Lewis Hamilton surprised even he as he took a third straight pole position and upset what had to that point been a dominant weekend for Sebastian Vettel at the Hungarian Grand Prix. After coming quickest in both of Friday’s practice sessions at the Hungaroring, Vettel was beaten into second by just 0.038 seconds and will line up ahead of Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. Vettel’s closest title rivals, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen will start in fifth and sixth, respectively.
Mercedes had looked off the pace in Hungary after being banned from a recent three-day test of the new Pirelli tires at Silverstone. And even Hamilton believed that Vettel had secured pole.
“I was really surprised when the guys told me over the radio that I was on pole today,” he said, according to the official Formula One website. “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.”
But with the problems Mercedes have had throughout the season with tire wear, combined with the blazing hot conditions predicted for Sunday, Hamilton was quick to acknowledge that his joy at taking pole could be short-lived.
“I was just saying to Sebastian, we've obviously got a good car and good pace, so it's just a shame about the tire issues else we would be able to compete in the race,” he explained, according to Sky Sports. “We'll do the best we can and try to hold on to Sebastian for as long as we can. We've got a steep hill to climb with these tires and if we did win it would be a miracle. I still feel the win is a while off.”
While praising Hamilton for his fine lap, Vettel sounded in confident mood as he aims to extend his 34-point lead atop the drivers’ standings with a third win in four races. “I would have loved to have been a little bit faster and be on pole, but it still puts us in a great place for tomorrow,” he said. “We have a good car and good race pace.”
Things did not go so well for Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber, whose Kers system failed and meant the Australian, who will retire at the end of the season, couldn’t set a time in the final top-10 qualifying runoff. The beleaguered McLaren team managed to get Sergio Perez into Q3 and the Mexican will start ninth behind Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in seventh. In what is a notoriously tight circuit, overtaking could well be at a premium and there will be a fierce battle down to the first corner, while tire wear is again set to be a huge factor.
Where to watch: The Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix will get underway at 8 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.