Despite Mercedes’ dominant start to the delayed 2020 F1 season, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have been left shocked by the advantage they had in today’s qualifying session for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Hamilton smashed the Hungaroring track record with a time of 1’13.447 to secure his 90th pole position in his Formula One career. His teammate Valtteri Bottas kept the Briton honest with finishing only a tenth behind the pole position lap time.
After Mercedes’ superb one-lap performance during the first two rounds, their results at the Hungaroring were not surprising, however the gap they managed to build up to their nearest rivals were shocking. The Mercedes-inspired Racing Point cars locked out the second row on the grid, but even the third-placed Lance Stroll was over nine tenths of a second behind while the best non-Mercedes car Ferrari was 1.2 seconds off the pole position time.
Pole-sitter Hamilton conceded that Mercedes’ enormous advantage over its rivals has left him surprised as he expected a closer battle with his rivals, especially with Red Bull. Last year’s pole-sitter Max Verstappen only finished seventh fastest, setting a lap time of 1’14.849 that was over 1,4 seconds off the pace.
“I didn’t know that was the case but that is a really big gap. I definitely wasn’t expecting them to be as off as they have been this weekend.
“You saw the pace of them last year. This is not a power circuit, this is more about the car and the mechanical grip and aero package, and we would have definitely thought – I thought – that they had a better package than I guess today’s results showed. I don’t know if they’ve all had great laps or not but either way that’s a big, big gap.”
Reflecting on the battle with his teammate, Hamilton said that he needed his last qualifying lap to beat Bottas for the pole position. "The car was really hooked up today, but Valtteri didn't make it easy for me at all! It requires absolute perfection when it comes to these laps and that kind of qualifying is one of the things I enjoy the most.”
„The fact that it's my 90th pole position... I have to pinch myself; it just doesn't register. It's humbling to be honest, because I get to work with such an incredible group of people and without them, I wouldn't have the opportunity to do this. A massive thank you to everyone back home and here at the track that do such an amazing job,” he concluded.
After topping the third and final free practice, Bottas expected a close battle for the pole position with his teammate which eventually materialized in the afternoon. In the end, the eight-time race winner missed 107 thousands of a second to secure the first starting position.
"We were on a really strong level again today, which is good for us. I knew from FP3 that it was going to be a close battle with Lewis in qualifying, my laps were okay but the final lap in Q3 was actually really good, but I just couldn't go much faster.”
„Lewis did a great job to get the pole today and it's going to be a bit of a drag race into Turn 1 between us tomorrow, so I look forward to that - the first lap will definitely be interesting. I'm the Championship leader at the moment, but I need to win races to maintain that, so that's the only goal I have tomorrow and I'm fully focused on making it happen,” said Bottas.