Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are poised to renew their fierce rivalry in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix after locking out the front row of the grid for Mercedes.
Hamilton went into qualifying chasing a sixth pole position at the Hungaroring, and looked to have clinched it when a yellow flag was shown at the end of Q3 following a spin for Fernando Alonso. All drivers were forced to slow down, the majority abandoning their lap altogether.
Rosberg was the exception. After lifting through the yellow flag zone, the German lit up the timesheets over the rest of the lap to edge out Hamilton and snatch pole away.
The stewards did investigate Rosberg’s lap later that evening to ensure he had slowed down enough, before ultimately deciding he had.
Another post-qualifying drama followed after a grey area in the regulations emerged regarding the 107% rule, threatening five drivers with grid drops. The stewards opted to let the affected drivers keep their grid slots, citing “exceptional circumstances”.
On a weekend that has already offered plenty of drama, Sunday’s race is likely to follow suit. Be sure to tune in from 7am ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app for all of the action.
Here’s what to watch for in Sunday’s race.
2016 Hungarian Grand Prix – What to watch for
Rosberg, Hamilton up for a fight once again
Relations between Rosberg and Hamilton have been frosty throughout 2016, and with the summer break approaching, the next two race weekends are particularly crucial. Back in 2014, a dispute in Hungary resulted in Rosberg stewing over the summer and hitting Hamilton on-track in Spa in what was arguably the turning point in the title race. Might we see a similar incident this weekend?
Starting from the front row, we may be set for another on-track fight between the two Mercedes drivers – something that has been all too scarce throughout 2016. Austria ended with contact – can they keep it clean on Sunday?
Mercedes bids to complete the set
Hamilton may be a four-time winner of the Hungarian Grand Prix, but this is actually the only race on the 2016 calendar that Mercedes has not won in the hybrid era. 2014’s event was won by Daniel Ricciardo in stunning fashion, while Sebastian Vettel dominated last year.
Mercedes’ bid to complete the set on Sunday is far from academic. On the contrary, with Ricciardo and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen lurking just behind on a track, and the tight confines of the Hungaroring playing to the strengths of the RB12 car, Mercedes has a fight on its hands today.
Ferrari looks to ignite its season
After taking a huge stride towards Mercedes in 2015, hopes were high at Ferrari for this season. However, it has proven to be a frustrating campaign, with the brief glimmers of victory passing by. With Red Bull now appearing to move ahead in the pecking order, a big result is needed to ignite its season.
Hungary appears to be make or break for Ferrari’s 2016. Victory would justify the repeated claims that it is capable of challenging Mercedes for the title. Anything less would surely push a greater focus onto 2017.
Opportunity knocks for the lower field
The Hungarian Grand Prix has a knack of shaking up the field, with safety cars and races of attrition offering possible gains to those lower down the field.
Haas will be hoping to make the most of another double-Q2 appearance, particularly with Romain Grosjean starting P11, while Renault and Sauber are both in desperate need of points.
Throw in some safety cars and – after Saturday’s sudden downpour – maybe even a sprinkling of rain, and the lower pack could benefit.
2016 Hungarian Grand Prix – Starting Grid
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
4. Max Verstappen Red Bull
5. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
6. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso
7. Fernando Alonso McLaren
8. Jenson Button McLaren
9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
10. Valtteri Bottas Williams
11. Romain Grosjean Haas
12. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
13. Sergio Perez Force India
14. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
15. Esteban Gutierrez Haas
16. Felipe Nasr Sauber
17. Jolyon Palmer Renault
18. Felipe Massa Williams
19. Kevin Magnussen Renault
20. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
21. Pascal Wehrlein Manor
22. Rio Haryanto Manor