x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Major breakthrough at Hungarian Grand Prix for Lewis Hamilton

The McLaren driver, who clinched the 23rd pole position of his career, credits team for improvement in pace following upgrades made on his car.

Lewis Hamilton will start the Hungarian Grand Prix from pole position.
Lewis Hamilton will start the Hungarian Grand Prix from pole position.

BUDAPEST // A late night spent in front of a television set watching the Olympic Games opening ceremony did not affect Lewis Hamilton as he stormed to pole position in Hungary today.

McLaren-Mercedes have struggled for pace in a season that has thrown up more surprises than director Danny Boyle’s spectacular three-hour extravaganza in London.

But progress has been in the pipeline and today at the Hungaroring the team proved they are winning the year-long development race as they claimed a historic 150th pole position in F1.

Hamilton, the team’s 27-year-old Briton, has proved indomitable all weekend and he sailed to pole position. The 2008 world champion’s performance was so dominant his fastest lap was 0.407 seconds quicker than Romain Grosjean of Lotus, despite less than a second covering the top eight drivers. Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing will start tomorrow’s race from third.

“I’m really happy with what the guys have done; a really positive weekend, so far,” Hamilton said, his baseball cap emblazoned with the British flag. “The guys have done an incredible job and to finally see the upgrades working [means] I’ve been able to put the car in places that I previously wasn’t able to do.

“Believe me, as long as we remain fully focused on developing our car, and getting good results, then anything is still possible for us this year.”

McLaren fitted a substantial upgrade ahead of last week’s German Grand Prix, and while Hamilton was forced to retire prematurely his teammate Jenson Button finished third – later upgraded to second following Vettel’s 20-second penalty – to secure his strongest result in more than three months.

“Obviously, Jenson showed the pace of the car at the last race, but to be able to put that to work through qualifying feels fantastic,” Hamilton, who has won here twice before, said. “This is a good boost for the team, but we still have a very long race and lots can happen, so we need to keep our cool.”

The result in qualifying means Hamilton will start from the front of the grid for the 23rd time of his career as he tries to convert pole-to-post for the 10th time.

Grosjean starts on the front row for the first time after suffering what he called “a disaster” last week at Hockenheim, where he finished 18th. “Being on the front row is something special, especially here where we know overtaking is difficult,” the Frenchman said. “We needed to start from the front, so first job done.”

Suggestions Red Bull have suffered at the hands of a new technical ruling that forced the team to change their engine map set-ups were dismissed by Vettel.

“I don’t think it really affected us as much as people think,” he said. “We were struggling a little to find balance, but it’s nothing to do with the mapping.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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