Hamilton scorches to Hungary pole

25/07/2015
NEWS STORY

Ahead of today's all-important qualifying session - and like Monaco, grid position is absolutely vital here - the air temperature is 32 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 54 degrees. It is hot. Sunny and hot.

As in yesterday's two sessions, Lewis Hamilton was quickest however, following overnight changes teammate Nico Rosberg was able to close the gap indeed, the German was just 0.098s off the pace, setting us up nicely for this afternoon.

After a difficult day yesterday, Sebastian Vettel, never a winner here, had an altogether better morning, though his teammate suffered a "dramatic water leak" which left him with option tyre running earlier. Indeed, there was concern as to whether the issue could be resolved before this afternoon's session.

Whilst the Red Bulls were third and fourth yesterday, this morning only Daniil Kvyat was able to show what the RB11 can do on a track that should be kind to the Austrian team in that it doesn't make great demands in terms of engine power.

Despite yesterday's dramas, Force India looked good, though Sergio Perez isn't entirely happy with his car's set up.

With the track likely to suit Red Bull, Toro Rosso should also perform well, a fact confirmed by Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen finishing fifth and seventh earlier.

The McLarens are looking better thus far this weekend, Fernando Alonso finishing ahead of the Lotus duo.

The one team that has yet to show what it is capable of here is Williams, fresh from its dramatic outing at Silverstone. Like many teams, the Grove outfit used yesterday to try new parts, Valtteri Bottas running a new front wing which the team may or may not run on Sunday.

The Saubers are both over 3s off the pace whilst the Manors are 5s adrift of the Mercedes duo.

Tyres this weekend are medium and soft, the gap between the two around 1.8s.

Based on hat we've seen thus far, in terms of different drivers and teams popping into the Top Ten, not to mention set-up problems and offs, this could be an intriguing session, particularly Q1.

Unusual to see a Mercedes out so early, eager beaver heads down the pitlane and is first to take to the track. Then again, following his drama at the end of FP3 - when he stalled the car - this might merely be an installation lap for systems checking purposes.

As more cars pour on to the track the German continues on his way, told that the reference time is 24.9. He responds with a 25.262 after a very scruffy lap, running over the kerbs in Turns 2,3 and 5. Teammate Hamilton, on the other hand, posts 24.293.

No sooner has Verstappen gone third (25.654) than Hulkenberg and then Bottas (25.372) go quicker.

Everyone bar the Manors on track.

Vettel goes second (24.901) and Ricciardo fourth (25.358) as Rosberg looks set to improve after a cooling down lap. He posts 24.905 which is only good enough for third.

All these times are on the medium rubber, the McLarens, Manors and Saubers already on the softer rubber.

On that softer rubber Button goes fourth (25.160) and Ericsson ninth (25.501) which cause a re-think further along the pitlane.

Rosberg runs wide in T4 after complaining about the balance of his car. "There's something wrong," he complains, "I've got so much oversteer".

Ricciardo goes second (24.631), Hamilton having upped the ante with a 24.213.

Alonso is the highest placed option runner, the Spaniard in sixth on 25.032. moments later however, Button improves to third (24.803).

A massive slide for Grosjean in T5 just moments after his teammate ran wide in T1.

Raikkonen is warned that the wind has picked up and is moving about.

With just under five minutes remaining, more and more drivers return to the track, all on options.

Bottas goes quickest with a 23.649 which may just cause Mercedes to re-think its strategy in terms of Hamilton. Rosberg is already back out on the softer rubber.

As Grosjean looks to get off the bottom of the timesheet, Hulkenberg goes second (24.115) only to be demoted by Kvyat who goes quickest with a 23.587.

As Rosberg posts 22.979 - the quickest time of the weekend - Hamilton leaves his garage on the softer rubber. The bluff has been called.

As Grosjean posts 24.242 to go eleventh, Alonso joins the Saubers and Manors in the drop zone. Button is hovering, along with Sainz and Perez. This could be tight.

A 24.563 sees Alonso improve to fourteenth as Rosberg continues to complain about balance.

