Hungary GP: Qualifying team notes - Pirelli

31/07/2021
NEWS STORY

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton claimed his 101st career pole ahead of his team mate Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull's Max Verstappen was fastest in the first two qualifying sessions, before Hamilton sealed pole by going quickest of all in the decisive Q3 session.

Following the record-breaking temperatures on Friday, qualifying was once again run in very warm conditions: 31 degrees ambient and 54 degrees on track at the start of the hour.

Both Mercedes and Red Bull started on the P Zero Yellow medium tyres during the crucial Q2 session, but just the two Mercedes set their fastest times on this compound - meaning that they will be the only cars in the top 10 to begin the grand prix on the yellow medium C3 tyre, from first and second. Red Bull went for a different strategy, improving with the soft.

The Q2 session was interrupted with around five minutes left to go following an accident for Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz. This meant that there was a rush to set the final Q2 times right at the end of the session, with the track rapidly evolving.

The 70-lap Hungarian Grand Prix is finely balanced between a one-stop and a two-stop strategy, with both approaches valid for the race, but a two-stopper being on paper quickest.

A lot will depend on two factors: starting tyres and temperatures. Those starting on the P Zero Red soft C4 tyre could favour a two-stopper, with a number of potential options involving a switch to the P Zero Yellow medium C3 tyre for the last two stints or possibly even a final run on the soft tyre at the end of the race - especially if there is scope to score an extra championship point for fastest lap. Using all three compounds is another viable possibility.

However, with the notorious difficulty of overtaking at the Hungaroring, track position is key; so this could encourage more drivers towards a one-stopper. Those starting on the medium tyre can definitely make that strategy work, by switching to the P Zero White hard C2 tyre for the remainder of the race. But soft to hard is also possible, although slower.

The weather will probably be the deciding factor. Up to now, there have been record track temperatures, and the predicted rain has so far failed to materialise substantially.

Mario Isola: "Today's track temperatures in qualifying were only a little bit cooler than yesterday. As a result, although the soft tyre retained a significant speed advantage of nearly a second over one lap, preparing the flying lap carefully was important to avoid overheating. The drivers starting on the medium tyre have more flexibility, which could bring them a benefit, but a two-stopper is slightly quicker than a one-stopper on paper, which means that the drivers who start on the soft have every possibility of doing something different - with a wide range of tactical options available. Mercedes and Red Bull have taken a very different approach, so it's going to be fascinating to see how that battle develops from the first and second rows of the grid."

Check out our Saturday gallery from the Hungaroring, here.

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Published: 31/07/2021
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