Lewis Hamilton won his 3rd pole of the season today in Hungary by nearly half a second, a very comfortable margin in F1 these days. This pole win is number 22 in Hamilton’s career, and the first place grid spot also becomes pole number 150 in the McLaren-Mercedes team’s long and illustrious history. Lotus-Renault driver Romain Grosjean surprised Sebastian Vettel, who had parked his Red Bull-Renault in the second slot in Parc Ferme with time running out in the final session thinking he had nailed the second best time. Romain had other ideas, and he just topped Vettel’s time at the last possible moment. Hamilton’s time was a dominant 4/10’s of a second better than Grosjean, which may be a very good sign for Lewis, if he can manage his tires right in Sunday’s race..
It sure has been a roller coaster ride for Lewis during the last week, after an unfortunate puncture on Lap 2 Sunday in Germany, he ended up retiring from that race after showing great improvement for 40 laps with the new McLaren upgrades. His teammate Jenson Button ended up on the podium with a second place after a long drought which is more evidence of a McLaren revival. Now Hamilton went out and displayed the top times consistently on Friday in practice and all day long, session after session in Saturday’s qualifying. Pole #150 may be a fitting sign of good things to come for Lewis and McLaren.
Team boss Martin Whitmarsh put the Hamilton pole milestone in perspective for the proud F1 team, “Last but far from least, I want to pay tribute to all the men and women who, over the past 40 years, have put so much hard work into securing a grand total of 150 pole positions for McLaren…..our first was scored by Peter Revson, at Mosport Park, in Canada, on September 23rd 1972, in a McLaren M19C…
Hamilton had no problem showing off his much improved Hungarian mood at the qualifying press conference afterwards, “I’m really happy! It’s been a really good weekend so far. After Jenson was able to demonstrate the pace of our car in the last Grand Prix, at Hockenheim, now for us to be able to come to Budapest this weekend and be really ‘on it’ is just great.”
Hamilton is no doubt aware of the threat posed by the two Lotus cars, Grosjean and his team mate Kimi Raikkonen will start next to Button in 4th and 5th respectively. Romain and Kimi are everyone’s best dark horse pick to pull off a surprise victory at any moment. So the improved McLaren pace comes with perfect timing for Lewis, even though Lotus has fought back with their own tweaks. Lewis seemed cautiously optimistic that the McLaren team has done their part, “It is great to finally see the upgrades working and I have been able to put the car where I want to this weekend. We are not saying we are relaxed. We know we have a lot of work to do, starting this weekend.”
Grosjean , whose front row position will be his first ever in F1, will be looking no doubt for a surprise jackrabbit start on Hamilton. Alan Permane, his Chief Race Engineer, pointed out the critical importance of a good start because of the tightly configured Hungaroring track, “We’re starting from the front row so there is good potential. It’s a difficult circuit to overtake – one of the hardest next to Monaco and Singapore. A good start will clearly be very important. After the start, even with the DRS, the straight is not long enough to mount an overtaking bid unless a car ahead is suffering from tyre degradation or something else to slow them down.”
For F1 points leader Fernando Alonso, today’s result of 6th spot, nearly a second behind Hamilton, had to be a little disappointing, after the Ferrari driver’s sensational win last week in Germany. However, sixth place may not be too much of an obstacle for the wily Spaniard, especially if the rains arrive as expected.
But Lewis seems exceptionally suited to this tight circuit, after all, he has had success in Hungary before, winning here in 2007. Since all predictions for the weather on race day is for 100% rain, it sure looks like things are falling into place for Hamilton. Wet conditions have always been a Lewis specialty, but the big question as always in a dry qualifying/wet race scenario like this one is has the team sacrificed wet weather performance for dry qualifying speed?
“My feeling is that the start of tomorrow’s race will be extremely important. I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to make a clean getaway off the line and then stay ahead while looking after the tyres. I’m told that today’s pole position is the 150th in McLaren’s history. That’s a truly fantastic achievement”
If Lewis does manage to win this race while Alonso stays off the podium, it should vault Hamilton back into shouting distance of the title going into the second half of the season. Sebastian Vettel can also pull off a victory here, after all he won the last two races in Hungary, and he will desperately trying to prove that the rule clarification on engine mapping has not been the reason for his stellar performance the last 3 years. Grosjean and Raikkonen are both overdue for a victory. Jenson Button is also in a great position to show that his second place finish last race was a sign of his resurgence.
I just have a feeling Lewis will grab the ring this time. The race broadcast has returned to SpeedTV and will start at 8am eastern time on Sunday.
Hungarian GP – Saturday – Qualifying Session Results
POS DRIVER NATIONALITY ENTRANT TIME
1. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.953
2. Romain Grosjean France Lotus-Renault 1:21.366
3. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 1:21.416
4. Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.583
5. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Lotus-Renault 1:21.730
6. Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari 1:21.844
7. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari 1:21.900
8. Pastor Maldonado Venezuela Williams-Renault 1:21.939
9. Bruno Senna Brazil Williams-Renault 1:22.343
10. Nico Hulkenberg Germany Force India-Mercedes 1:22.847
11. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault 1:21.715
12. Paul di Resta Britain Force India-Mercedes 1:21.813
13. Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes GP 1:21.895
14. Sergio Perez Mexico Sauber-Ferrari 1:21.895
15. Kamui Kobayashi Japan Sauber-Ferrari 1:22.300
16. Jean-Eric Vergne France Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:22.380
17. Michael Schumacher Germany Mercedes GP 1:22.723
18. Daniel Ricciardo Australia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:23.250
19. Heikki Kovalainen Finland Caterham-Renault 1:23.576
20. Vitaly Petrov Russia Caterham-Renault 1:24.167
21. Charles Pic France Marussia-Cosworth 1:25.244
22. Timo Glock Germany Marussia-Cosworth 1:25.476
23. Pedro de la Rosa Spain HRT-Cosworth 1:25.916
24. Narain Karthikeyan India HRT-Cosworth 1:26.178