Thirteen years ago, he was pole here at the famous Hungaroring. And he would go onto win ending right on top for McLaren amid 40,000 stunned fans. That was 2007.
Cut to 2020 and you find, nothing’s changed for Lewis Hamilton, ever-hungry for success at Hungary. The only thing that’s changed, though is the car; the performance, the consistency are unflinchingly same for the Briton, who took his seventh pole at the track where he’s used to winning.
In setting a dynamic 1:13:447, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton conquered yet another pole and together with Valtteri Bottas, locked out the front row for the team that’s once again, giving the remainder of the grid a run for its money.
The Finn, quick in the medium-speed corners and the straights ended with 1:13:554 in his last flying lap in Q3.
Mercedes unbent in their charge
But honestly, with a little over two minutes left for the end of Q3, it was clear that the battle for pole position was not being fought between different teams; it was a straightforward duel between the two Silver Arrows, Hamilton the quicker driver with an imperious pace.
But there was a moment of ecstasy for Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, who will start for the first time in his young career a Hungarian Grand Prix from the second row, the Canadian ending with a fighting P3, setting a very healthy 1:14:377.
This belter of performance was in complete contrast to what Stroll managed the last time around as he’d qualify a lowly P19 and end the 70-lap run on seventeenth in 2019.
Stroll, pursued closely by teammate Perez saw the other Racing Point end fourth- fastest.
Ferrari sluggish but not too bad
Down at fifth was experienced German driver Sebastian Vettel, who held the edge in pace over his teammate, with Leclerc finishing just behind in sixth.
Though on race day, there’d be quite nothing that the Scuderia team would want other than seeing both drivers getting away cleanly avoiding what was a needless opening lap tussle last weekend at Styria that thwarted the red cars’ race.
The Ferrari duo was followed by Max Verstappen, the Red Bull’s 1:14:849 proving to be a disappointing seventh, not the kind of start Max would’ve wanted.
Though this was a world of a difference from Alex Albon’s disappointing qualifying run, the Thai-British driver struggling with car handling and balance throughout the rain-marred session.
Norris, consistently quicker than Sainz led McLaren’s charge from P8, with his teammate right behind as Gasly put his Alpha Tauri on tenth on the grid. Though he struggled with some engine and mechanical issues, it’s not a terrible spot to begin your 50th Grand Prix start- is it, Pierre?
Ricciardo’s Renault best of the rest as George Russell drives a fine lap
But there was disappointment for the ever-determined Daniel Ricciardo who’ll begin eleventh on the grid, despite putting his car into the 1:15s, his final hot lap thorned by Leclerc’s blazing lap in the closing stages of Q2. Nonetheless, the smiling Aussie proved to be the quicker of the two Renaults.
That said, it was a memorable day for George Russell, who’ll begin twelfth, as the young Brit registered a personal best P13 at the Hungaroring.
Russell was followed by Albon, in a not-so-impressive fourteenth, the other Red Bull stacked ahead of Esteban Ocon (P14) and Nicholas Latifi, who wasn’t that bad in his fifteenth.
Further down the grid, the usual suspects- the Alfa Romeos and the Haas’ struggled for pace, Magnussen, Kvyat, Grosjean, and Giovinazzi finding themselves knocked out of Q2, undone by a lack of car performance (in that order).
Though, nothing would be as disappointing as seeing Kimi Raikkonen beginning from 20th on the grid, the former Ferrari driver, who was part of a memorable Ferrari 1-2 in 2017, struggling for pace throughout Saturday’s session.
In some ways, what an irony it is to see the man who set the fastest-lap in the sport tussling what was clearly the slowest car out on the grid, the Iceman slated to run from the back of the field.
What will race day bring?
Meanwhile, out in the front, Valtteri Bottas will be keen to give Lewis a good run at the start, if the Finn is to deliver an upset to Hamilton’s plans of clinching what could be a consecutive win, the Briton having won the last weekend’s Styrian GP (which was LH’s 2nd win at Austria).
While that intricate Mercedes battle could have an impact on the world championship, Lewis would be keen on a big record in sight.
Should he win, now that it looks probable that he’s on pole, Hamilton will win the Hungarian GP for a record eighth time. Michael Schumacher is the only other driver to have as many wins against his name, albeit on another circuit, the Magne Cours (France).
So can Hamilton do what’s expected of him? For now, the best driver on the grid must cherish his 90th career pole!
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