Sebastian Vettel says Mercedes is “in a different universe” after seeing the performance advantage of the defending champions in qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton beat teammate Valtteri Bottas to pole position by just over 0.1s in a close flight between teammates, but they were nearly a second clear of Lance Stroll in third place. The gap to Vettel — the first non-Mercedes powered car, in fifth place — was over 1.3 seconds and the German says the performance advantage is huge, but he is hopeful of fighting with the Racing Point cars in a dry race as he starts on the soft tire compound.
“I don’t know (if I want it to be wet) — we struggle a bit in the rain, to be fair,” Vettel said. “Yesterday was important to do a couple of laps. It’s maybe not the easiest for us. Clearly if it’s wet things move around a bit more, so maybe a bit more hope but I think generally we should be in a decent spot tomorrow starting further up.
“I think in the race we can make a difference with tires, etc. We’re on a different tire strategy compared to the first four. I think the first two are completely out of reach — they are not just on a different planet, but it seems in a different universe at the moment. So we’ll see but we’ll fight with what we have and try to make the best out of it.”
Despite seeing the advantage that Mercedes holds over the rest of the field, Ferrari still had an encouraging qualifying session relative to the other teams, as Vettel and Charles Leclerc locked out the third row and beat both Red Bulls and McLarens.
“I think it is a better weekend for us — we saw already yesterday — but still a lot of work ahead nevertheless for tomorrow. Both cars in Q3 today, third row for both of us, is a decent place to start from. We’re on a different tire strategy, the first ones with the softs, so we’ll see how that works tomorrow.”