F1 – HUNGARIAN GP – QUALIFYING
Szia, MiniFans! We’re back for the third week of consecutive racing, something we’re not too used to. Landing in a cold and wet Hungary, Racing Point needed to prove it’s not a “pink Mercedes” and Ferrari was desperate to show that the problems they’ve been suffering were more track related than due to the car’s development. Rain has been predicted and has also shown up already during free practice, so it wouldn’t be an unexpected guest were it to make an appearance during qualifying.
Q1 kicked off with a long queue in the pits, except for Renault, whose cars stayed in their boxes for a few more minutes. Rain was in the weather forecast and everyone, even the top guns, needed at least one lap time in case water would make a sudden appearance. Softs were the preferred tyre by everyone, leaving some of those with chances to get in Q3 to consider whether they’d use a second set in this session. The track showed to have improved massively when Russell managed to climb up to third and Latifi to seventh, prompting all cars to go out again and making midfielders not worry about not having enough tyres for Q3, but rather get into Q2. In one surprising turn of events, both Williams made it into Q2, with what was expected to be Latifi’s spot being taken up by Kvyat. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Magnussen (P16), Kvyat (P17), Grosjean (P18), Giovinazzi (P19) and Raikkonen (P20).
Before Q2 started, an incident between Sainz and Giovinazzi was noted, Leclerc complained about Grosjean blocking him on his fast lap and Verstappen told his team his engine was all over the place. Once time started ticking down, a steady stream of cars left the pits, but without the same urgency they had previously shown. Mediums made an appearance on Mercedes, Racing Point and Renault in preparation for Sunday’s strategy, the latter being confusing as it wasn’t clear they’d have the sufficient speed to break the barrier into the third session. Realizing that, they did use softs in a last attempt to try and snatch a place in Q3, but it was too little, too late. The surprise, however, was Albon, who complained about traffic and blamed his team for sending him out when they did, except that his onboard showed no such thing. Russell, once again, extracted more from his Williams than the car is capable of, getting close to the cut off time. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Ricciardo (P11), Russell (P12), Albon (P13), Ocon (P14) and Latifi (P15).
Q3 was quick to start, the gloomy atmosphere not being too inviting for a fully dry session. Hamilton made sure to break the track record in his first timed lap, while Ferrari didn’t look too good as they only managed to be in front of Gasly, who wouldn’t go out at all, and Pérez, whose lap time got deleted for exceeding the track limits. Both Leclerc and Vettel went out early for their second run, in an attempt to avoid any traffic, which would only help them to overtake the McLaren cars and Verstappen, a driver that hasn’t shined too much so far this weekend. Unsurprisingly, Mercedes filled the first row, managing almost a second to their closest competitors.
Pole would go, once again, to Lewis Hamilton, who walked away with a new track record under his belt. Racing Point has showed that they are indeed in the battle for podiums and to snitch the best midfielder title, while Red Bull has been slowly deflating: Albon didn’t make it into Q3 and Verstappen could only manage a seventh place, not even overtaking the troubled Ferraris. Tomorrow’s race could be interesting, with the Dutch driver needing to prove his worth and a possible comeback, the Racing Point drivers seeing themselves where they’ve never been and McLaren having to prove that the podium and overall results they collected in the Red Bull Ring weren’t a one-off thing helped by chance.