Lewis Hamilton took his ninth pole position of 2015 with a dominant performance in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, the Briton both opening segments before beating team-mate Nico Rosberg to top spot on the grid by over half a second. Third place went to Sebastian Vettel, with Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo finishing just three hundredths of a second adrift of the Ferrari driver to take fourth.
The Mercedes drivers were on track early in FP1, making initial runs on the medium tyres, but with track temperatures hitting 53 degrees for the start of the session and with that contributing to a large performance gap between the two compounds it was only a matter of time before the vast majority the field took on the soft tyre.
During the early part of the medium tyre phase, Hamilton took P1 with a time of 1:24.213, with Ricciardo second and Vettel third. Rosberg, though, was fourth and complaining about excessive understeer, saying that there was “something wrong” with his car.
The main switch came when Williams’ Valtteri Bottas switched to the softs and took over in P1 with a time of 1:23.649. That was swiftly eclipsed by Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat and then by Vettel.
Rosberg also emerged on the yellow-banded Pirellis and with his first attempt on the tyre claimed P1 with a time of 1:22.979, three tenths ahead of the Ferrari driver. Hamilton had slipped to P10 by this time and so he too bolted on the softs to be sure of smooth passage to Q2.
As the final times began to come in the men to miss out on a Q2 berth were Jenson Button, with the Briton complaining that his ERS didn’t deploy on the main straight, the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and P18 team-mate Felipe Nasr and the Manors of Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens. Button’s McLaren pit wall admitted to the driver that the ERS failure had cost them a place in Q2.
While Hamilton made it through on the soft tyre in P1, +0.089 ahead of Rosberg, who was followed by Vettel, Kvyat and Kimi Räikkönen, Red Bull’s second driver, Daniel Ricciardo, lived on his nerves by using two sets of medium tyres in the first segment. The Australian need not have worried, as his lap of 1:24.408 was good enough to see him through in 12th place, three tenths clear of the P16 drop zone time set by Button.
Q2 began with Vettel making the running with a lap of 1:23.168s, but the action was halted soon after when Fernando Alonso’s McLaren ground to a halt at the exit of Turn 13. With the car being close to the pit entry approach the red flags came out with just over seven and a half minutes left on the clock.
When the green lights appeared at the pit exit, Hamilton, who had not set a time, was quickly out on track and he took over at the top of the order with a lap of 1:22.285. Rosberg was now second almost half a second back, with Vettel third ahead of Ricciardo.
In the drop zone with a minute to go were Carlos Sainz on P11, followed by Force India’s Sergio Perez and the twin Lotus cars of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado.
Grosjean was the man to profit, the Frenchman jumping from 13th place to 10th with a time of 1:23.805. That bounced Hulkenberg out of Q3 by the tiny margin of two hundredths of a second, with Sainz another two hundredths of a second further back. Perez qualified in P13 ahead of Maldonado and Alonso.
After the first runs of Q3 it was Hamilton who had the advantage. Rosberg was first on the road and set a lap of 1:22.766. Hamilton took a chunk out of that time in the first sector, running two tenths quicker than his team-mate and the pattern continued across the lap as he edged the German in all areas to post a time 0.358 quicker than Rosberg’s.
Behind them Vettel was third, over half a second adrift of Hamilton, with Ricciardo fourth ahead of Räikkönen, Bottas, Kvyat, Felipe Massa and Grosjean. Verstappen, though, opted to sit out the initial runs.
And in the end, the final runs followed the template set out in the first. Rosberg began with a flourish, recording a session-quickest S1 time, but his lap was less surefooted thereafter and although he improve on his first run, his time of 1:22:595 wasn’t good enough to dislodge Hamilton.
Behind him, the title leader was on a march and eventually he crossed the line in a time of 1:22.408 to beat dismiss his team-mate by 0.575s.
Vettel was third, almost seven tenths down on Hamilton, with Ricciardo fourth. Räikkönen was fifth ahead of Bottas with Kvyat seventh. Massa was eighth, while Verstappen’s sole run netted him ninth place. The final top ten spot went to Grosjean.
2015 Hungarian GP – Qualifying 1 L. Hamilton Mercedes 1:22.890 1:22.285 1:22.010 20 2 N. Rosberg Mercedes 1:22.979 1:22.775 1:22.595 21 3 S. Vettel Ferrari 1:23.312 1:23.168 1:22.739 17 4 D. Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:24.408 1:23.230 1:22.774 20 5 K. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:23.596 1:23;460 1:23.020 16 6 V. Bottas Williams 1:23.649 1:23.555 1:23.222 19 7 D. Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:23.587 1:23.597 1:23.332 17 8 F. Massa Williams 1:23.895 1:23.598 1:23.537 20 9 M. Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:24.032 1:23.781 1:23.679 18 10 R. Grosjean Lotus 1:24.242 1:23.805 1:24.181 18 11 N. Hulkenberg Force India 1:24.115 1:23.826 13 12 C. Sainz Toro Rosso 1:24.623 1:23.869 16 13 S. Perez Force India 1:24.444 1:24.461 14 14 P. Maldonado Lotus 1:23.895 1:24.609 12 15 F. Alonso McLaren 1:24.563 0:00.000 7 16 J. Button McLaren 1:24.739 8 17 M. Ericsson Sauber 1:24.843 8 18 F. Nasr Sauber 1:24.997 8 19 R. Merhi Manor 1:27.416 8 20 W. Stevens Manor 1:27.949 6