Sebastian Vettel returned to form at the Hungaroring, putting his RB7 on pole — Red Bull’s 12th in a row (tying McLaren for 3rd all time in Formula One history) — with a scintillating, last lap performance in knock-out qualifying. Patrick Allen of the Bleacher report called Q3 “pathetic,” with which we must disagree.
Sebastian Vettel claimed his eighth pole of the season and ensured Red Bull remain the only team to have taken the spot this season. With McLaren and Ferrari having proved in practice that their single-lap pace is now much closer to the Red Bull, Vettel threw down a perfect lap in the last seconds to pip Lewis Hamilton into second and Jenson Button into third.
Increasingly under pressure, Red Bull took the unusual step on Friday night of breaking the curfew that restricts work on a car between 2am and 8am. The curfew can be broken four times per season without penalty and this was the first time the team have done so.
All the major players went through the first two qualifying sessions without mishap using the prime (soft) tyres, although in slightly higher temperatures than during practice. They were joined for Q3 by the Force India of Adrian Sutil and by Sergio Pérez in the Sauber, who put in a fine run to grab 10th.
Immediately opting for the option (super-soft) tyres Fernando Alonso was first out in the last session, but Hamilton remained the leader after the opening laps. Expecting better times from one more shot, the leaders opted to go for a second run in the last two minutes, with Mercedes, who had chosen to conserve their tyres, using only these final hot laps.
Alonso was again out first, looking for a clean lap, having caught Mark Webber at the end of his first quick outing. He was swiftly followed by Hamilton, who immediately took provisional pole from the Spaniard.
It did not last long. Vettel pumped in one of the best laps of the weekend, with a time of 1min 19.815sec. Button followed him out, but could manage only third – his best grid position for five races. Felipe Massa took a great fourth place, bumping Alonso into fifth and confirming Vettel’s place at the front of the grid.
Mark Webber, who won here last year, had Kers problems early in the session and will be disappointed with sixth place.
Vettel’s usual celebration returned after his third place on the grid at the German Grand Prix: “Yes! That’s what I’m talking about,” he said from the cockpit, adding later: “I’ve my confidence back in the car, so now I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Hamilton may have expected to finally break Red Bull’s dominance at the front of the grid, but remained optimistic. “I’m quite happy,” he said. “I think we can can collect really good points here.”
His team-mate, Button, starting his 200th grand prix on Sunday, also feels that with the new tyres, DRS and Kers the procession that so often occurs in Hungary can be avoided. “Qualifying has been my issue of late, but this was a good lap, so I’m happy to be up there and fighting,” he said.
Having lined up next to Vettel on the front row in Australia and Malaysia and seen the German go on to win both races, Hamilton will be hoping to beat Red Bull in the race to the first corner of a tight, twisting circuit that is notoriously difficult for overtaking.
Leading positions after qualifying
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1min 19.815sec, 2 Lewis Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1:19.978, 3 Jenson Button (GB) McLaren 1:20.024, 4 Felipe Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:20.350, 5 Fernando Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 1:20.365, 6 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:20.474, 7 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:21.098, 8 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:21.445, 9 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes 1:21.907, 10 Sergio Pérez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari no time, 11 Paul di Resta (GB) Force India 1:22.256, 12 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:22.284, 13 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber-Ferrari 1:22.435 ,14 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) Renault 1:22.470, 15 Rubens Barrichello (Br) Williams 1:22.684, 16 Jaime Alguersuari (Sp) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:22.979, 17 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams no time, 18 Sébastien Buemi (Swi) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:24.070, 19 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus 1:24.362, 20 Jarno Trulli (It) Lotus 1:24.534, 21 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing 1:26.294, 22 Vitantonio Liuzzi (It) HRT-F1 1:26.323, 23 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) HRT-F1 1:26.479, 24 Jérôme d’Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing 1:26.510.
Buemi will start the race from 23rd due to a five-place grid penalty for causing a collision at the German Grand Prix
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010