Hungarian GP Qualifying: George Russell takes surprise pole for Mercedes ahead of Ferraris

by 24britishtvJuly 30, 2022, 9 p.m. 16
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George Russell stunned Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc to take the first pole position of his Formula One career at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Sainz looked to have beaten Ferrari team-mate Leclerc to pole, but Russell - behind them on track - came through to snatch a pole position that had looked hugely unlikely.

Meanwhile, Mercedes struggled through all three of the weekend's practice sessions.

World Championship leader Max Verstappen was 10th after a power issue caused him to abort his final attempt at a flying lap, while Red Bull's misery was compounded by a Q2 exit for Sergio Perez, who will start 11th.
• Hungarian GP: When to watch live on Sky Sports F1

Lando Norris secured a place on the second row for McLaren ahead of the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, while Lewis Hamilton could only manage seventh as a DRS problem saw him also abort his final flying lap.

The surprise grid sets up a potentially thrilling race on Sunday. Russell will be seeking his first F1 victory. Ferrari are looking to reduce the 63-point lead held by Verstappen - who will no doubt have designs on working his way back through the field.

"I am over the moon, absolutely buzzing," Russell said.

"I mean, yesterday was arguably our worst Friday of the season and we worked so hard and we didn't know what direction to go in."

Heavy rain and thunderstorms had been forecast for all of Saturday, but after a wet final practice, the rain stayed away for qualifying.

Given the only dry running teams had done was in intense Budapest sunshine on Friday, the dry yet cool conditions for qualifying meant there was a lot of mystery going into Saturday afternoon's shootout.

Ferrari had looked quicker than Red Bull - and all the other cars - throughout practice, but it was Mercedes who topped the timesheet with Hamilton ahead of Russell in Q1, and Verstappen fastest in Q2.

However, when it was go time in Q3, Ferrari seemed to find their pace, with Sainz leading Leclerc after the first runs of two runs in the final 12 minutes.

That seemed to still be the case as Sainz edged out Leclerc on the second run, but Russell then delivered the perfect lap to secure his team's first pole position of what has been a hugely challenging season.

Mercedes' race pace has gradually improved throughout the season, with last weekend's French GP bringing their first double podium of the season, and while Ferrari will be confident of overhauling the Brit, a first win of the season for Silver Arrows cannot be ruled out.

"We are going to be absolutely going for it," Russell added. "But either way that was a special day, no doubt."

Sunday's race is live on Sky Sports F1 at 2pm, with build-up from 12.30pm.

What happened to Verstappen and Hamilton?

Last year's World Championship rivals were left with similar frustrations at the end of the session, both feeling that they could have ended significantly higher up the grid.

Verstappen appeared to have found his best pace of the weekend in the early stages of qualifying, but faltered with his first flying lap in Q3, which was only good enough for seventh at that point.

That left him with no room for error on the second run, but it was car rather than driver that failed Red Bull on this occasion.

The Dutchman reported on his out-lap that he was suffering a power issue, and the team were unable to fix it in time for him to attempt another full-speed effort.

Verstappen said: "I don't think it's a big issue but something we couldn't solve on track. It's very unfortunate.

"The turnaround from yesterday was amazing. In a way that's positive about today, we understood what went wrong the car was so much better today in terms of handling on a track that doesn't really suit us"

Hamilton and Russell had appeared closely matched throughout the weekend, so when Russell crossed the line to take provisional pole, attention naturally turned to what the seven-time world champion was going to do.

But by that point, he had aborted his lap due to a DRS failure.

"I tried to open the DRS and it wouldn't open so that was a bit unfortunate," Hamilton explained.

"I was feeling great, pole or front row was definitely there for sure. It would have been awesome to get a front row for the team but these things happen.

"Congratulations to George, he did an amazing job and that is a great result for the team. Given all that we have gone through, that is huge so I am really happy for everyone."

Missing from the exhilarating drama of Q3 was the second Red Bull of Perez, who made a surprise Q2 exit after a strange series of events.

The Mexican lost his time from his first run of the session after being adjudged to have breached track limits, only for the lap to then be re-instated.

While the lap wouldn't have been good enough to get him through in any case, it appeared to caused confusion at Red Bull, and when he returned to the track for another run he was unable to approve sufficiently, complaining of being held up by Haas' Kevin Magnussen.

Perez then watched from the garage as he was relegated to 11th in the final stages, leaving him to miss out on Q3 for just the second time this season.

"It was very unfortunate because I lost a few tenths," Perez said. "I missed out on Q3 by a few hundredths (of a second)". Going into Turn 2 I lost a lot with Kevin."

It wasn't a great day for Red Bull's sister team AlphaTauri either, with both of their cars joining the Williams cars and Sebastian Vettel in making a Q1 exit.

It compounded a tough afternoon for Vettel, who announced on Thursday that he will retire from the sport at the end of the season.

The four-time world champion crashed his Aston Martin in final practice, leaving his team needing to work right up until moments before the start of qualifying to get the car ready.

However, their work turned out to be largely in vain, as the German made a Q1 exit for the fourth time in five races.

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