Lewis Hamilton admits he was left shocked by qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix after securing pole position on a circuit where Mercedes had been struggling.
Having been fifth and sixth in the two Friday practice sessions, Mercedes looked more competitive in FP3 but both Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas spun as they struggled with the car’s handling. However, wet weather in qualifying made for an unpredictable session, and Hamilton took pole from Bottas to secure a Mercedes front-row lock-out.
“I had no idea in qualifying that I would be shooting for the front row and pole position,” Hamilton said. “As I went into that last lap I knew I had to put together each sector and really pull something special out, firstly to overtake the Ferraris but also I knew I had cars ahead and around me, so, I think the lap started out well.
“There were some corners that were not as good as another lap – but it was all about making a compromise, and some to get better in another – but collectively I think it was a very, very good lap. Particularly, I would say, the last sector. I don’t know how it is on the sector times but that felt, that’s where I felt, I really made the difference. It was really about patience and also positioning on the track.
“Yeah, I couldn’t be happier with it. This is quite a shock really. I was not expecting to be here so very grateful for today.
“It’s great for the team to have a one-two. Jeez, we couldn’t have expected this. Honestly, the Ferraris have been quickest all weekend and we were just trying to do our best to be as close to them as possible. But then the heavens opened and it was fair game.”
Hamilton even felt Bottas would have beaten him in a dry qualifying session, and admits he is unsure how difficult it will be to manage his tires in the race given the difficulties he has faced so far in Budapest.
“For a track that’s usually been so good for me and worked so well for me, it’s not been really the strongest for me the last couple of years, this year and last year. Even this weekend, if it was dry Valtteri had been quicker than me all weekend. Been struggling with the set-up and the feel with these tires.
“The long run was so-so. The Ferraris were quicker on the long run – but positioning is really very key here. It’s a track where… this is the third-hardest track in the calendar to overtake. So, I think this is really, as I said, it’s quite a blessing.
“It will mean it’s probably a close race between us all but getting through the stint is going to be key, not going over the temperature limits that we have been facing. Yeah. It’s going to be close. I can’t really tell you what’s going to happen. Just got to get our heads down and keep trying to pull away.”