Ferrari lock out front row at Hungaroring — Vettel takes blistering pole, Raikkonen P2; Bottas P3 & Hamilton P4 for Mercedes
On the tight and twisty turns of the Hungaroring outside of Budapest, Hungary Rubens Barrichello’s 2004 lap record was bettered early and often during Saturday’s three rounds of knockout qualifying. In the end the fastest of this era’s machines at this tricky circuit were the blood red 2017 SF70H Ferraris. Team leader Sebastian Vettel led the way with an astonishing lap of 1:16.276 to seize the pole for tomorrow’s race. That time more than two seconds faster than Barrichello’s long-held lap record of 1:18.436, which the Brazilian set in the fantastic V10-powered Ferrari F2004. Vettel’s wingman Kimi Raikkonen was right behind him by two-tenths and laid claim to P2. That knocked Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas back to P3 while his Silver Arrows stablemate and championship contender Lewis Hamilton, desperate to tie the great Michael Schumacher’s all-time pole record, suffered from vibration issues and could manage no better than the fourth fastest time. After Ferrari’s bitterly disappointing run at Silverstone two weeks ago when late tire punctures cost Vettel a sure podium and Raikkonen had to scramble for his P3 the Prancing Horses seem to have found something in their downforce package to make them superior to Mercedes, at least on the relatively short and technical Hungaroring. But Hamilton, the victor at Silverstone, and Bottas, who came home P2 there, will both be hoping that their chassis can run better in the race than in the qualifying shootout because they had nothing for the Scuderia’s fine chargers on Saturday. They may also be hoping that perhaps bad luck again strikes Ferrari in what should be a hot & demanding contest come Sunday.
Red Bull was the best of the rest as both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were the only others able to log sub-1:17 laps for P5 and P6 on the grid respectively. Nico Hulkenberg was impressive in his Renault willing it all the way up to the seventh-fastest lap but it looks like he will unfortunately incur a 5-spot grid penalty for parts changes that will push him out of the top 10. McLaren had a rare excellent day and saw both of their drivers make it into Q3 — Fernando Alonso, celebrating his 36th birthday, earned P8 on the grid while his rookie teammate Stoffel Vandoorne will start P9. Carlos Sainz was able to get his Toro Rosso up to P10 though he was significantly slower than the other Q3 combatants.
Williams were forced to draft reserve driver Paul Di Resta as an emergency fill-in when their veteran pilot Felipe Massa came down with what is being loosely described as symptoms of vertigo. The Scottish DTM driver who last raced in F1 in 2013 for Force India got zero laps of practice and had never driven the 2017 car on track. Nevertheless, Di Resta put in a very credible effort out-qualifying Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson for P19 and was only three-quarters of a second slower than his teammate Lance Stroll. Depending on how things go in the race tomorrow, Di Resta may have opened some eyes and perhaps some doors for an opportunity to return to F1 full time.
Top 10 qualifiers for the Hungarian GP:
|5||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:17.266||1:17.028||1:16.797||14|
|6||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:17.702||1:17.698||1:16.818||14|
Tomorrow’s race airs live starting at 7:30 AM Eastern on NBC Sports here in the States. Will Ferrari have it all their way in the last contest before the summer break or can Mercedes fight back in race trim for the win? Hope to see you then to find out!