Hungarian GP 2012
JULY 28, 2012
Qualifying Report - Hamilton storms to pole in Hungary
Lewis Hamilton (1:20.953) claimed McLaren's 150th pole position at Hungaroring. It was a bit like Barcelona all over again -- 0.38s quicker than Romain Grosjean's Lotus (1:21.336), an enormous margin for 2012. But this time Hamilton got to keep it.
He loves Hungaroring and his margin was all the more impressive given that the track is so short. It's tight, twisty nature is perfect for Lewis who, at places like this, drives like he's gone karting with 750bhp.
He admits though, that you can't drive like that in the race and expect to keep the tyres alive. "We can go longer than we could," he says, "but I think that if you drew a graph of which cars can go longest, we wouldn't be at the top."
Which could be a worry in the race given that he is joined on the front row by a Lotus.
Thus far this year the Lotus race pace has been impressive and sometimes more impressive than anyone else's. The problem has been qualifying -- getting the E20 close enough to the front and not leaving too much to do on Sunday afternoon.
In Hungary they have achieved their first front row start of the season and their best combined qualifying performance. Grosjean and team mate Kimi Raikkonen (1:20.730), who starts fifth, could be serious threats in the race.
Sebastian Vettel (1:21.416) lines up third, adamant that the necessary backward step on engine mapping after an FIA techical directive, has not compromised the team's level of performance.
"It's been a bit diffiuclt to get the balance right this weekend," Vettel admitted. "The car is quick, sometimes really quick, but it's a bit diffiuclt to get the performance out of it all the time."
Team mate Mark Webber knew exactly what he wastalking about. The Australian was quickest of all in FP3 on Saturday morning, with a time that would have qualified him fifth. When he bolted his last set of options on in Q2, however, Webber found he struggled to match his first run time on scrubbed rubber.
"That was a bit bizarre," he said, contemplating 11th place on the grid.
Jenson Button (1:21.583) was more than six tenths adrift of Hamilton but confident that a strong result is achievable from his fourth position on the grid.
Behind Raikkonen, sixth, was championship leader Fernando Alonso's Ferrari (1:21.844). "We were expecting a very difficult qualifying and so it was," Alonso said. "We saw at least eight cars -- two Mclarens, two Force Indias, two Red Bulls and Lotus, running very competitively, and therefore just getting to Q3 was in itself a difficult target. We didn't get a perfect lap but sixth is okay and it might rain tomorrow, which might change everything..."
Felipe Massa (1:21.900) qualified within six hundredths of Alonso and just in front of Pastor Maldonado's Williams (1:21.939). Team mate Bruno Senna (1:22.343) joined the Venezuelan in the top 10 for the first time this year, with Nico Hulkenberg's Force India (1:22.847) completing the top 10.
Hungary has been a struggle for Mercedes, which has Nico Rosberg lining up 13th and Michael Schumacher 17th (1:22.723).
The race is intriguingly poised. Will Hamilton underline the McLaren pace shown at Hockenheim or can Lotus score its first win? It's one of those rare scenarios where you probably want a straightforward dry race to find out, rather than the excitement and unpredictability of wet weather, which could again be coming.