Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
The start of qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix saw the temperature plummet 4◦C as the clouds rolled in just before the track went green. With rain in the area and storms forecast for tomorrow, weather metaphors were in plentiful supply regarding the long term fate of the sport. The action on track mirrored the mercurial meteorology as spins, mechanical failures and a Mercedes flambé led the way and that was just in Q1. Despite being robbed of the drama of a Hamilton-Rosberg showdown, the rain stepped in and made Q3 the best chance in recent memory for someone other than Mercedes to take pole. It wasn’t to be however, as Rosberg’s steady hand and cool demeanour saw him once again in charge at the end of the day
With both Mercedes at the top and only a hair apart in times for FP3, qualifying promised to be an exciting one especially as Sky was reporting zero grip with the Mediums in the suddenly cooler temperatures. And as the track opened for business, Pastor Maldonado wasted no time in foreshadowing the day’s events by pulling his stricken Lotus off track at the 15 minute mark following a massive lockup.
The sharp end was out to play once the yellows cleared and it was Rosberg on it for Mercedes, as rain was reported in the area. AS 12 minutes ticked by he spoiled his first effort by missing the chicane entirely as his struggles with the early Q1 runs continued.
Not that it made a difference today as just like last week, a jarring cut to a car in trouble led to the rapidly dawning realization that it was once again Lewis Hamilton, only this time his car was spectacularly engulfed in flames instead of having a 30G impact. As he guided his car gently down the pit lane looking like a rolling bonfire, he replied to his teams entreaties to stop the car by the marshal with the extinguisher by saying he was unable to stop the car. He eventually got it off track in a good location but it was clear he was going no further and he was out without even setting a time. There are those who don’t believe in luck, but you’d be hard pressed not to argue Hamilton has seen more than his fair share of travails this season and you could hear the Hamifosi gnashing their teeth across the Atlantic
Qualifying continued regardless, and it was Bottas with the early pace followed by Ricciardo and Vettel. Rosberg began banging his lap out as Hamilton’s ride belched forth smoke. Magnussen slotted into 4th as Rosberg completed his lap and to no one’s surprise took the top spot away. As the Sky director lingered on an arty shot of a forlorn Hamilton watching his car burn, it became clear that with him and Maldonado out, there was a real chance for one of the backmarkers to steal a march into Q2.
With 7 minutes left to go and the reverberations receding, the bottom of the grid retired to change to new softs. As Bianchi, Chilton, Grosjean, Kobayashi and Ericsson got ready to duke it out with Kamui currently owning P16 the sharp end parked it up to make the hard choices about whether their times were good enough or whether they needed to sacrifice a set of new options on the altar of expedience.
4 minutes to go and it was Grosjean out and flying into 8th. Perez followed up with a P6 and Hulkenberg lagged into 16th after mucking up the final turn. Vergne claimed top spot with Kvyat third as the seconds ticked to less than 2 minutes with Kobayashi’s time just 0.1 seconds off Hulkenberg’s.
Super Max became Super Slow Max as the cold hand of reliability reached out yet again and tapped him on the shoulder, ruining any chance he might have had to play with the big boys in Q2 with fuel pressure problems.
His teammate was having no such problems and as he flashed round the circuit Raikkonen fell into 15th, Ferrari having decided to save tyres for Q2. Hulkenberg was into his last sector when the checkers fell and his drive to P12 displaced Raikkonen to P16 and as the Iceman looked helplessly on, in a glimpse of the future, Bianchi completed his last flyer to take P16 away from Kimi and knock him out of Q2. Massive fail from the Ferrari strategy boys as the team continues to struggle on all fronts. Raikkonen, Kobayashi, Chilton, Ericcson, Hamilton and Maldonado all out with the rest moving on.
Well, the chance had opened for someone to make Q3 and Perez, deciding it might as well be him, leaped onto the track followed closely by Hulkenberg. Sergio’s started his first lap at the 12:30 mark and as the first wave of times came in, it was to be Bottas on top until Rosberg got it done. The Red Bulls lingered in the garage and first impressions of a fuel leak were confirmed by Lauda and in a simultaneous interview Lewis actually managed a bit of a laugh about seeing flames in the mirror.
