Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg yet again topped the timesheets this morning at the Hungaroring, but only by a small margin as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen lapped only 0.002s slower than the German, showing the threat the the Mercedes are under from the Red Bulls in particular.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finished the session in fourth, behind both of the Red Bulls, as he made a few mistakes whilst out on the track as mechanics had to replace the seat in his car following the old one being damaged in his accident yesterday.
Rather impressively for Renault, driver Jolyon Palmer finished tenth, after yesterday’s fuel pressure problems restricted his running; he was rewarded for his patience this morning. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso finished in seventh, demonstrating McLaren’s good form this weekend.
Similar to yesterday, drivers were again testing the track limits in Turns four, five and eleven especially, with, in some cases, all four wheels being off the track limits.
It has also been announced that the FIA will adopt a “zero tolerance”approach towards violations of the track limits during Qualifying, and a ‘four strikes and you’re out policy towards this in tomorrow’s race. This means that if a driver exceeds the limits three times, a black and white flag will be waved, showing that they’re under investigation. If they do this a fourth time, they may have to return to the pit lane for a drive-through penalty.
Violations of the track limits will be recorded by timing loops inserted into the kerbs, and will recognise that a car has violated the limits if it is more than twenty centimetres beyond the white lines.
Due to heavy rain and a wet track, Qualifying lasted a total of about two hours, in which we saw plenty of the unexpected.
The session began twenty minutes after it was supposed to due to a heavy downpour of rain, meaning that the track was flooded. Everyone went out on Pirelli’s wet tyre, as expected, to get a lap time in as soon as they could, as there was another chance of rain in the next five minutes. The session was quickly stopped, after four minutes due to safety concerns over the severe aquaplaning and almost no visibility due to the spray. It was a mixed up grid, with the two Force India’s of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg first and second, with the two Mercedes down in twentieth and twenty-first. This caused some concern for drivers in the elimination zone, as they could suffer hugely if the session was not later restarted.
Q1 was restarted, fifteen minutes later, as the rain has stopped and the track was even beginning to dry out a little. However, this wasn’t for very long. After only four minutes, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had spun off the track, colliding with the advertising barriers in Turn ten, damaging his front suspension especially badly, causing the reed flags to come out yet again, as the session was stopped for the second time.
Ten minutes later, the session was started again for a third time, and luckily for the drivers, the track was beginning to dry, as dry lines were starting to appear. The majority of the drivers still saw the track as too wet, and went out again on wets, however Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Williams’ Felipe Massa decided to risk going out on intermediates. This, ultimately, did not work out well for the Brazilian, as after just a few minutes, he spun and crashed into the barriers at Turn four. So, again, the session had to be stopped as the red flags came out as Massa’s car was hauled away.
Luckily, it was only for a short period of time. With only a little over five minutes remaining, everyone dashed out of the pits again, with all but Renault’s Kevin Magnussen [who was on wets], on intermediate tyres. The track was quickly drying faster with every lap, and it was only a waiting game to see wether or not it was suitable to change to slicks. However, unbelievably, the session was red-flagged again, as Manor’s Rio Haryanto crashed into the barriers, similarly to how Ericsson did earlier.
Since there wasn’t enough time to get a lap in before the end of the session, it was not restarted. This was particularly bad news for Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, who was unable to complete his fast lap before the red flags were flown for the final time, leaving him stuck nearer the bottom of the grid then he would have liked, considering that he performed so well in the final free practice earlier in the day.
As Q2 began, the sun had started to emerge from the clouds onto a quickly drying track, although no-one thought it was a good idea to begin the session with slick tyres. Williams’ Valterri Bottas was the first to change to the supersoft tyre, putting in the fastest time, triggering a chain reaction as everyone dashed into the pits to swap to the supersofts.
As the session was closing, the times were tumbling as everyone was putting in faster and faster lap times, as the drivers who crossed the chequered flag first lost out, an example being Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who was one of the first to cross the chequered flag, high up on the timesheets. However, his time kept on falling lower and lower as more drivers crossed the flag, leaving him in the elimination zone, and he couldn’t do anything about it. It was the first time this season that the Finn has not made it into Q3. Another surprise was Perez, who in a similar fashion to Raikkonen ended up sliding down the timesheets, and there was nothing he could do about it. Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez and Sauber’s Felipe Nasr were also eliminated in the session.
Nico Rosberg emerged the fastest from Q3 to grab pole position from teammate Lewis Hamilton, who held onto it until the last moment, in which he had to brake on his final lap due to McLaren’s Fernando Alonso spinning off the track on Turn nine, which brought out the yellow flags, meaning that he had to slow. Luckily for Rosberg, he did not have to brake as Alonso had got going again by the time that he reached Turn nine. Although the first sector of Rosberg’s final lap was more than four-tenth’s slower than his teammates’, he was the fastest overall through the second sector on a fast-drying track, snatching pole position from the Brit by less than two-tenths of a second.
As proved by their good form during free practice, the two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen performed well and grabbed third and fourth on the grid.
With no apparent penalties, the provisional grid is follows: