The Mercedes drivers are ready to fight Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen in F1 Hunagrian GP as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc comes down hard on himself.
Verstappen finally broke the pole jinx in F1 Hungarian GP at Hungaroring with his first career pole as he also became the 100th different pole-sitter. All weekend, he looked a credible threat despite the Mercedes and Ferrari challenge.
It soon looked like that Ferrari may not be in contention as they lost too much time in Sector 3 due to the cornering speeds, while both the Mercedes drivers and Verstappen had much better run in the final sector to remain ahead – and that’s what happened.
Verstappen had marginal edge of 0.018s over Valtteri Bottas in the end with Lewis Hamilton a bit further behind but ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. For the Dutchman, it was just another accolade as he now focuses on winning the race.
“It feels good,” he said. “I think the whole weekend already the car was very competitive. Of course there’s always a bit of a question mark how it’s going to work out in qualifying when we know that they can turn up a bit more power.
“But we seemed to hang in there and the car actually got better and better throughout qualifying. I was very happy with it, very pleased. It was really enjoyable to drive. I didn’t really have any comments throughout qualifying.
“I just said ‘keep it going, keep the car going and give me new tyres’ and that’s exactly what we did. Of course to get your first pole is very nice but it’s of course what counts on Sundays always.” Even with the inroads, Verstappen remains realistic about Honda.
It is clear that the Japanese manufacturer is a bit behind but have made huge strides this year. Verstappen reckons the high engine mode for Honda isn’t as aggressive as the others, which is one reason for them not being able to break the jinx.
“We do have engine modes but it just seems like it’s not as powerful as maybe as looking at Ferrari, they really turn it up,” he said. “We do turn it up but maybe not as aggressive. I think it’s a bit of both chassis and engine where we were lacking in the beginning.
“We made good gains with the engine, but we’re not where we want to be and I think everybody knows that. But we are pushing hard and we are improving and we are getting close to Mercedes and Ferrari, especially Ferrari, they seem very quick on the straights.
“With the chassis I think since Austria where we introduced a few crucial updates I think the car has been a lot better. From there onwards we kept bringing new parts. Maybe not as major as that one but it always gave me more of a balanced feeling in the car.
“And that’s exactly what we were looking for in the car and I guess it shows today on a track where you need a lot of downforce that the car was working really well.” Looking at the grand prix, Verstappen hopes to keeps Mercedes at bay and control the pace.
Meanwhile, the Mercedes duo will be looking to work together to put pressure on Verstappen, especially with the Dutchman alone at the front and Pierre Gasly only sixth. “We’re in a good position in terms of working as a team,” said Hamilton.
“We’re in a fortunate position, potentially, if we can hold on to Max to be able to work together to pull him closer to us and give him a bit of a run for his money. It’s a little bit harder when you’re on your own at the front in the team.
“Because you can come under attack from undercuts and all this sort of thing. We’ll see how that plays out but we’ve got a long run down to turn one so hopefully we will have a nice long battle down there and then after that it’s down to team tactics.”
Bottas added: “For sure we always discuss it, especially if we’re kind of starting next to each other and like Lewis said, we have a good chance as a team because we have two cars very much at the front. Obviously we are both also racing for our own result.
“But we also also working as a team will benefit both of us so it should be interesting.” It was a fightback from Bottas though to be so close to pole, especially after losing time on Friday. Hamilton though didn’t feel as comfortable as the session progressed.
While the Top 3 seemed to be in a fight, the Ferrari drivers reckon it will be difficult for them in the mix, especially if the temperatures aren’t hot enough due to characteristics of the car. Vettel felt fourth was all he could do and hopes the race pans out better.
But he pins it on hotter conditions, which is similar to Leclerc, who was hard on himself again after his Q1 brush with the barrier which Mattia Binotto reckons took away some of his confidence. The car had a rear wing fitted but had some damaged parts too.
“On the one hand, I am happy with my lap in Q3,” he said. “On the other, the mistake I made in Q1 was unnecessary and I will make sure that it doesn’t happen again. The team did a great job to get the car back in shape for us to go out in Q2.
“I believe that we got the best result we could from qualifying. So far this weekend, we have been lacking grip. Our competitors are strong, especially in the corners, and it will be a difficult race for us on Sunday.”