Formula One News » Hamilton hammers home advantage in Hungarian qualifying Posted on 28/07/2012
Lewis Hamilton secured the 22nd pole of his F1 career by blitzing the opposition at the Hungaroring and taking top spot by fully four-tenths of a second as McLaren reached the milestone of 150 starts from top spot.
Hamilton left no-one in any doubt of his ambition by posting the fastest time in each of the early phases of the qualifying session, but then showed just how much he had in hand with the latest developments on the MP4-27 by banging in not one, but two laps good enough for pole when it really counted.
The Briton, who had taken P1 in each of Friday’s free practice sessions before having to settle for second behind Mark Webber on Saturday morning, was among the first to appear in an initially subdued Q3, but his 1min 26.781secs ‘sighter’ was quickly obliterated by Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen. In no mood to be chasing, however, Hamilton was straight back on it, posting a 1min 21.260secs improvement to leave the Finn trailing by 1.5secs!
Early on, it appeared that only McLaren and Lotus were prepared to chase pole position, while the remainder of the top ten kept their powder dry and their tyres unused. Gradually, however, they trickled out one by one, only to find that Hamilton’s horse had already bolted. Sebastian Vettel, lucky to escape the drop in Q1, slotted into the yawning chasm between Hamilton and Raikkonen to assume second spot, and appeared to be headed for a front row start until Romain Grosjean bounced back into P2 to earn the first front row start of his two-part F1 career.
Points leader Fernando Alonso, Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, the second McLaren of Jenson Button and Raikkonen all had another crack at trying to prise pole position from Hamilton’s hands, but all ultimately came up short of denting the top three, with Button faring best and only being turfed out of an inside starting slot when Grosjean improved his position. As a result, the Briton – who has twice won milestone races at the Hungaroring – will line up outside Vettel on row two, while Raikkonen squeezes his Lotus in ahead of the two Ferraris.
The tail-end of the top ten was occupied by the lesser lights of the session, with Pastor Maldonado beating Williams team-mate Bruno Senna to eight by four-tenths, with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg tenth, a similar margin behind the Brazilian.
Senna had earlier upset one of the pre-session tips as his last-gasp lap sent morning pacesetter Webber spiralling out of the session. Just a matter of hundredths separated the pair, but it was enough to make Webber’s hopes of holding on to Alonso’s championship coat-tails all the more difficult on a circuit not renowned for its overtaking.
Webber wasn’t the only big name to exit at stage two, as he was joined by both Mercedes men, Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher managing only 13th and 17th respectively as the W03 refused to match the performance of cars it had previously been competing with. Paul di Resta, Sauber twins Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi and Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne fill out the remaining positions between eleventh and 17th.
The Frenchman’s good fortune in making it through to Q2 came at the expense of STR team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who missed the cut despite being only a couple of tenths shy of none other than Vettel. The German’s Q1 performance was an edgy one, and the Red Bull team’s decision to tell him to ‘box’ as it believed his time was good enough to go through only just proved prescient.
Heikki Kovalainen, in the fastest of the expected non-qualifiers, was only a fraction further behind the world champion but did not have enough time to try for a giant-killing run. Instead, the Finn joined Caterham team-mate Vitaly Petrov, Marussia’s Charles Pic and Timo Glock and the HRTs of Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan in heading for the earliest bath.