But heading into Qualifying, it would seem that Mercedes and Red Bull are looking like the teams to beat heading into the session that look set to gain Pole Position ahead of the race on Sunday. But McLaren, Ferrari, Toro Rosso or Force India may spring a surprise and throw a spanner into the works based on their early pace and promise within the Practice sessions.
Before the start of qualifying, a number of drivers had run wide at Turns 4 and 11 during the practice sessions. The FIA warned that there would be a “zero tolerance” policy in qualifying, and if any driver exceeded the track limits at these two turns, as judged by the timing loops installed there, his lap time would be deleted.
Let the battle for Pole Position begin…
The session lasted twice its normal length due to a rainstorm ahead of the start and the challenge of drying conditions throughout, but pole position was decided in an unusual circumstances in the final minute.
Q1 was stopped four times under red flags, lasting nearly an hour before it was curtailed by just over a minute due to the final stoppage. The first red flag flew when a rainstorm hit the already-wet track, making the conditions undriveable and forcing the cars to tiptoe back to the pits.
The second was caused when Marcus Ericsson lost the rear of his Sauber at Turn 8 and slammed into the barriers, but the track was drying by that point and when the session restarted a handful of drivers dared to run intermediate tyres rather than full wets.
Felipe Massa was one of them and lost the rear of the car coming out of Turn 4 as he searched for grip on the exit kerb and was left wanting. He clouted the barriers on the inside, bringing out red flag number three.
The session started again with five minutes left on the clock, but roughly 2. 30 seconds later Rio Haryanto crashed into the same barrier Ericsson hit earlier in the session, bringing one of the longest Q1 sessions in memory to an end. Both Renaults were caught out by the final red flag, failing to set a time when the conditions were at their best, and therefore failing to make the cut for Q2.
In Q1, we saw Nico Rosberg topping the timesheets with a lap time of 1.33.302, Lewis Hamilton was second, Fernando Alonso was third, Sebastian Vettel was fourth, Romain Grosjean was fifth, Carlos Sainz Jr was sixth, Daniil Kvyat was seventh, Kimi Raikkonen was eighth, Felipe Nasr was ninth and Jenson Button rounded off the top ten finshers.
At the end of Q1 we lose Jolyon Palmer, Felipe Massa, Kevin Magnussen, Marcus Ericsson, Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto.
In Q2, we saw Verstappen topping the timesheets with a lap time of 1.22.260, Rosberg was second, Ricciardo was third, Alonso was fourth, Hulkenberg was fifth, Vettel was sixth, Button was seventh, Bottas was eighth, Sainz Jr was ninth and Hamilton rounded off the top ten finshers.
At the end of Q2 we lose Romain Grosjean, Daniil Kvyat. Sergio Perez, Kimi Raikkonen, Esteban Gutierrez and Felipe Nasr.
Let the battle for Pole Position begin…
Hamilton was the quicker of the two Mercedes drivers on the first attempt in Q3, but as he came through sector two on his final flying lap he encountered Fernando Alonso’s McLaren straddled across the exit kerb of Turn 9.
Hamilton had to back off as a result, meaning he was not able to improve on his first run, but Rosberg was behind him on the track and the yellow flags for Alonso’s spin were just clearing as he exited Turn 8 and entered Turn 9. Rosberg later said he had “a very big lift” when he first saw the double waved yellows on the entrance to Turn 8 but was not concerned by the threat of a stewards investigation.
At the end of Q3, Rosberg took Pole Position for the Hungarian GP year, with a lap time of 1.19.965, Hamilton finished in second place 0.143 seconds behind Rosberg, Ricciardo finished in third place 0.315 seconds behind Rosberg, Verstappen finished in fourth place 0.592 seconds behind Rosberg and Vettel was fifth place 0.909 seconds behind Rosberg.
Sainz Jr ended the session in sixth place 2.270 seconds behind Rosberg, Alonso finished in seventh place 1.246 seconds behind Rosberg, Button finished in eight place 1.632 seconds behind Rosberg, Hulkenberg finished in ninth place 1.858 seconds behind Rosberg and Bottas finished in tenth place.
It would seem that Mercedes genuinely has the pace to challenge for the race win again this weekend despite their form in Qualifying. Both of the Mercedes drivers seem to have the cars underneath them to do this and have been consistent and fast throughout every session so far this weekend; even if Hamilton has a challenge on his hands to get a result this weekend.
You cannot discount Ricciardo, Verstappen or Vettel even to be challenging also for the race win and could also be the dark horses to take the win away from Mercedes (and also Ferrari in Mercedes’ case) that could see gaining some points on their rivals to kick start their Constructors Championship.
Hulkenberg, Sainz Jr and Raikkonen could also have a decent race and pick up some much needed points for their respective teams. Will it rain? I do not know. Who will win the Grand Prix on Sunday? I really don’t know.
But let’s see what happens tomorrow on the Hungaroring circuit on race day on Sunday…