Mercedes, Racing Point were on a high after F1 Hungarian GP qualifying with Ferrari too but Red Bull Racing, McLaren not so much as Max Verstappen also reacted to George Russell’s stance on Alexander Albon.

On Saturday, the Hungaroring was host to another Mercedes-dominated F1 qualifying session in Hungarian GP, in which Lewis Hamilton took his career’s 90th pole position ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas, as he made evident the versatility of their 2020 challenger.

The Brit and his team were once again on peak form, even having transitioned from the power-dependent F1 track of the Red Bull Ring to the tight-and-twisty circuit of the Hungaroring, and he managed a lap time that was considerably over one second faster than his own lap last year.

And, reflecting on the stellar performance, Hamilton said that he was impressed by his own ability to take Turn 11 flat-out, as he described a ‘solid’ qualifying session. “It felt great,” he said. “In general, qualifying altogether felt really solid. The team have done an incredible job. Turn 11 was really flat for us, which is quite insane, the speeds we go through there. It’s quite impressive to see how far the technology has advanced.

“Valtteri did a great job, applying a lot of pressure, but Hungary has always been a good hunting ground for me. But I’m aware that qualifying isn’t everything here and it’s a long race and a long run down to Turn 1,” said Hamilton, as his biggest rival Bottas explained that he struggled in the first sector of the track.

“I saw in practice that it was going to be a close battle between us in qualifying and practice three didn’t feel too bad,” said Bottas. “To be honest in the beginning of the qualifying until the end of Q3 I was struggling in the first sector mainly, so Turn 1 braking, I wasn’t so comfortable there, so I lost a little bit of time. Turn 2 also, I struggled a little bit with snappiness from the rear end of the car.

“I think when the track improved the car was starting to come together and at the end I have to say the lap was pretty good actually, so I thought I might have a chance with that lap really, but Lewis was just a tenth or under quicker so ultimately he did a better job in qualifying and that’s why he’s on pole,” he summed up.

While Mercedes’ dominance was expected, there was one surprise inclusion in the Top 3, in the form of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll. The Canadian qualified one position higher than Sergio Perez, and was extraordinarily happy with his result, it being one that signals not only growth from the team, but also from the F1 driver himself, who is usually one considered to be a poor qualifier.

“I gotta say well done to the whole team for bringing this package to Hungary,” said Stroll. “I think we have been very competitive from FP1, right from the first lap. The car has come such a long way from where we were this time last year. We has a 17.5 in qualifying last year. Of course there are some track differences this year and all, but we improved more than three seconds from our qualifying time last year, which is really good.

“I wasn’t really piecing it together during free practice and throughout qualifying I was improving a few corners and then at the end on the last lap I pieced it all together and it was really a good lap, said Stroll, as Perez explained that he wasn’t feeling 100% in qualifying due to a sore neck but hopes to be better on Sunday.

Stroll added about racing against Perez as well, while speaking about learning in 2019 and improving step-by-step in the Saturday department. “I’ve driven a pretty bad car the first couple of years in F1 and it didn’t give me a lot of confidence,” he said. So I struggled as a driver to drive around some of the limitations. Last year, as well.

“Last year was a big learning year for me. I learned a lot about myself and about my strengths and my weaknesses. And I just worked on them over the course of last season and coming into this season. And that ultimately leads to better results and better qualifying. And yes, everyone’s entitled to race out there. I hope we get to race hard.

“Perez is going to fight for the podium, I’m going to fight for the podium. Haven’t been on the podium in, it’s been like, two or three years, so I’m hoping we can have a good start and a good race. It’s been a while since I stood on a podium.”

Racing Point’s performance was an obvious headline of the day, but even still, it was eclipsed by the shocking lack of pace of the Red Bulls, only one of whom made it through to Q3. The team had been tipped to be Mercedes’ biggest threat heading into the F1 weekend, so a sorry show of form on Friday turned some heads.

The drivers acknowledged the lack of pace then, and put it down to set-up troubles. Seemingly, they were unable to resolve the issues in time for qualifying on Saturday, and as a result will line up for in P7 and P13 for Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon. Reflecting on the day and his team’s performances, the Dutchman stated that it was a disappointing session, as he explained the struggles they’ve faced.

“I don’t know why but clearly something is not working compared to let’s say also last year when I think we had a really good balance here,” said Verstappen. “But the whole weekend has been really tricky and it is hard to understand.  We tried a lot of things but it still doesn’t really work so of course it was a disappointing qualifying. I don’t know if a podium is possible. From third, it’s reasonably close together, so anything can still happen.

“The only thing is that the Racing Points will start on the mediums, so I think they have an advantage with that in the strategy. But we’ll see. Of course it’s not ideal to start seventh.” The team broke curfew to help themselves but it seems like things didn’t work out. Albon added of his day that a mix of things contributed to his lack of pace. On the radio, he publicly complained about the handling of his car, as well as the timing of his release onto the track for the final lap that saw him enter in traffic.

