Lewis Hamilton stormed to an unstoppable pole position for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix with a dominant performance in the final qualifying session at the Hungaroring.
The 2008 world champion always looked like the man to beat as both Ferrari and Red Bull endured a muted afternoon. With the regular big hitters failing to impress Romain Grosjean put his Lotus second on the grid, and with no-one starting directly in front of him the Frenchman has higher hopes than usual of making it through the opening lap without breaking his front wing. Sebastian Vettel took third with a single Q3 flying lap while world championship leader Fernando Alonso struggled to P6.
Most drivers burned a set of soft tyres in an effort to ensure safe passage into Q2, with only Hamilton and the Lotus pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Grosjean able to keep them in the blankets. All of the big hitters made it through, though Vettel cut it fine, ending the session just one spot above the drop zone 17th. A late lap from Kamui Kobayashi bailed the Sauber man out of trouble to send Daniel Ricciardo out as the Aussie took up the fall guy tag more often assigned to team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne.
With Ricciardo 18th it’s the usual suspects who will occupy the final three rows tomorrow. Heikki Kovalainen continued to dominate fellow Caterham driver Vitaly Petrov, beating the Russian by over half a second, while Charles Pic out-qualified veteran Marussia team-mate Timo Glock. At the very back Pedro de la Rosa beat Narain Karthikeyan in qualy yet again to continue his HRT whitewash. This is, however, akin to winning the crown of world’s fastest snail: fast compared with other snails, yes, but still ultimately a snail, and thus very slow.
Q2 saw impressive showings from both Williams drivers as they progressed to Q3, as well as former Grove man Nico Hulkenberg, the German putting his Force India eighth fastest.
Williams’ strong form would hit Red Bull, with a late lap from Bruno Senna knocking 2010 Hungarian GP winner Mark Webber out and sending the Brazilian into his first Q3 session. Webber recorded the 11th best time, ahead of Paul di Resta.
Meanwhile Mercedes had a nightmare session with Nico Rosberg 13th and Michael Schumacher forced to back out of his final quick lap, leaving him a distant 17th. Sauber drivers Kobayahsi and Sergio Perez also went out after recording the 14th and 15th best times respectively, with Vergne 16th in his Toro Rosso.
The final session was largely about sorting out who’d start behind Hamilton. The Brit’s first lap was not his finest of the weekend but still put him comfortably fastest and, with time nearly up, Hamilton rubbed it in by going another three-tenths faster. A comfortable and well-deserved pole.
Vettel seemed set to usurp Hamilton early on, but lost time final sector to register the second fastest lap before Grosjean went ahead of him with a top-draw late effort. That said the Frenchman was four-tenths shy of Hamilton, underlining the McLaren’s dominance.
Jenson Button was fourth ahead of a somewhat disappointing Raikkonen, the Finn surely disappointed given his team-mates heroics. The Ferraris of Fernanado Alonso and Felipe Massa were sixth and seventh as the Scuderia struggled badly for pace. The Williams cars locked out row four, Pastor Maldonado beating Senna, with Hulkenberg completing the top-10.
Can McLaren hold off Lotus tomorrow? Given the two team’s contrasting ability to convert qualifying speed into race pace we could be set for a superb battle between former GP2 champions Hamilton and Grosjean.