Nico Rosberg claimed his fourth pole position of the season in the final moments of a marathon rain-hit qualifying session as yellows flags behind the German ruled out final flying lap improvements for the German’s rivals.
After the first runs of Q3 four-time Hungarian Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton was in provisional pole position with a time of 1:20.108 and as the final flying laps began the Briton went quickest in the first sector. Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo, too, was set to improve on his first-run time of 1:20.280, but then in the middle sector Fernando Alonso spun just ahead of Hamilton. The resulting yellow flags scuppered any chance of the defending champion or Ricciardo improving.
As Alonso recovered the green flags were soon waved just as Rosberg began the sector and he crossed the line in a time of 1:19.965 to take his first pole since last month’s European Grand Prix.
Behind Ricciardo, Max Verstappen was fourth in the second Red Bull ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas.
“For sure there were double waved [yellow flags], but I had a very, very big lift and lost a lot of time as a result and I was also slower than on my previous lap in that yellow segment, so I’m sure it will be OK,” said Rosberg of his dramatic final lap.
“It was a really challenging qualifying: the conditions changing all the time, very exciting out there. In the end it was pretty amazing that it did full dry out towards the end. I mean some kerbs still had some patches – going on to the start-finish straight, you had to be really careful opening DRS, I think you saw a lot of moments coming on to there. Then, yeah, I just got a really good lap in on that last lap – awesome, I’m very happy with that.”
Torrential rain in the hour before qualifying was due to begin made the track undriveable and there were two 10-minute delays before Q1 eventually got underway.
There was more rain to come, however, and a heavy shower a few minutes in brought out the red flags as the conditions again became impossible.
The conditions proved tricky however and there were three more red flag stoppages as Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, Williams’ Felipe Massa and Manor’s Rio Haryanto all crashed out. In the end Q1 lasted more than 50 minutes with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, Massa, Kevin Magnussen in the second Renault, Ericsson, Pascal Wehrelin in the second Manor and Haryanto exiting from P17 back.
Q2 began in wet conditions but with the track drying quickly the switch to supersoft tyres wasn’t long in arriving and when it did the times began to tumble. Thereafter the middle session was about timing and being careful to avoid mistakes. Two drivers who came close to failing the latter condition were Hamilton and Ricciardo.
Riccirado ran wide at Turn One late in the session and required a last-ditch lap to vault from P16 to P3.
Hamilton, meanwhile, made a similar mistake in Turn One and though the rest of his lap was clean and quick, the error saw him squeeze through to Q3 in P10 with just a tenth of a second in hand over Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
“I wouldn’t say my heart was in my mouth, but yeah, obviously when I came in and saw how close it was, that wasn’t great,” said Hamilton. “I went wide at Turn One. The rest of the lap I pushed as hard as I could. I was up on my previous lap, but of course I knew that everyone else would be quicker, so I lost too much time there. Very fortunate to get through and so that’s why even though I’m second I’m just grateful I got through and this puts me in a position to be at least be able to fight for the win tomorrow.”
One driver who did lose out was Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn finished Q2 in P14 and was eliminated along with Grosjean in P11, Daniil Kvyat in P12, Sergio Perez in P13, with Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez and Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, in 15th and 16th respectively.
2016 Hungarian Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.302 1:22.806 1:19.965
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.210 1:24.836 1:20.108
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:39.968 1:23.234 1:20.280
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:40.424 1:22.660 1:20.557
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:35.718 1:24.082 1:20.874
6 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:36.115 1:24.734 1:21.131
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:35.165 1:23.816 1:21.211
8 Jenson Button McLaren 1:37.983 1:24.456 1:21.597
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:41.471 1:23.901 1:21.823
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:42.758 1:24.506 1:22.182
11 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:35.906 1:24.941
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:36.714 1:25.301
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:41.411 1:25.416
14 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:36.853 1:25.435
15 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:38.959 1:26.189
16 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:37.772 1:27.063
17 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:43.965
18 Felipe Massa Williams 1:43.999
19 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:44.543
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:46.984
21 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:47.343
22 Rio Haryanto Manor 1:50.189
eom/FIA press release