Nancy Knapp Schilke, GP2 Corresondent
The rain in Hungary arrived toward the end of the FIA Formula One practice, and caused for a very wet circuit in Budapest for the GP2 Series qualifying for the Feature Race pole. It also made for a bit of excitement as the sun came out and the track started to dry before the final rush to set hot laps.
Briton Max Chilton grabbed the pole in the closing seconds by a margin of 0.023 seconds. It was the maiden pole for him in the series, and the Carlin team’s first GP2 pole. Second went to James Calado in his Lotus GP single-seater followed by DAMS driver Davide Valsecchi.
“I was ecstatic when they told me!” Chilton added what it meant for him to hand Carlin their first series pole: “It means a lot. Obviously I was their rookie year last year, and I kind of helped them to build the team up, and we've now got a good, solid car. It's good to have it with Carlin, because they're the ones who got me lots of poles in F3, and there's really good team morale, ready for tomorrow.”
Chilton final flying lap on the Hungaroring was a 1:28.980. Calado’s best was at 1:29.003; Valsecchi clocked a 1:29.034. Laying down the 4th fastest time at 1:29.093 was Jolyon Palmer for iSport International.
Calado knew that he had to reach as high up on the grid as possible due to a penalty he received in the morning practice for impeding Felipe Nasr. The Briton’s lost is two positions on the grid. That moved him to the second row, which moves Valsecchi onto the front row. The early points leader needs to score the points for a top 3, if not the win, finish. Palmer will start third, alongside Calado.
“We went out and did 2 pretty good laps and at that time it was first place. The second stint was a bit uneasy, because a lot of drivers, including myself, had a bit of trouble with traffic and things, but even so I don't know if I would have improved because I personally thought the track was better in the first stint. So for Max to get pole was a bit of a surprise for me, and on the last lap as well! All in all the session was good, and I start in P4 tomorrow, and with a good start we can score some points and get a good result,” Calado said.
Valsecchi commented: “I'm really happy. I need to consider this as one of my best results in qualifying for 3 or 4 weekends, I was really competitive and my team made a good strategy: we were not one of last on track, but like Calado said I was thinking the track was better 10 minutes from the end, but Chilton was faster than me, he got the pole in the end, so congratulations to him.”
Not all the top teams took to the circuit when it was wet as they waited out the time for the track to dry enough to use their super soft tyres. A few did test out their Pirelli wet tyres which might benefit them if the prediction of heavy rain pans out before or during Sunday’s Sprint Race. Today’s qualifying even had a river at turn 11.
Arden International’s Luiz Razia, the current points leader, was fifth fastest with his best lap of 1:29.177.
The final push for extra speed came after the change for new tyres, and it was a wild one. Palmer gave it his best shot for the pole, had second when Valsecchi immediately behind him on track did the snatch and grab. At the same time, local yellow flags were being shown due to pushing too hard or late braking attempts caused spins around the circuit.
It was during the final minutes when Chilton found the magic; the Briton moved from 22nd on the time sheets to P6 with 10 seconds remaining, he crossed the start/finish line for one final attempt.
Chilton commented, “It was a bit of an odd session, with the damp early on. We went out early because there was the odd chance that it might rain, and we wanted to get a lap in: there were people pushing and it was a bit risky, so I just did 1 or 2 laps and then waited. I was amazed: I was only in the pits for 6 or 7 minutes but the traffic completely transformed. It was a different session from then, and the last 2 laps were the ones. I went across the line with 10 seconds to go in P7, and I thought I might as well go all out, and I managed to sneak a pole in on the last lap, which was a really, really good feeling!”
The top 20 drivers were all within a second of Chilton’s best lap. Tomorrow after Formula One teams qualifying, the GP2 racers will contest for the Feature Race victory.