Hungarian Grand Prix: Day 2


“Is that pole?” asked a surprised Lewis Hamilton on the radio. It sure was. Sebastian Vettel appeared to have it all sewn up after his first run in the final qualifying shoot-out, but the Mercedes ace unstitched his plans to take a third pole position in a row with a simply brilliant lap of a baking Hungaroring.

Vettel had been 0.3sec clear as his rivals lined up to topple him. Kimi Räikkönen, Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean all gave it a decent shot, but each fell just short – then Hamilton flashed across the line to bump Vettel from his perch. Sebastian was the last to go, but failed to snatch pole back by just 0.1sec.

But for Hamilton there was little to celebrate, it seemed. Downbeat hardly does it justice. On these Pirelli tyres, and with track temperatures topping 50 degrees centigrade during the session, Hamilton is expecting to go backwards tomorrow when it really counts.

“I was really surprised when the guys told me over the radio that I was on pole today,” he said. “It was a good lap but I thought Sebastian had done enough. So it’s fantastic – and also to get three pole positions in a row. It’s great to start from the front but, like we know, the race is where we score the points.

“It is what it is, y’know? It’s been the same for a long time. It’s great to have the pole position but it doesn’t really mean a lot through the weekend. It’s going to be tough tomorrow. It didn’t feel like a disaster through our long runs, but it definitely wasn’t as good as the guys next to me. So that’s the way it is.”

Vettel looked stunned as he stood on the FIA scales and glared at the timing screen before heading for the press conference. “There wasn’t much missing today,” he said. “So I think Lewis did a good job. I had two sets of new tyres and I was happy with both laps. Maybe on the second try I was losing out a little bit in the middle sector. It’s very twisty and a lot of corners in a short amount of time. Maybe I wasn’t aggressive enough there. At the end of the day I was pretty happy with my lap, but it was just not quick enough.

“But it still puts us in a great place for tomorrow. I have a good car and good pace for the race.”

For Grosjean, third place confirmed what we’d seen throughout practice: he’s the fastest Lotus driver this weekend, Räikkönen only managing to make the third row, alongside fifth-placed Fernando Alonso. Rosberg will line up beside Grosjean in fourth.

Grosjean survived a scare on Saturday evening when his Lotus E21 failed a floor deflection test. The prospect of the Frenchman being relegated to the back of the grid was a potential blow to the prospects of a close race, given that he is expected to offer a genuine threat to Vettel on Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, the stewards accepted the team’s explanation that an impact with a kerb during Q2 had caused a fracture in a floor stay and was the cause of the test failure. The paddock breathed a sign of relief when it was announced Grosjean will still start in third place.

Daniel Ricciardo once again reminded Red Bull of his credentials for that sought-after 2014 drive by once again making it through to Q3, while his team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne didn’t. The Australian will line his Toro Rosso up in eighth alongside Felipe Massa, with Vergne down in 14th.

Sergio Perez kept McLaren’s end up by making the cut for the shoot-out, a disappointed Jenson Button slipping to 13th in the dying moments of Q2. The Mexican qualified ninth, which was a great effort by both the man himself and his mechanics who’d been forced to carry out rapid repairs after Sergio binned it in the final moments of FP3 on Saturday morning, slamming side-on into the tyre wall at Turn 12.

A disenchanted Mark Webber rounded out the top 10, the Aussie walking away from his car and out the back of the garage before the shoot-out was done. Yet again, his Red Bull suffered a KERS failure early in the session that also affected his gearchanges, Mark doing well to make the cut to Q3 at all. Having set times only second to Vettel on Friday, no wonder he described the problems as “stupid” and “embarrassing”, especially at a circuit where qualifying is so important.

Adrian Sutil will start his 100th GP from 11th position, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber, Button and Vergne. His Force India team-mate Paul di Resta was left scratching his head in frustration after failing to make it out of Q1. The Scot complained of no grip and was at a loss to understand why as he languished down in 18th position.

Along with Hamilton’s pole, there was further British success when Jolyon Palmer, son of circuit owner and former F1 driver Jonathan, scored his maiden GP2 feature race victory. Superior Carlin tyre strategy and a great move on Marcus Ericsson allowed Palmer to streak away to a clear win, adding to his sprint race success in Monaco last year.

Earlier this morning, there was a flurry of activity as Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt shook hands for the cameras. They have finally agreed to agree something important.

The new Concorde Agreement, the binding document by which the sport is run, is ready to sign – more than seven months after the previous one expired.

It’s not done yet though. The statement read: “The Formula 1 Group and the FIA have signed an agreement setting out the framework for implementation of the 2013 Concorde Agreement. This agreement will come into force upon approval by the respective governing bodies of the signatory parties in the coming weeks.”

Typical F1. An agreement is edging closer, but until the teams have signed on the dotted line, it’ll rumble on for while longer.

As for tomorrow, Hamilton has done us all a big favour. The fear before qualifying was that if Vettel scorched to pole, no one would be able to stop him dominating the race. But even if Hamilton remains pessimistic, the fact he starts ahead of the reigning champion gives title rival Alonso hope that Sebastian won’t have it all his own way in the heat and intensity of a Hungarian afternoon.

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