Practice on Friday at the Hungaroring was under damp conditions and Alexander Albon found out the hard way that slick tires and wet tarmac do not a grippy surface make. A slight run onto the grass and the car was a passenger carrying machine as it slid off and hit the barriers hard. After the medical team extracted him from the wreck, checked him over, and deemed him fit to continue, Albon said: “Unfortunately, I made a mistake at the last corner where I dipped a wheel onto the grass. Honestly, it was a silly error and just a misjudgement. It certainly wasn’t ideal, but in some ways, it’s better today than in FP3. Let’s see where we will pick up from tomorrow.”
Saturday for P3 and Qualifying was better for all. All except Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez. As the first session concluded, Perez and Ricciardo were caught in traffic. The Australian attempted a pass on the outside of the right hander, only to be balked, holding both himself and Perez out of Q2. Ricciardo will start from 18th, with a disappointed Ricciardo saying:”Well, we put ourselves in traffic, and at that point I felt like we could have known what was going to happen better, coming up to the last corner. If I needed to create space earlier, so I wasn’t creating space and in the last corner everyone’s backed up so what do you do?”
Perez still managed 16th to start behind George Russell, with Antonio Giovinazzi penalised three grid spots after the stewards deemed he had impeded Lance Stroll in Q1. Stroll fell to 19th, with Robert Kubica lining up for 20th. Robert Kubica and Stroll continued their average starting positions for 19th and 20th. Charles Leclerc was lucky to make it through Q1 after a spin had his Ferrari off, collect the barriers to break the rear wing, and somehow make it back to swap. He’ll start 4th.“That’s two mistakes in two Grands Prix. The first one wasn’t acceptable, but this one is definitely not acceptable. If I’d have stayed in the wall it would have been a lot worse.” mused a disconsolate Leclerc.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was quicker than Romain Grosjean in Q1 but the times for Q2 weren’t quite as good to break through to the top ten. All he needed was 7/100ths for P10, he’ll start from P11, ahead of Alexander Albon, Daniil Kvyat, and Kevin Magnussen. Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen’s resurgence continued with the veteran making P10 just behind Grosjean. McLaren’s SCarlos Sainz and Lando Norris will start the Sunday race from P8 and P7, with Norris stating: “The whole of qualifying went relatively smoothly, apart from the exit of the last corner on my final lap, but apart from that it was a good day.” Norris was on pace in Q1 but Q2 proved to be decisive, with his time of 1:16.060 actually quicker than eventual P6 placeholder, Pierre Gasly. Unfortunately Q3’s 1:15.800 was behind Gasly’s 1:15.450, with that missed final corner enough to leave the Briton ruing what could have been.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel found a vital 6/10ths in Q2, and improved in Q3 to be just 0.03 behind team mate, and lucky driver, Leclerc. The top three are the familiar faces of Lewis Hamilton, Valterri Bottas, and Max Verstappen, and that’s the order from P3 to P2 to P1 that will see the top three starting positions in the last race before the mid season break. The term “a miss is as good as a mile” applies in motortsport, and so it was for Verstappen’s 1:14.572, just 0.018 ahead of Bottas in 1:14.590, and barely 2/10ths from Hamilton’s 1:14.769. Hamilton said afterwards: “We’re in a fortunate position, potentially, if we can hold on to Max to be able to work together to pull him closer to us and give him a bit of a run for his money.” Verstappen himself will admit his starts haven’t been the best this year, meaning that he really needs to be on the ball if he’s not to be swamped by a sea of silver come the first corner.
A gracious 21 year old Dutchman when it comes to thanking his team for the car’s preparation, Verstappen said of his pole position: “I knew it was a matter of time, you need luck sometimes as well. Of course I made mistakes to miss the pole position shot but today we got that so I’m very happy with that. A big thank you to the team, the car was flying out there in qualifying, it was incredible.”
With Ricciardo determined to make up for his lousy Q1, and with some improving drivers in the lower mid-pack, the first corner at the Hungaroring looks set to be full of close quarter racing. The race start is scheduled for 15:10 local time, Sunday August 4.