Hamilton re-takes the top spot with a 22.890, whilst Button can only make sixteenth (24.739). "We didn't get deployment, we didn't get deployment ion the pit straight," he moans, referring to his ERS.

Hamilton is quickest, ahead of Rosberg, Vettel, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Bottas, Maldonado, Massa, Verstappen and Hulkenberg.

We lose Button, the Sauber and Manors.

"All the drivers set their Q1 times on the soft tyre, apart from Ricciardo who used two sets of mediums," confirms Pirelli.

The green light signals the start of Q2, but as has become the norm there is no mad rush to action.

After several minutes of silence an engine fires up, then another, as Vettel and Bottas head down the pitlane. They are followed by Raikkonen, Massa and Sainz.

Vettel gets things underway with a 23.168, teammate Raikkonen posting 23.460 moments later. Bottas, on used options, posts 24.520 to go third.

Out come the yellow flags as Alonso parks his car just before the pitlane entrance. The session is red flagged as the Spaniard valiantly pushes his car up the hill before getting assistance from the marshals.

Moments earlier, Alonso had asked his team to check what happened to his engine, which lost power, coming out of T1.

As he gets the car to the pitlane Alonso is cheered by the crowd. He, and the marshals, wave acknowledgement.

Vettel is quickest currently, ahead of Raikkonen, Rosberg, Verstappen, Massa, Bottas, Sainz and Perez.

The session resumes and the Mercedes duo are first out of the traps, Rosberg leading the way.

The pair trade fastest sectors, Rosberg goes quickest (22.775) but moments later Hamilton bangs in a 22.285, 0.490s quicker than his teammate.

"Big understeer, very strange," complains Rosberg, "I don't understand it, keep checking, it's worse now".

Ricciardo improves to fourth (22.230) as Sainz and Perez form the drop zone with the Lotus duo and Alonso.

Verstappen improves to ninth (23.781) as teammate Sainz can only manage twelfth.

Grosjean improves to tenth (23.805) but no such luck for Maldonado.

As Q2 ends Hamilton is quickest, ahead of Rosberg, Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Bottas, Kvyat, Massa, Verstappen and Grosjean.

We lose both Force Indias, Sainz, Maldonado and the hapless Alonso.

As we await the start of Q3, it would be a brave man to bet against Hamilton, Rosberg clearly not as happy with his car as he was after FP3.

Talk of the devil, after a couple of minutes of nothing, the German gets proceedings underway as he heads down the pitlane.

Rosberg posts a convincing 22.766 but Hamilton is also on a very hot lap. Indeed, the Briton crosses the line at 22.408. He loves this place.

Despite being on fresher rubber, Vettel can only manage 22.975, whilst Raikkonen's 23.097 is only good enough for fourth.

Bottas goes fifth, ahead of Grosjean, whilst Ricciardo goes quickest in S2. The Australian posts 23.018 to go fourth overall.

Massa can only manage eighth (23.819) as all but Verstappen complete an initial run.

Vettel admits to a mistake on his run, "I messed up at the last corner," he says, "I was a bit greedy".

With around 2:40 remaining, the drivers head out for the final assault, Rosberg, Bottas and Hamilton leading the way.

Rosberg goes quickest in S1, but moments later Hamilton goes even faster.

Vettel is quickest in S2 as Rosberg makes a mistake and is unable to beat his teammate who improves to 22.020.

PBs in all three sectors but Ricciardo remains fourth, teammate Kvyat taking seventh.

Hamilton takes pole, ahead of Rosberg, Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Bottas, Kvyat, Massa, Verstappen and Grosjean.

Hulkenberg will start eleventh, ahead of Sainz, Perez, Maldonado, Alonso, Button, Ericsson, Nasr, Merhi and Stevens.

"What was the time difference," asks Hamilton, the news that it was over half-a-second will no doubt delight him. Rosberg's body language tells a slightly different story.

"A good recover today," says Vettel. "It was important to stay calm, and go with what we know on the car, " he adds.

Told he's fourth, and the gap, Ricciardo replies: "Ah, that was close, thanks guys!"

Thanks indeed.

Check out our Saturday gallery, here.

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Published: 25/07/2015
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