Hungarian GP 2018
JULY 28, 2018
Qualifying Report - The train race rain
By Dan Knutson in Budapest
Qualifying well up the grid is crucial at the Hungaroring.
"I think this might be the second hardest circuit (after Monaco) to overtake and it's the second tightest maybe," Lewis Hamilton said on Friday. "I imagine in the race it's going to be train race. There's not going to be any cars overtaking in this race. That's just how it is."
But rain on Saturday mixed up the grid for Sunday's train race. As a result, while Hamilton took the pole in the final seconds in his Mercedes, there were some unusual suspects in the top 10 on the grid, and out of the top 10 as well.
The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes – Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Red Bull TAG Heuer – Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Force India Mercedes – Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes –Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin; Renault – Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz; Toro Rosso Honda – Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly; Haas Ferrari – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; McLaren Renault – Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Sauber Ferrari – Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc.
Vettel went quickest in FP3 with a lap of 1:16.170 on Pirelli's ultra soft tires. The other two compounds available were the soft and medium.
The first of the three sessions lasted 18 minutes.
The ambient temperature at the start of qualifying was 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Centigrade).
A rain shower before Q1 left the track damp, and there was an 80 percent chance of rain as the drivers took to the track on Pirelli's intermediate rain tires. More rain was coming, so it was essential to get in a fairly fast lap time beforehand.
Therefore, there wasn't the usual wait about in the pits at the start of the session. All 20 drivers were soon on track.
The drivers reported that some parts of the track were dry and some wet. Thunder and lightning were in the area.
Was the track dry enough for slicks? Some drivers pitted for the tires with about 10 minutes remaining in Q1. Vettel, Raikkonen and Ricciardo were out front at the time.
But the slicks were indeed now the better tire, as Magnussen proved by leaping to the front. The order of the drivers changed constantly in the final minutes.
"I think it is raining now, so the track will not get better," Magnussen, now 15th, radioed with six minutes remaining.
Everybody stayed out, desperate to get in a final quick lap. No more rain was expected in the final minutes.
When the bedlam was finally over, the five drivers who were eliminated at the end of Q1 were: Vandoorne, Leclerc, Ocon, Perez and Sirotkin.
The fastest 15 drivers who moved on to Q2 were: Vettel, Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Sainz, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Magnussen, Hartley, Ricciardo, Stroll, Gasly and Ericsson.
Thunder continued to rumble as Q2 began, but some of the drivers were on slicks and others on inters as they headed out.
The slick runners pitted after just one lap for intermediates.
"Expect conditions to worsen, Max," the team told Verstappen.
Indeed, the rain got heavier. Vettel took the lead while Stroll spun into a barrier.
"Keep pushing," Hamilton was told.
The drivers stayed on the inters. And Raikkonen spun at Turn 6. And now some drivers were stopping for extreme wet weather tires with six minutes to go.
As the rain increased so too did the lap times.
The five drivers who were eliminated at the end of bedlam Q2 were: Alonso, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Ericsson and Stroll.
The fastest 10 drivers who moved on to Q3 were: Vettel, Sainz, Verstappen, Hamilton, Gasly, Bottas, Hartley, Raikkonen, Magnussen and Grosjean.
The rain continued as the 12-minute Q3 session began, and the drivers were on the extreme wet tires.
Verstappen, out front, had a spray-free view of the track. But he did not stay out front on the timing screens where Hamilton took the lead ahead of Bottas. Vettel and Raikkonen moved into third and fourth…until Raikkonen jumped to second.
Gasly was a fine fifth and Verstappen sixth with four minutes to go. Then the Finnish fans roared as Raikkonen grabbed the provisional pole.
All 10 drivers were on track with two minutes remaining.
In the final seconds Bottas took the pole, and then Hamilton took it away.
The top 10 qualifiers at the end of bedlam Q3 were: Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen, Vettel, Sainz, Gasly, Verstappen, Hartley, Magnussen and Grosjean.