Qualifying Analysis: Hamilton’s hopes go up in flames, while Bianchi embarrasses Raikkonen and Ferrari

Qualifying Analysis: Hamilton’s hopes go up in flames, while Bianchi embarrasses Raikkonen and Ferrari

For the second weekend in a row we were treated to a spectacle in qualifying, with the loss of two big scalps early on, as well as star turns by a number of drivers up and down the field. No one though could stop Nico Rosberg as he marched to his 10th career pole position, his first in Hungary. Dan Paddock runs you through the talking points from qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s dire luck continues 

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Fastest in both sessions on Friday, followed by fastest in final practice on Saturday morning. Lewis Hamilton had pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix all wrapped up, or at least so he thought.

For the second consecutive weekend Lewis was forced out of qualifying through no fault of his own, his German Grand Prix brake disc failure followed up in Hungary on Saturday afternoon by an oil leak, which caused a fire at the rear of the Mercedes and forced him to park his car at the pitlane entry.

So intense was the fire, which still burned as Lewis walked away in dejection, that Mercedes expects it will have to swap Hamilton to the spare chassis for Sunday’s race, meaning that for a second consecutive weekend the 2008 champion will start from the pitlane.

While Hamilton showed his mettle with a storming drive through the field in Germany, the Hungaroring is a track that is notoriously difficult to pass at. Any hope of a repeat performance come in Hungary seems something of a long shot. Getting into the top five would certainly be an achievement from the very back of the field.

For Nico Rosberg, as in Germany, he can take the race in his stride. If the German can avoid the obvious reliability issues that have struck Hamilton in recent weeks, then you would expect him to romp home to another dominant win, and extend his championship lead further.

Nico recently got married, saw his nation win the World Cup and signed a contract extension with Mercedes. Back-to-back race wins and a healthy advantage at the head of the drivers’ standings going into the summer would simply be the icing on the cake for the German.

The battle to be the best of the rest

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With Lewis Hamilton’s early elimination, the battle to see who would establish themselves as Mercedes’ best challenger this weekend took up a notch of extra interest, with the added bonus that the team/driver who could break from the chasing pack would be in the box seat for a spot on the front row and a potential podium.

As it turned out it was Sebastian Vettel who gave Nico Rosberg the closest fight, the four-time champion seemingly set for a surprise pole at one stage before his compatriot in silver demoted him to second, having found nearly half a second on his final flyer.

While it remains to be seen if Vettel can keep in touch with Rosberg at the front tomorrow, the battle for the two final podium positions certainly promises to be an exciting one with Valtteri Bottas – who was excellent during qualifying again – as well as Daniel Ricciardo all in the mix.

Expect Fernando Alonso to also be an ever present threat, with the Spaniard lining up just behind the Australian. As has been the case all year long Alonso continues to haul the Ferrari into places it simply does not belong. Who else would love to see a repeat of his battle with the Red Bull boys from last week? The answer would almost certainly be a resounding yes.

Jean-Eric Vergne’s career might not be finished quite yet

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Earlier this season Vergne came under scrutiny over his future with Toro Rosso. This writer in particular argued that regardless of results over the coming season, Vergne would be out of Toro Rosso by the end of the year, the most recent victim of the much lauded Red Bull Driver Programme.

Fast forward to the mid-way mark of the season and you might argue Vergne’s future looks no more secure now than it did then. With Carlos Sainz Jr in the wings and an ever impressive Daniil Kvyat, is the Frenchman still looking like he will be toast at the end of 2014?

Maybe so, but a look at Vergne’s recent results show that while his time at Red Bull might be up, he is by no means finished as a Formula 1 driver. Eighth on the grid in Hungary certainly does not ensure his future in the sport, but a solid drive to a bucket load of points on Sunday will go along way to doing so, because at the end of the day, that is what teams want, someone who will get you a result, and reliability issues aside, Vergne is looking more and more like that sort of driver.

With faster cars behind him, maintaining his place in the points will not be easy, but the threat of reliability issues aside the Toro Rosso looks good this weekend. Expect a big battle for the final points on offer, with Magnussen and Raikkonen both out of position.

Ferrari fluff their lines during qualifying, again…

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What is going on at Ferrari? Aside from making exceptional breakfast, Formula 1’s talismanic team has descended into something of a farce this year, with the Scuderia’s failure to send Kimi Raikkonen out for a final soft tyre run in qualifying on Saturday just their latest howler.

The team understandably was looking to preserve tyres for the remainder of qualifying, but that is a moot point if your driver simply fails to progress anyway, as was the case for Kimi, knocked out by Ferrari’s very own academy driver Jules Bianchi – a man many believe to be the top candidate to replace the Finn when he eventually gets fed up of finishing 11th.

In Silverstone we saw the team slow off the mark in the opening part of qualifying, with a tardy change of tyres seeing both its drivers eliminated in Q1 for the first time in four years. It was much the same for Raikkonen in Hungary, the team insisting on pursuing a strategy despite the protests of their driver, meaning the 2007 champion will start just 16th, any hope of a repeat of his podium finish in 2013 surely long gone.

While Bianchi embarrasses in the Marussia

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The above result only further underlined the talent of Jules Bianchi, who at every given opportunity this season has done his very best to make his name known. Points amid the madness of Monaco. 12th during the wet conditions in qualifying at Silverstone. Fastest for Ferrari on his single day of testing with the Scuderia less than a week later. And finally, here in Hungary, when with the world watching the Frenchman went and legitimately outqualified one of the works Ferrari in a customer powered car, driving for a team that operates on just a fraction of the Scuderia’s budget. It is all mighty impressive.

After a high in qualifying, expect a more muted race, with a battle with Kamui Koabayashi’s Caterham more on the mark.

Consider the current form of some of Formula 1’s other young guns, including Valtteri Bottas, Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen – despite his qualifying crash – the future of the sport looks healthy indeed.

Image courtesy of Octane Photographic

Dan Paddock

Dan Paddock

Dan Paddock is an FIA accredited freelance motorsport and Formula 1 journalist and the recently appointed Grand Prix Editor of Richland F1. Dan joined the site in July of last year as a Staff Writer, fresh off the back of completing a master’s degree in journalism. He has since gone on to represent Richland F1 at the 2014 British Grand Prix, his debut in the Formula 1 paddock. Aside from Richland F1, Dan also writes for Rumble Strip News, as well as maintaing his own modest blog.