Nico Rosberg will start from pole position at the Hungary Grand Prix after a marathon qualifying session run in wet and then dry conditions.
Hamilton will join the German at the front – in Mercedes’ sixth front row lock-out for the season – but has called for clarity on the yellow flag rule after somewhat controversially losing pole spot when he slowed due to Fernando Alonso’s spin on the last lap of qualifying.
Behind them, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will start in third and fourth places but not before a steward investigation excused them from not setting times within 107% of the fastest lap in Q1.
Wild weather and Red Flags to Start Qualifying
A heavy downpour of rain that started minutes before qualifying initially forced a 20 minute delay to proceedings.
When the cars did take to the track, they only managed to last four minutes before another burst of rain made conditions treacherous and it became almost impossible to see the cars amid the spray of water. But in that short flurry of activity, Force India’s Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg posted the fastest times while Rosberg and Hamilton were only 20th and 21st when the red flag came out.
Q1 witnessed two more red flags after Marcus Ericsson collided with the barriers at Turn 10 and Massa suffered a heavy crash out of Turn 4.
Between the red flags, the drivers opted for inters on the drying track and Rosberg took an early lead over Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel and Haas’s Romain Grosjean.
Q2 served up more drama with a rapidly drying track changing conditions by the moment. Hamilton was caught out by the improving lap times and a mistake on his last run pushed him down to 10th – finishing just .105 seconds above 11th placed Romain Grosjean. Meanwhile, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was an early casualty and will start from 14th.
Hamilton Wants Yellow-Flag Clarity
The evolving track conditions added spice to Q3 and made for an intoxicating end to a marathon qualifying session.
Having already posted the fastest time, Lewis Hamilton was delivering a strong final run before McLaren’s Fernando Alonso spin produced yellow flags and forced the Englishman to abandon his lap.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was also affected and could only manage third place with his last flying lap ended prematurely.
The next driver on the track, Rosberg, still managed to turn in the best lap – despite the yellow flags still waving – and took pole position away from his team-mate.
The stewards investigated and they decided that he had “reduced speed sufficiently into Turn Eight”, although team data showed that any reduction in speed was marginal.
“It is what it is and I will fight from where I am but more clarification would be good,” Hamilton said afterwards.
“For me, there was no question I had to lift because Fernando was on the track, but perhaps for Nico, I think, Fernando had cleared but there were still flags so it was just a different scenario.”
“The clarification that’s needed is that Nico only lost 0.1secs in that corner. I thought that was maybe the case on single yellow but with double you had to pay more caution.”
“If that’s what we are allowed to do in future, even though you lift and approach the corner with due care, that is different to how most drivers approached it but I am not sure that is the safest approach.”
On a track that is notoriously difficult to overtake but the pole sitter typically doesn’t have much success, the race is poised nicely for a strong battle between the Mercedes drivers who are now only one point apart in the championship.
“The start is definitely the most advantageous opportunity but there will be others, depending on the weather and tyre usage,” Rosberg commented.
“If we are first and second into Turn 1, it is most likely we will be following for some time because it is so hot here you cannot follow closely because all your temperatures get to the limit so I would have to back away by two or three seconds.”
“There could be a safety car. There are lots of options. It’s generally a great race.”
The race will start at 14:00 local time and will run over 70 laps.