Ferrari lockout front row ahead of Hungarian GP

Sebastian Vettel headed a Ferrari one-two for the Hungarian Grand Prix, putting in a fine lap to take pole in front of his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in qualifying. The Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was in third but Lewis Hamilton could manage only fourth on the grid, his attempt to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 pole positions denied after he could not quite find the balance of the car he was happy with.

This is Vettel’s second pole position of the season, having taken the top spot in Russia and it is the third time he has claimed pole in Hungary, having done so twice before for Red Bull in 2010 and 2011. The German’s 48th career pole is Ferrari’s third this year after Raikkonen also took pole in Monaco and while the Scuderia are still generally behind Mercedes over the single lap discipline, they have proved that they can take advantage on tracks where power is not such a prominent factor.

The Ferrari has proved repeatedly this season that is quick out of the box and is both easy to set-up and better than Mercedes at finding the right operating temperature window for its tyres. Vettel made the most of it with aplomb and it bodes well for the race. He had dialled-in the car and was fully up to speed by the final run this morning where he was quickest in final practice. He will now be looking to convert pole to a win and extend the slender one-point lead he has over Hamilton in the world championship.

Ferrari knew they were previously off the Mercedes pace and had looked to address it since Silverstone. The twisting Hungaroring negates the power advantage of Mercedes and the Scuderia will be hugely pleased they have thus far proved that they are still on the front foot through the corners.

“The car has been incredible all day. We made a good step forward. I like this track a lot and it’s been really enjoyable,” said Vettel. “It’s a front row for us so we’re looking forward to tomorrow. Nothing changed overnight. The last race wasn’t great for us but that doesn’t matter now. I’m very happy where we are as a team. The main task comes tomorrow. Nothing has been won today.”

Sebastian Vettel alongside Kimi Raikkonen after qualifying.

Vettel’s time of 1:16.276 smashed the existing track record set by Rubens Barrichello in 2004. He had been quickest in Q1 and although Hamilton was top of the timing in Q2, when it mattered in the final session Vettel put in a flawless lap, exploiting a car with which he was absolutely in tune. Hamilton had aborted his first hot run in Q3 having gone wide at turn four and had repeatedly noted that he was unhappy with the balance of his tyres and was suffering from vibrations. He went out first for the final lap in the final session but could manage no better than fourth.

The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were in fifth and sixth and Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg yet again put in a sterling performance to claim seventh.

McLaren had opted to take penalties for Fernando Alonso at the previous round at Silverstone to ensure he had components here, on a track where their power disadvantage is largely negated and they had shown better form all weekend. The Spaniard celebrated his 36th birthday today and has moderate reason to celebrate after finishing in eighth place. His team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne also went well in ninth. Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr rounded out the top ten.

Paul di Resta was drafted in at Williams after final practice to replace Felipe Massa who suffering with illness. It was the British driver’s first competitive run in an F1 car since the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2013 when he was racing for Force India. Di Resta is the Williams reserve driver and had very little time to prepare for qualifying with Massa’s withdrawal only announced after the third practice session and he did well to put in a clean run to finish in 19th, seven-tenths back from his team-mate Lance Stroll in 17th.

Renault’s Jolyon Palmer finished in 11th, followed out in Q2 by the Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez in 12th and 14th . The Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat finished in 13th with Romain Grosjean’s Haas in 15th. His team-mate Kevin Magnussen went out in Q1 in 16th as did the Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson in 18th and 20th.

Hungarian GP Grid

Driver Team
1) Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
2) Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
3) Valtteri Bottas Mercedes
4) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
5) Max Verstappen Red Bull
6) Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
7) Nico Hulkenberg * Renault
8) Fernando Alonso McLaren
9) Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren
10) Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso
11) Jolyon Palmer Renault
12) Esteban Ocon Force India
13) Daniil Kvyat ** Toro Rosso
14) Sergio Perez Force India
15) Romain Grosjean Haas
16) Kevin Magnussen Haas
17) Lance Stroll Williams
18) Pascal Wehrlein Sauber
19) Paul di Resta Williams
20) Marcus Ericsson Sauber

*Hulkenberg to receive five-place grid drop due to gearbox change.
** Kvyat demoted from 13th to 16th for impeding Stroll.

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