F1 – Hungarian GP – Qualifying

Szia, MiniFans! This weekend we’re heading to the Hungaroring, where F1 will be trying a new qualifying rule regarding tyres: everyone will use only hards for Q1, mediums for Q2 and softs for Q3. Beyond this, the midfield has compacted lately, which added to the apparent difficulties in Red Bull to get a stratospheric lap time, has added some interesting bits and bobs to today’s qualifying session, as has the return of Ricciardo to the grid, replacing De Vries.

With the choice of tyres stripped away from them, teams had worked on getting the timings right, but the lack of knowledge about the hard tyre performance saw most of the grid out since the very beginning of Q1, including a queue in the pitlane to be the first one out. Teams filled cars to the brim, as they one of the few things they had discovered was that they needed plenty of laps to both warm up and cool down the rubber. If that wasn’t enough, after the first batch of laps, which saw Bottas topping the sheets, times started to be deleted due to exceeding track limits, adding insult to injury.

Things seemed to start going back to normal when Verstappen reclaimed his usual spot at the top, but a fourth best time by Tsunoda and an eight by Ricciardo made an unsettling feeling start to spread among teams. A second set of hards was fitted on most cars and the dance for positions kicked off as drivers continuously improved their times. The gentlemen’s agreement seemed to be no more, as Norris overtook at least four cars, while others did the same with one or two. After everything was done and dusted, the biggest shock came for Russell, who couldn’t manage to improve his time in his last attempt after being overtaken by a handful of cars, while Hamilton did lower his, saving himself. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Albon (P16), Tsunoda (P17), Russell (P18), Magnussen (P19) and Sargeant (P20).

Now calmer, as mediums were the mandatory tyre, most of the grid waited for a bit in their assigned boxes, but they all soon went out as well. Despite their apparent problems in the free practices to put all three sectors together, Red Bull was comfortably on top. At least until McLaren stole the top two from them, helped by a deleted lap from Verstappen, who had to pit for fuel and a new set of tyres.

In a similar fashion to that of Q1, the end of Q2 saw a queue in the third sector, but it was a more polite one, and everyone could have their last attempt. However, another thing that was repeated was a driver for one of the teams fighting for second in the constructors’ championship being kicked out of the following session by very little time. In this case, two thousandths of a second separated Sainz for making it into yet another Q3, but the Ferrari driver couldn’t keep his record. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Sainz (P11), Ocon (P12), Ricciardo (P13), Stroll (P14) and Gasly (P15).

Almost two minutes before the lights turned green, Pérez was already waiting in the pitlane and was soon joined by Alonso. When they were finally allowed to go out, they were slowly but surely joined by the rest of the participants fitted with softs. Seeing his teammate not really putting up a fight, Verstappen dialled in an extremely fast lap, managing a half-second gap to Pérez. Between the Red Bull drivers, there were three names comfortably settled: Hamilton, Norris and Alonso.

The second stint had one main point of interest: would the British drivers be able to edge Verstappen out of first place? A slow first sector from the current world champion seemed to secure the idea that they might, but Verstappen’s second sector seemed to erase every hope. However, Hamilton hadn’t said his last word and crossed the line last but lowering the fastest time by three thousandths of a second, pushing Verstappen into second.

Despite the uncertainty that shone through at some points of the weekend, Red Bull, or rather Verstappen, edged everyone out. Well, almost everyone. Pérez is still not quite managing to squeeze everything out of his car the way his teammate does, but Verstappen was patient and waited to show his talent and experience, pushing everyone away from pole position and claiming it for himself once again this season, or so it seemed until the very end of Q3, when Hamilton managed to lower Verstappen’s time by barely three thousandths, which was enough to claim his ninth pole position in Hungaroring and place a hand on tomorrow’s winner’s trophy.

MiniDrivers – F1
2023 Hungarian GP