Notably, he once again denied that the car was in any way unstable – something both he and Verstappen have reiterated time and time again. Both Red Bull’s were surprisingly beaten by the Ferrari’s, who had showed promise on Friday with their SF1000. Sebastian Vettel will line up fifth, while Charles Leclerc will start alongside him.

The former acknowledged that the Hungaroring is more suited to their car, and added that there was better balance in the F1 cockpit this week than last as he reflected on the team’s first double-Q3 appearance of 2020.

“I think it is much better than the previous weekend, for the first time we have both cars in Q3 so I think we know that Austria didn’t really suit us and we lost a lot of time in the straights and here I think there are a lot more corners to make up for it,” said Vettel. “The car felt better balanced as well so I think we are much closer compared to the people around us, let’s say Racing Point, Red Bull and even McLaren.

“It is a positive and we need to make sure we keep that up and now all that matters is to prepare for the race. We start on the soft, people ahead of us are on the medium, people behind us on the soft again so it is a lot of work for us. You can always hope, the question is whether your hope is realistic but I am here to race, we are here to race and here to win so at the moment it is not like we have the pace to dominate and win on our own.”

The Ferrari’s notably beat McLaren’s Carlons Sainz and Lando Norris, the former of whom qualified P9 – a result he was unhappy with for a somewhat atypical reason. The Spaniard lacks confidence in the strategy that his team had to go with, as they will be on the quick-to-degrade soft tyres rather than the mediums – the tyre of choice for some of their adversaries, and the one that looks to be the best of the better of the two compounds.

“It’s been tougher since the beginning,” said Sainz. “I’m not feeling quite the balance in Sector 3 and always struggling with the rear end in the last part of the lap. I managed to put a decent lap together but a lot of moving around in Sector 3. We are not quite there and in the end P9, which leaves me with a bit of a sour feeling because I would rather be 11th with a medium tyre into tomorrow than ninth with a soft.

“When you go into race day you always need to look forwards, but at the same time, the Renaults with the choice of tyre, the soft degrading like crazy that we’re going to need to start on, it could spice up things in the midfield – but our target is to keep moving forward and capitalise on other people’s mistakes.”

He added of the pace of the Racing Point’s relative to his F1 team’s performance, “I think this is the way the cars are working at the moment. We see a very strong Racing Point that’s in another league, they are much quicker than anyone else in the mid-field, or ‘class B’. We are going to struggle to beat them throughout the year, but we’re gonna keep pushing.”

Norris chimed in, saying that he feels their qualifying pace today was more representative of the performances they can expect this year than their excellent finishes that they enjoyed in Austria. Behind the top F1 teams, one of a few stand-out performances of the day, meanwhile, was Williams’ double-Q2 appearance.

The best qualifier of the pair was George Russell, who explained that their Top 15 qualifying in dry conditions blew expectations out of the water, as he called the day ‘fantastic’, even if he was less optimistic about their race pace that he expects to make for a long Sunday – that is, unless there is rainfall. “Fantastic, I mean, our aim was Q2 the Alfas and the Haas,” said the Brit. “And the car just came alive at the start of Q1 and got in a good groove, and gave it everything I had.

“It’s actually annoying, two weeks in a row to miss Q3 by a such a small margin. I’d prefer to be a bit further away because it feels a bit frustrating as such –  but yeah, really pleased. It’s definitely a good opportunity. But the last two race weekends we haven’t managed to transform our quali pace into our race pace. In our last two races we’ve been by far the slowest in the race. So with the cars I’ve got behind me it’s gonna be a tough race.”

One remark from the Brit didn’t go down hugely well for Verstappen, was regarding Albon, who he thought was being made look like an ‘idiot’ by Red Bull. The Thai F1 driver qualified below Russell in the RB16 which is supposed to much quicker.

The Thai Red Bull driver was criticized by some for failing to make Q3, but Russell said that his fellow sophmore driver with whom he climbed the feeder series ranks was incredibly capable. “I’ve known Alex for the last, you know, 15 years, been in the same paddock as him,” he told Sky.He’s one of the best drivers we all race you know, Max, Charles, all of us will say it he’s always always been at the front and everything he’s done.

“And I don’t know what the hell is going on. I feel really, really bad for him because he’s being made to look like an idiot and he’s absolutely not. He’s won in everything he’s done. So I don’t know what’s going on but they need to sort out for him.” Verstappen, meanwhile, reacted to the comments while adding on the performance.

“George doesn’t know anything about the team,” Verstappen said. “I think it’s better he just focuses on his car and his performance instead of speaking for someone else. From my side, I think i always try to get the maximum out of it, I try to push as hard as I can. It doesn’t mean if my car is not, let’s say, capable of getting pole position that I give up. I still try of course to push it to the limit.”

Here’s Toto Wolff on rubbishing Mattia Binotto’s claims

Here’s how F1 Hungarian GP qualifying went