Vettel settled down to his effort as Lewis walked through the onboard action which started with a brake issue that required resetting some functions followed by a loss of power. The engine was cutting in and out for him as he sought a place to stop, never sounding out of sorts whilst on the radio. Vettel got through in P2 and confirmed that he had the pace over his teammate as Ricciardo could not best him and had to settle for P3. A bitter pill for Hamifosi as Lewis confirmed top 5 would be a miracle for Sunday, though true race fans will hope for an epic wet and storming drive to liven up the day.
Sudden shots of Perez climbing out in the garage brought home the fact that as the season goes, reliability will start to play an increasing role in the fate of the drivers, with a 2nd problem for a Mercedes powered car. Reported as hydraulics at 5 minutes left, it must still be a concern to Brackley to see these issues cropping up after such a solid start to the season.
The bad news for Force India was going to be good news for someone as Sergio’s ill–fortune opened up a spot in the top 10. With Hamilton out as well, the drama was gone. Rosberg and the Red Bulls decided to stay parked but the rest were out to defend their positions. A big lockup for Massa saw P5 as the best he could do.
Hulkenberg improved to P9 moving Button to P10 and relegating Kvyat. Double waved yellows spoiled the rest of the runs as it transpired Kvyat had driven himself right out of Q3 by putting his left front onto the grass and spinning as a result. Track limits indeed!
Kvyat’s adventure saw himself, Sutil, Perez, Gutierrez, Grosjean, and Bianchi all out. Grosjean was clearly unimpressed with his inability to beat Sutil, before settling on the cooler track temps as the main source of Lotus woes. Aside from the lack of money and a decent engine, of course.
Given the lack of Lewis, Q3 promised to be a perfunctory affair to yet again confirm the dominance of Mercedes. Yet Mother Nature helpfully stepped into the void for as the track waited to turn green, shots of Kvyat’s Toro Rosso being recovered showed drops of rain glistening on the bodywork of his car. There was a sudden crush at the pitlane and at the off it was Rosberg leading the way as the radios crackled with nervous engineers imploring their drivers to get a banker in in case the track went away from them. Only Alonso and Vettel bided their time, hoping to hit the gap between the traffic and potentially worse weather.
AS Rosberg hurtled across the start/finish, the adrenaline must have been full tilt as he hit the first corner since it was the only one he wouldn’t have driven on his warm up. And rightfully so as it appeared that was where all the moisture was. Rosberg didn’t have a chance and was forced to take to the run off area completely spoiling his lap. For a brief, shining moment the door was open and it was possible that Mercedes might not have the pole yet again. Then, having seen no yellows Kevin Magnussen entered T1 on full song, slamming the door shut by smashing into the tyre barriers and red flagging the session. AS the marshals came round to assist him, Brundle could be heard imploring them to stay back as with more traffic approaching, they were indeed in a perilous situation.
It didn’t take long to reset the tyre barriers, but it was enough for the weather to clear and as the cars hit the track with 9:59 to go, Rosberg was told he was fueled for 3 timed laps.
Once again in the lead, Rosberg tiptoed through T1 but it was clearly drying and further back Bottas took advantage of Rosberg’s caution to set a time nearly a second faster. At the end of the first set of runs it was Bottas, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Button, and Massa all in front of Rosberg, but the Mercedes man’s 2nd turn saw him take his customary lead as the sun once again began to shine.
No sooner did they make for the pits than calls for returning rain hit the airwaves. Bottas, looking for any advantage, tore out of the pits as Vergne turned his lonely lap in, good for P5 as the live stream inexplicably changed channels to lawn bowling for a moment.
Fortunately not for long as the time had clocked down to less than 2 minutes. Bottas, having followed Button, was unable to improve on Rosberg’s time but stayed P2.
12 seconds to go and it was Rosberg, Bottas and Vettel – though Sebastian was on a flyer and as the last seconds ticked off he was the fastest man on track, just edging Rosberg’s time and displacing Bottas to P3. But not for long as the Mercedes of Rosberg, having claimed ultimate track position, came across nearly a half second faster than Vettel. That brought the session to a close, Rosberg Vettel and Bottas, followed by Ricciardo, Alonso, Massa, Button, Vergne, Hulkenberg and Magnussen to round out the top 10.
With storms on tap for tomorrow, and Hamilton once again starting from the back and Alonso and Ricciardo next to one another, tomorrow’s race ought to be a cracking send off for the summer break.
|2||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull|
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|8||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso|
|9||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India|
|11||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso|
|13||Sergio Perez||Force India|