slotted in .870s slower in 3rd on softs no less.
Verstappen managed to jump up to 4th just behind Vettel and both were eight tenths off the medium-shod Mercedes. A sign that Merc had pace in hand.
With just 4 minutes left, Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was stalled at the weigh bridge and the team had to hustle down to push him back to the garage to prep his car for a final run. With 2:44s left, all the cars came out for their final runs.
Racing Point sent their cars out on medium compounds to give them an alternate strategy to those around them. Perez did not improve his time but Stroll moved up one place to 7th. It was a bit of a gamble but it paid off. Leclerc jumped to 3rd and was pushed down by Verstappen who then claimed the spot for himself.
The frustration was tangible for Albon as he scolded the team about putting him out in traffic and he missed out on Q3. This isn’t boding well for Albon’s weekend. In fairness to Albon, the Red Bull is a handful and even Verstappen has been struggling.
Out in Q2- Ricciardo, Russell, Albon, Ocon, Latifi
Struggling with his power unit all weekend long, Pierre Gasly managed to make it into Q3 but would he have enough shove left in the engine to make a run?
Hamilton set the benchmark with a 1:13.613s followed by Bottas just three tenths off the pace. Lance Stroll claimed 3rd with Verstappen in 4th followed by both McLaren’s of Norris and Sainz respectively. Perez lost his lap time having ran too wide.
With 6:00 minutes left, Vettel came out on new softs for another run. Setting personal bests but he was close to a second down through S2 and crossed the line in 4th. His teammate, Leclerc, slotted in 5th.
Verstappen radioed asking if “that was it” for the team and it seemed there were issues for his car. With 2:34s left, the rest of the grid came out. Perez jumped to 4th ahead of both Ferrari’s.
With 1 minute left, it was a battle between Mercedes drivers for pole position. Hamilton extended his lead while Bottas finished 2nd just one tenth off Hamilton’s pace.
Hungarian Grand Prix – Qualifying Result
|3||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||0.930s|
|4||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||1.098s|
|7||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||1.402s|
|9||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren/Renault||1.580s|
|13||Alexander Albon||Red Bull/Honda||2.268s|
|19||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||3.059s|
|20||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||3.167s|