Rosberg on pole as Hamilton’s Hungarian hopes go up in smoke
Briton’s Mercedes caught fire at Hungaroring, German team-mate on frontrow with Vettel
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks away from his car after it caught fire during qualifying ahead of the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring in Budapest. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Formula One world championship leader Nico Rosberg took pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday, while Mercedes team mate and title rival Lewis Hamilton was set to start last after his car caught fire.
Hamilton, 14 points behind Rosberg after 10 races, has won in Hungary for the past two years, and four times in total, and had been the favourite for pole but those hopes went up in smoke with the session barely started.
Red Bull’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel qualified second, equalling his best grid placing of the season, in an all-German front row.
Finland’s Valtteri Bottas starts third in a Williams with Australian Daniel Ricciardo fourth for Red Bull.
Just minutes into the session at the Hungaroring, Hamilton’s Mercedes was ablaze at the rear, and although he attempted to crawl back to the garage, it proved futile.
He was forced to stop on the pit lane entry road where marshals quickly used extinguishers to douse the fire, started by what Mercedes claimed to be a fuel leak.
As the Briton looked on, and even though the visor was down on his helmet, you could sense his bitter pain and disappointment as he shook his head disconsolately before trudging away.
In the build up to this race Hamilton had spoken of his desire to enjoy a clean weekend without his errors on one hand, and unreliability on the other. But the 29-year-old must now feel like this may not be his year given the run of wretched luck he has endured this campaign.
In a season when Mercedes are dominant, and when their cars do finish a race they are either first or second, Hamilton has so far suffered two DNFs (did not finish) to the one for Rosberg.
That has played a key role in the 14-point gap between the pair ahead of Sunday’s race.
A poor run in qualifying has also been instrumental, with Hamilton making mistakes in Canada and Austria to deny himself pole. There was an error of judgement at Silverstone, but Hamilton produced a masterful drive to take the British Grand Prix chequered flag. But for these last two races, and in the space of eight days, the Briton has been hit by rotten misfortune.
At Hockenheim last Saturday a right-front brake disc failure resulted in Hamilton hurtling into a tyre barrier with a 30g impact.
Starting from 20th on the grid, as he also had to take a five-place penalty for a gearbox change given the damage sustained, he again pulled out a stunning drive to claim third behind Rosberg.
Hockenheim, however, affords a driver opportunities to overtake, but not the Hungaroring where it is notoriously difficult to pass.
A fifth win is not in the offing as he will now likely start from the pitlane given the team will have to work on his fire-damaged car overnight.