x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Alonso's pole amid chaos

Confusion reigns at end of qualifying and the Spaniard starts from the front for first time since 2007 with Red Bull second and third.

Red Bull's Sebastien Vettel of Germany, left, and Renault's Fernando Alonso wonder who grabbed pole as the scoring system went down towards the end of qualifying in Budapest. Alonso was eventually confirmed on pole.
Red Bull's Sebastien Vettel of Germany, left, and Renault's Fernando Alonso wonder who grabbed pole as the scoring system went down towards the end of qualifying in Budapest. Alonso was eventually confirmed on pole.

BUDAPEST // Fernando Alonso took pole position after a chaotic finish to qualifying for today's Hungarian Grand Prix, where Ferrari's Felipe Massa was airlifted to hospital following a high-speed accident. The Renault driver's fastest lap of 1min 21.596secs around the Hungaroring circuit was enough for the two-time world champion's first pole since the 2007 Italian Grand Prix.

But Alonso was only confirmed on pole following lengthy confusion in the paddock as all nine drivers in the final session waited to know results after the scoring system went down. "My team said we don't know position you are," said Alonso, who picked up his first career win in Hungary six years ago. "When I got out of the car I asked other drivers how they did to get an idea. Some were telling me two or three-tenths of a second slower than me so I got excited.

"It was quite a stressful qualifying to be honest. In Q1, we had a yellow flag because of the Toro Rosso off the track and were 15th and had to do a lap to get into Q1. "Then in Q3 the times were not working and we were in parc ferme, we were chatting between ourselves to ask what times we did to see who was on pole position. We did a step forward, it's not enough, we need to keep working but finally we found a good direction."

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel was eventually confirmed to start second ahead of teammate Mark Webber, while McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg of Williams completed the top five. Alonso played down his chances of a first victory for Renault this season, with his only podium finish being second place at the rain-soaked Chinese Grand Prix. "We're not as quick as these guys but we'll try to be competitive," the Spaniard said. Red Bull are looking to complete a third straight 1-2 finish.

Some of their rivals, however, are hoping to get an edge from the new KERS overtaking system on the long straightaway leading into the first corner. Hamilton and teammate Heikki Kovalainen, in sixth, as well as seventh-placed Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari, all have the hybrid system available. "There's a long straight here so it should be an advantage," Raikkonen said. Championship leader Jenson Button, who at one stage held a 32-point lead over Vettel, qualified in eighth and could miss the podium for a third consecutive race after winning six of the first seven this season.

Although Toro Rosso rookie Jaime Alguersuari, 19, became the youngest to take part in an F1 qualifying session, there was no fairy tale story for the Spanish youngster. He was undermined by an electrical fault that forced him to pull his Toro Rosso off the track in the final sector during Q1 and will start last. * Agencies