Mercedes AMG Petronas teammates Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton have a tough task facing them in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix (7 a.m. ET, NBCSN), the final race before Formula 1’s summer break.
Not only were Bottas and Hamilton outqualified by the pair of Scuderia Ferraris, Sebastian Vettel on pole and Kimi Raikkonen in second, but they were by a significant margin.
The warning shot was fired at the start of Q3 when Bottas set what was a new track record at the Hungaroring of 1:16.631, but then a fraction of a second later Vettel threw down a 1:16.276 – nearly four tenths quicker – and the time that stood for pole position.
Hamilton didn’t put in a banker lap and could only muster a 1:16.707 on his first and only timed flier later in the session, and even that was a tenth and a half off Bottas, who improved to a 1:16.530.
Raikkonen eclipsed Bottas for second at a 1:16.444. The only bright side for Bottas, perhaps, is that he’ll be starting on the clean side of the track with the even spots on the grid notoriously dirty leaving the line in Budapest.
Bottas, who usually finds a way to be optimistic, was downcast after ending third in qualifying and as far off Ferrari as he and the Mercedes team was.
“They had the upper hand today. They have such quicker cars. They have everything right for this track,” Bottas told NBCSN’s Will Buxton on the front straight, who conducted the post-qualifying interview.
“We still have so much work to do on circuits like this. Let’s see how this goes tomorrow.”
Like at Monaco, Ferrari clearly has the upper hand, and for the balance of this season, it was important for the overall championship battle that Ferrari maintained momentum on a slower track where mechanical grip seems to play more of a role than outright horsepower.
“This weekend yes, clearly,” Bottas responded when asked if Mercedes was on the back foot. “They’re outperforming us so much. We have so much work to do with the car.
“It’ll be a long one tomorrow and the hope is that anything is possible.”
Vettel won here in 2015, but that has been Ferrari’s only Hungary win since 2004 – when Michael Schumacher won what was his 12th win in the first 13 races of that season. Ferrari’s front row lockout today was its first at Hungary since 2004, when Schumacher led Barrichello.
The Ferrari qualifying dominance today also ensures Hamilton will have to wait until after the summer break to secure a record-tying 68th career pole position, which would draw him level with Schumacher for most all-time.