Back like a champion: Who will challenge Lewis Hamilton in Budapest?
After Free Practise 3 was completely washed out, heavy rain threatened to cancel the Qualifying sessions too, on Saturday. But after a delayed start, the shoot-out to decide the final grid for the Styrian Grand Prix began under soaking wet conditions.
When a track gets greasy, it offers minimal grip to a grand prix car’s tyres. That’s when the onus shifts to the driver to deliver his best wet-weather racing skills. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s
Max Verstappen are arguably the top two rain specialists out there, and soon they were in a class of their own, up ahead of everyone else. But in the dying moments of Q3 when it mattered most, Verstappen spun over a kerb while Hamilton sealed his 89th pole position with a stellar all-purple-sectors lap - 1.2 seconds faster than the Dutchman! The reigning champ had thrown down the gauntlet. It was up to his rivals to respond on race day.
Teammate Valtteri Bottas was down in P4 having lost out to Carlos Sainz’s impressive pace in the Renault powered McLaren. Behind them, Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel rounded off the top 10 starters. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc didn’t make it into Q3!
Scuderia Ferrari, the most historic and iconic team in F1 required a solid performance on Sunday to keep the Tifosi’s hopes alive. But to their shock, a misjudged late-braking manoeuvre in the opening lap saw Leclerc slide into Vettel’s SF1000 at Turn 2. The resulting destroyed rear wing forced the German to retire his car on lap one and the Monegasque on lap four!
Earlier at the start, Verstappen could not keep up with Hamilton’s pace and his team’s focus shifted onto Bottas behind them. But in bright sunny conditions, the Mercedes W11 cars were beyond everyone’s reach. Although Max put up an exciting defensive fight towards the end, Bottas ultimately stole the position to give the Silver Arrows their first one-two of the season.
Behind the top four, a mighty scrap for P5 between the Renault, Racing Point and McLaren cars was once again won by a sensational effort from ‘last-lap-Lando’ Norris!
The twisty nature of this weekend’s Hungaroring circuit is bound to offer the rising British star a chance to shine brighter than his compatriot Hamilton, who has won a record seven times before!
The writer is a motorsports enthusiast who will cover the 2020 FIA Formula One® season exclusively for Indulge.