Verstappen anticipating close Hungarian GP following maiden F1 pole

by James Eagles
Max Verstappen - Formula 1 - 2019 Hungarian GP

Max Verstappen believes that Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix will be “another exciting” race between three evenly matched teams, after claiming his first Formula 1 pole position.

Verstappen became the 100th different polesitter in F1 history, and took the first pole position for a Honda-powered car since Jenson Button at the 2006 Australian Grand Prix, by narrowly beating Mercedes AMG Motorsport‘s Valtteri Bottas at the Hungaroring.

The Dutchman set a new track record with a lap time of 1:14.572, 0.018 seconds ahead of Bottas, while his Red Bull Racing team-mate Pierre Gasly will start from sixth place – and was nearly a second away from Verstappen.

Red Bull also had the measure of Scuderia Ferrari by nearly half-a-second, despite Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc showing good pace in the first sector.

Verstappen said that Red Bull is making ground on F1’s top two, and praised Honda for its improvements so far through 2019.

“It has been a great day and the car was hooked up straight away in qualifying,” said Verstappen.

“To come out on top is incredible and my first pole position will always be a special one.

“It’s also nice to get pole on a great track like this as a qualifying lap on low fuel is so enjoyable. You can really feel the grip of the car with the full downforce and it’s a lot of fun out there.

“We are closing in on the front-runners all the time and Honda keep pushing hard to optimise everything.

Today was another great day for everyone within the team, but that team also includes Honda, so a big thank you as the car has been flying.

“The hard work is paying off and it’s great to see.”

German Grand Prix winner Verstappen also said that he isn’t worried by the lack of high-fuel running he and Red Bull have completed this weekend, keeping faith in the car’s improved performance in race conditions.

Red Bull has not won the Hungarian GP since Daniel Ricciardo‘s victory in 2014, but Verstappen says a good start – something that he failed to achieve in both of his ’19 victories in Austria and Germany – will hold him in good stead on Sunday.

“I haven’t done a long run this weekend but lately our car has been even better in the race, so I don’t feel too worried,” Verstappen added.

“We just need to try and get a clean start and get the job done.

“We are all very close so tomorrow should be another exciting race.

“I also didn’t realise there were so many Dutch people in Hungary at the moment and it was amazing to see them all in the grandstands.”

Team principal Christian Horner echoed Verstappen’s sentiments that Honda has made a real effort to reduce the performance deficit to Ferrari and Mercedes, with “clear progress” being made.

“The Hungaroring is an important track to have grid position so hopefully we can convert it for a good haul of points tomorrow,” said Horner.

“I think we’re really starting to get performance on the car, the teams in Milton Keynes and Sakura are doing a great job and we’ve definitely made progress in the first half of the year.”

Gasly was left “disappointed” with his qualifying performance, with a few mistakes on his final run in Qualifying 3 preventing him from troubling the Ferraris in fourth and fifth.

Pierre Gasly - Formula 1 - 2019 Hungarian GP
Credit: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

But the Frenchman still holds optimism due to changeable conditions in Free Practice 2 on Friday not allowing any of the teams to gather data on tyre performance over long stints.

“I’m disappointed as I didn’t put a clean lap together and I made a few mistakes otherwise I think I could have taken the fight to Ferrari for fourth or fifth,” Gasly explained.

“In the end we’ve qualified in sixth which is still a decent position but for sure we wanted a better lap time.

“Tomorrow we start on the medium tyre, we’ll keep pushing flat out and hopefully we can do something with the strategy and recover some positions.

“Also, a big congratulations to Max on pole position. It’s really deserved and great for the whole team.

“On a tricky track like this where it’s difficult to overtake, it’s a good advantage and we have a strong car as he proved today, so there is everything to play for.

“In Free Practice, no one managed to do any long runs so we don’t know what the tyres are going to do over 70 laps which could also make things interesting.”

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