It was a case of a tale of two very different results in Hungary for the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS team, with current Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship leader Nico Rosberg taking pole position at the Hungaroring, but team-mate Lewis Hamilton will be forced to start the race from the pit lane after suffering a dramatic, fiery exit early in the first session after a fuel leak.
Rosberg took his third consecutive pole position, and managed each part of the session superbly, most noticeably the final part of the session when the rain came heading into turn one. The German was lucky not to hit the barriers like Kevin Magnussen of McLaren did, and admitted afterwards how tricky the session was.
“That was a very tough Qualifying session today – especially with the rain at the beginning of Q3,” said Rosberg. “It’s difficult to judge which braking point is best in changing conditions so I was a bit over the limit at times – especially into Turn One. I was lucky there, but in the end I nailed the last lap so I’m quite happy to be starting from pole.
“On the other side, it’s a real shame for Lewis and the team. I know how much it hurts to have technical failure where there is nothing you can do as a driver. We need to sort out the reliability issues but I know that tonight there will be great team effort to fix his car – just like in Hockenheim where the whole garage pitched in to help rebuild it.
“It takes away a bit of the excitement when there is no gloves-off battle because that’s what we are here for. But tomorrow is a long race and I’m sure that Lewis can get another good result.”
For Hamilton, his session was over before it really began, with a fuel leak causing his car to catch alight as he exited the second to last corner. He brought the car to a safe halt, but will start the race from the pit lane with a new chassis.
“I can’t really believe it today, there was just nothing I could do,” reflected Hamilton. “There was an issue with the car as I was coming out of the second to last corner and then the engine just cut out. I thought we could get it back to the garage but then I looked in my mirrors and saw the whole rear end was on fire and that was it.
“It’s getting to the point where it’s beyond bad luck now – as a team, we need to do better. Tonight, I need to somehow find the way to turn this into a positive for tomorrow then build on that going into the race.
“It will be a very difficult afternoon as it’s one of the hardest circuits to overtake on. But these things are sent to try us and how I come out of it is going to be the most important thing.”
Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff was delighted for Rosberg taking pole, but was devastated for Hamilton’s car problems. He hopes both drivers can maximise their races on Sunday.
“Let us start with the positive note of this afternoon and congratulate Nico for a very controlled pole position,” said Wolff. “In the final runs, it was all about finding the right balance between risk and reward. He used the first run to understand the track conditions, then on his second run set three purple sectors for a very strong pole position. It was a classy job.
“On the other side of the garage, I was devastated for Lewis. The team has been working so hard to deliver the best possible car for both drivers so it is upsetting to see him suffer another problem in qualifying. A Mercedes in flames is not what we want to show the world – but just as importantly, it’s not the standard we set for ourselves in the team.
“I apologise to Lewis and to all his supporters for this problem which has given him another mountain to climb tomorrow. But we know that if anybody can do it, Lewis can. We will be burning the midnight oil to give him the best possible car and strategy for the race.”
Executive Director Paddy Lowe admitted he was distressed about Hamilton’s issues, and admits the team are looking into the cause of the fuel leak that saw the Briton’s session end in a fiery manner.
“I am absolutely gutted that we have let Lewis down again and given him such a tough job on another Sunday afternoon – so soon after his fantastic drive in Germany,” said Lowe. “We are still stripping the car to understand the cause of the fuel leak but the symptom was a loss of high pressure fuel to the direct injection system of the internal combustion engine. This fuel leak then caused a major conflagration, which is likely to have written off most of the car. We will obviously be doing our very best to give Lewis the car and the strategy necessary to make the best possible recovery in the race tomorrow.
“On the other side of the garage, the rain in Q3 brought a stressful twist to the session in its closing minutes. Nico was under a lot of pressure from the changing conditions and some very competitive laps from Red Bull and Williams. But he delivered a fantastic lap time in the end to take another pole position, so well done to him.”