Weather works in Mercedes' favour

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton steering his car on the wet track at the Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod near Budapest during the qualifying session yesterday.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton steering his car on the wet track at the Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod near Budapest during the qualifying session yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hamilton pips Bottas to pole in Hungary with final flying lap in the rain as Ferraris slip to second row

BUDAPEST • Lewis Hamilton thanked the heavens, literally, after he grabbed pole for the Hungarian Grand Prix on his final flying lap in rain-hit qualifying yesterday with Valtteri Bottas in second for a Mercedes front row lock-out.

The two Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel occupy the second row for today's race in third and fourth respectively.

"Ferrari have been quickest all weekend and we were doing our best to catch up, but then the heavens opened and it was fair game," Hamilton told Sky Sports, after a qualifying session hit by thunder, lightning and plumes of spray.

"It's great for the team to have a one-two. We couldn't have expected this. It's so tricky out there, at the beginning it was dry and then it got wetter so it was hard to say how much grip we had.

"When it was dryer, it was a bit like doing ballet and tiptoeing trying to find a line. It was give and take all the way around. We've got a great position, so we're going to do our best as a team and keep the red guys behind us."

The Briton leads Vettel by 17 points in the drivers' championship, after the drive of his life from 14th on the grid to win last weekend at Hockenheim.

  • HUNGARIAN GP GRID

    1ST ROW

    1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
    2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes

    2ND ROW

    3 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
    4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari

    3RD ROW

    6 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Toro Rosso

    4TH ROW

    7 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
    8 Brendon Hartley (Nzl) Toro Rosso

    5TH ROW

    9 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas
    10 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas

    SELECTED

    11 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren
    12 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull
    18 Estaban Ocon (Fra) Force India
    19 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India

Bottas, who just missed out on pole after Hamilton's final lap, said: "Crossing the line being on pole then obviously Lewis had a better lap. It was very crucial, he was quicker on that lap, and as a team we got that one-two, it could've been worse. We are free to fight, so I'm looking forward to it."

Team boss Toto Wolff agreed with Hamilton that the rain helped Mercedes in the end.

"In the dry, we didn't have the pace," he said. "We could see we had a pace advantage in the wet."

While Mercedes excelled in the poor conditions, it was not the same for Ferrari.

"It's not ideal, but the weather was the most important thing today," said Raikkonen.

"I was a bit unlucky with the tyres - there wasn't much grip and, with the spray, it was impossible to see where we were going and improve, but tomorrow is another day and we will keep trying."

Vettel was fastest in second and final practice but he, too, suffered in the rain.

"It was difficult in the wet and it was difficult to squeeze everything out of the car," said the German.

"It looks like in the wet conditions we aren't as confident as we are in the dry.

"We managed well until the end. In the dry, we were in control, but it wasn't meant to be be. It's not easy - it's better to start first, but we will prepare to win from fourth."

Carlos Sainz of Renault and Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso will start in fifth and sixth.

Max Verstappen was seventh for Red Bull ahead of New Zealander Brendon Hartley - who made the top 10 for the first time in his Toro Rosso - Kevin Magnussen and his Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean.

After Hungary, F1 takes its mid-summer breather, returning at Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps at the end of next month.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

F1 HUNGARIAN GP
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 29, 2018, with the headline 'Weather works in Mercedes' favour'. Print Edition | Subscribe