Mercedes F1 duo confident in Hungarian GP chances

by James Eagles
Lewis Hamilton & Max Verstappen - Formula 1 - 2019 Hungarian GP

Mercedes AMG Motorsport pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton are confident in their chances of winning Sunday’s Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix, despite losing out on pole position to Max Verstappen.

Verstappen helped Red Bull Racing to its first pole of the 2019 season, and engine supplier Honda‘s first for just over 13 years, by just 0.018 seconds from Bottas.

Hamilton had to settle for third after setting an average first sector time on his final run in Qualifying 3, 0.197s away from Verstappen but comfortably ahead of both Scuderia Ferrari drivers.

Mercedes suffered a highly disappointing and off-colour German Grand Prix last Sunday, but looks to be firmly in the fight for victory at the technical Hungaroring.

Bottas suffered with very limited running on Friday due to a mechanical problem in the morning and dry/wet conditions in the afternoon, completing just 20 laps, and admitted that he was still finding his feet heading into qualifying.

“I’ve been chasing a little bit this weekend, after missing out on Practice 1 and only doing limited laps in Practice 2,” said Bottas.

“I only really started getting into my rhythm this morning and it was just getting better and better through Qualifying. So, I’m pleased with the lap in the end.

“It was very close with Max but he just managed to sneak ahead.

Valtteri Bottas - Formula 1 - 2019 Hungarian GP
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

“[Red Bull has] been quick all weekend but tomorrow is what counts.

“We’re here to fight for the win and there’s a lot of support for me from the Finnish fans, so we’ll be giving it everything and it’s going to be a good battle.”

Hamilton congratulated both Verstappen and Bottas for stopping him from drawing level with Michael Schumacher on seven career pole positions at the Hungaroring, and revealed that he was not totally comfortable with the balance of his car.

The reigning world champion entered the session as the fastest man in final practice, but lost two-tenths to his rivals early in his final lap as track conditions improved.

“Naturally, we’re always targeting first place,” said Hamilton. “But Max did a great job, congratulations to him, and so did Valtteri.

“It got away from me a little bit during qualifying.

“It was a difficult session, the car didn’t feel quite the same as in Free Practice 3 and I struggled a bit.

“But we’re still in the fight and in a good position for tomorrow.

“There’s a long run down to Turn 1, so it’s going to be very interesting. It’s not the easiest place to overtake, but strategy will come into it.

“So, we’ll be pushing hard tomorrow.”

Toto Wolff said that Mercedes did not have the fastest package in qualifying and failed to make the requisite progression to take its ninth pole position of the year, even though Bottas recorded a near-flawless lap.

“I don’t think our car was the quickest today,” said Wolff.

“Valtteri had an almost perfect lap but it wasn’t quite enough for pole, probably when we look back at it we will see some places where we could have gained a fraction of time.

“Lewis wasn’t feeling as comfortable and the car didn’t let him make the steps forward we normally see in qualifying.

“Our feeling is that we haven’t progressed with the car as we would have hoped, so we need to dig through the data and find out why.”

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