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Lewis Hamilton leads Mercedes wet-weather masterclass to take Hungary F1 GP pole

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Lewis Hamilton leads Mercedes wet-weather masterclass to take Hungary F1 GP pole
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Jul 28, 2018, 4:21 PM

In a remarkable turnaround from their free practice form, heavy rain in qualifying completely transformed Mercedes' fortunes at the Hungaroring wit...

In a remarkable turnaround from their free practice form, heavy rain in qualifying completely transformed Mercedes' fortunes at the Hungaroring with Lewis Hamilton taking his 77th pole position ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

After trailing Ferrari throughout free practice, Hamilton used his skills in tricky conditions in the first wet-weather session of the weekend to give Mercedes an unlikely pole position.

With both Hamilton and Bottas spinning in a dry free practice three after struggling with the handling of the W09, Mercedes' now face the tough task of keeping the rapid Ferraris at bay during the Hungarian Grand Prix, if the race is a dry one.

"It's great for the team to have a one-two. We couldn't have expected this," said Hamilton.

"The Ferraris have been the quickest all weekend, and we're just trying to do our best to be as close to them as possible, then the heavens opened and it was fair game.

"It's so tricky out there. At the beginning, it was dry for part of the lap, and then towards the end it was getting more and more wet, so it's really difficult to arrive at a corner and know how much grip you have, so that's massively challenging.

"And then when it got extreme, I was looking for a clean line, and really tiptoeing.

"We've got a great position, so we're really going to do our best and work as a team and keep the red guys behind us."

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was initially the main threat to Mercedes' front-row lockout, but the Finn had to settle for third in front of a crowd filled with Finnish spectators.

Sebastian Vettel looked the firm favourite to take pole position after free practice, but the lead Ferrari struggled to register a time anywhere near the pace of the Mercedes cars, and his qualifying was saved by a personal best final lap.

Carlos Sainz gave Renault their best qualifying result of the season with a fine fifth place, ahead of Pierre Gasly - who was the first of two Toro Rosso's to qualify for Q3 - and Red Bull's Max Verstappen who, against expectations, was unable to shine in the wet-weather conditions.

Red Bull had lower expectations anyway than pre-event, they are again giving away over half a second to the fastest cars in Sector 1, largely on the straight.

The second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo was eliminated in Q2, providing the biggest shock of the qualifying hour, after being caught out by intensifying rain in Q2.

Qualifying Session One

With the Hungaroring hit by a rain shower in the half-an-hour before qualifying, the entire field took to the track on intermediate tyres at the start of the session.

Teams were predicting further rain over the course of the session, so the drivers were instructed to complete flying laps as soon as possible to prevent being caught out by any change in conditions.

Raikkonen and Vettel led the opening exchanges in the wet weather but, with minimal rain drops falling, it didn't take long for some of the midfield runners to make the switch to ultrasofts.

The top three teams - Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull - were slowest to make the switch to slicks, and a few drops of rain threatened to catch them out, but the track remained dry enough for improvements to be made throughout the session as the track gradually dried.

The biggest potential shock was Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, who went out on soft tyres in a bid to save ultrasoft tyres for the rest of the weekend.

He dipped in-and-out of the elimination zone, but managed to set a time good enough for twelfth place.

McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne narrowly missed out on progressing. He was eliminated along with Sauber's Charles Leclerc, Williams' Sergey Sirotkin, and the two Force India's of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, who had one of their worst qualifying sessions of the season.

The qualifying hour came as a welcome distraction for the Force India team, who entered administration yesterday off the back of a petition led by Sergio Perez, his representatives, and supported by creditors including Mercedes and team sponsor BWT.

The move is generally seen as a positive one for the team, who will be looking to properly assess the potential buyers and seek a swift resolution over the summer break, which follows this race.

Qualifying Session Two

With a very light, almost unnoticeable drizzling of rain, the majority of the field took to the track with the ultrasoft tyres, except for Sebastian Vettel, who was the only man to start the session on intermediate tyres.

This turned out to be a sensational call from the Ferrari team.

Vettel managed to set a lap in much better conditions, and by the time every other driver came back into the pits, switched tyres and completed a lap, conditions were a couple of seconds worse.

The Ferrari was easily the fastest man in Q2, and it was a case of 'first to cross the line' for the rest of the field.

Ricciardo and Renault's Nico Hulkenberg were drivers expected to do well this weekend, but were two of the last to pit and were caught out by the worsening conditions, finishing twelfth and thirteenth respectively.

They were joined by McLaren's Fernando Alonso, Sauber's Marcus Ericsson and Williams' Lance Stroll, who spun off part-way through the session and lost his front wing when he collided with the wall on the exit of turn five.

Qualifying Session Three

With the rain increasing, full-wet tyres were the only option for the ten remaining runners.

Straight from the off, Hamilton and Bottas were excelling in the very wet conditions and were constantly taking P1 from one another, with Raikkonen and Sainz also challenging.

However, with all drivers choosing to equip themselves with new wets for the final runs of the session, Lewis Hamilton's effort in the final moments of qualifying was enough to beat Bottas to pole position by one-quarter of a second.

Raikkonen looked to be challenging for his first pole position since the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix, but ultimately fell half-a-second away, narrowly ahead of team-mate Vettel.

In the end, a miracle result was not on the cards for Sainz, but the Spanish driver took a much-needed best qualifying result of the season at a critical time in the drivers' market.

Gasly equalled his best qualifying result in Formula One and beat the Red Bull senior team driver of Max Verstappen in the process, who only marginally finished ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley, who took his best-ever Formula One qualifying result.

The two Haas drivers did well to avoid early eliminations, but were unable to qualify any higher than the fifth row of the grid.

HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX, Qualifying

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m35.658s

2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m35.918s 0.260s

3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m36.186s 0.528s

4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m36.210s 0.552s

5 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m36.743s 1.085s

6 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m37.591s 1.933s

7 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1:38.032s 2.374s

8 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m38.128s 2.470s

9 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m39.858s 4.200s

10 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m40.593s 4.935s

11 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m35.214s

12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m36.506s

13 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m36.921s

14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m37.075s

15 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes No time

16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m18.782s

17 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m18.817s

18 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m19.142s

19 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m19.200s

20 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m19.301s

By: Luke Murphy

All images: Motorsport Images

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