x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

'Steep hill' to climb for pole-sitter Hamilton at Hungarian GP

Mercedes driver shocked even himself after last-gasp effort in qualifying, but unsure if he can win race.

Lewis Hamilton is not confident his Mercedes has the pace to beat Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton is not confident his Mercedes has the pace to beat Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull.

BUDAPEST // Lewis Hamilton acknowledged he had shocked even himself after his last-gasp effort in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix ensured that he will start from pole position for Sunday's race at the Hungaroring.

The Mercedes-GP driver sounded stunned, even though it was his fourth pole of the season, when his team announced over the race radio that he had beaten three-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel at the end of the session.

"I'm really surprised," said Hamilton, who is looking for his first race win of the season.

"We've got a steep hill to climb tomorrow with these tyres and these conditions."

The Briton clocked 1:19.388, just ahead of Vettel's best lap of 1:19.426.

"There wasn't much missing. Lewis did a really good job," said Vettel, the championship leader, who has never won in Hungary in his previous six attempts.

"It's stupid to sit here and say 'We should have done this and we should have done that'.

"I could be on pole, but still I think it puts us in a great place for tomorrow."

Vettel, the defending champion, remains confident he can follow up his success at the German Grand Prix three weeks ago and clinch his fifth win of the campaign in his Red Bull Racing car and bolster his hopes for a fourth successive drivers' title.

"We should have a good race because the car feels fine," he said.

Lotus driver Romain Grosjean, who was fastest in the final practice session, qualified third in 1:19.595 for his best grid position of the season.

Hamilton, the 2008 F1 champion, will hope that the Hungaroring helps him end his winless run.

The Briton won here last year for his third victory on the track.

But has not won a race since the United States Grand Prix in November at Austin, Texas, his penultimate race for McLaren before he moved to Mercedes.

"I've been fortunate to have a good car for quite a few years with McLaren," Hamilton said.

"These guys [Vettel and Grosjean] are going to be ridiculously fast, so trying to keep in front or hold onto them is going to be the challenge."

Red Bull and Mercedes have combined to take all 10 poles this season - with Vettel getting all three for Red Bull.

But Mercedes has a low conversion rate from the front of the grid.

"Pole definitely helps, of course, because it's very difficult to follow here, but it is a long way down to turn one," Hamilton said.

"If you can hold pole into turn one then it will be advantageous. But as always, the race is going to be about the tyres and trying to hold on to them."

Nico Rosberg has won two races, while Hamilton is still looking to finish higher than third in a Mercedes that has great speed but lacks durability over a whole race.

"It's been the same for a long time. It's not a surprise for us," Hamilton said.

"It's great to have the pole position, but it doesn't mean anything. It's in the race where we score points."

Grosjean finished third at the German GP three weeks ago to end a run in which he failed to place inside the top 15 for four F1 races.

"I quite like this circuit, but it doesn't mean much, unfortunately. The last lap was a pretty good lap," said Grosjean, who was third in Hungary last year.

"I'm happy to be back in the top three in qualifying."

Stifling temperatures are expected for today's race with tyre degradation again expected to play a key part in the result.

Red Bull's Mark Webber did not make a run in Q3 because of a problem with Kers, which boosts acceleration in the car over a lap, and will start 10th.

Encouraging signs for Grosjean

Grosjean is bidding to keep his seat at Lotus for 2014 and he did his hopes no harm on Saturday as he put in his best qualifying performance for 12 months.

He will start third today after escaping punishment for his car failing post-qualifying inspection for front-floor deflection.

Hungarian GP qualifying results

1 Hamilton, Mercedes 1m19.388secs

2 Vettel, Red Bull 1.19.426

3 Grosjean, Lotus 1.19.595

4 Rosberg, Mercedes 1.19.720

5 Alonso, Ferrari 1.19.791

6 Raikkonen, Lotus 1.19.851

7 Massa, Ferrari 1.19.929

8 Ricciardo, Toro Rosso 1.20.641

9 Perez, McLaren 1.22.398

10 Webber, Red Bull no time set

Top 10 must start the race on the tyres with which they completed qualifying

11 Sutil, Force India 1.20.569

12 Hulkenberg, Sauber 1.20.580

13 Button, McLaren 1.20.777

14 Vergne, Toro Rosso 1.21.029

15 Maldonado, Williams 1.21.133

16 Bottas, Williams 1.21.219

17 Gutierrez, Sauber 1.21.724

18 Di Resta, Force India 1.22.043

19 Pic, Caterham 1.23.077

20 Van der Garde, Caterham 1.23.333

21 Bianchi, Marussia 1.23.787

22 Chilton, Marussia 1.23.997

Drivers’ championship

Sebastian Vettel, Germany 157 pts

Fernando Alonso, Spain 123

Kimi Raikkonen, Finland 116

Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain 99

Mark Webber, Australia 93

Nico Rosberg, Germany 84

Felipe Massa, Brazil 57

Romain Grosjean, France 41

Paul di Resta, Great Britain 36

Jenson Button, Great Britain 33

Adrian Sutil, Germany 23

Sergio Perez, Mexico 16

Jean-Eric Vergne, France 13

Daniel Ricciardo, Australia 11

Nico Hulkenberg, Germany 7

Esteban Gutierrez, Mexico 0

Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela 0

Valtteri Bottas, Finland 0

Jules Bianchi, France 0

Charles Pic, Marussia 0

Max Chilton, Great Britain 0

Giedo van der Garde, Netherlands 0

Constructors’ championship

Red Bull-Renault 250 pts

Mercedes GP 183

Ferrari 180

Lotus-Renault 157

Force India-Mercedes 59

McLaren-Mercedes 49

Toro Rosso-Ferrari 24

Sauber-Ferrari 7

Williams-Renault 0

Marussia-Cosworth 0

Caterham-Renault 0

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