The debate over Lewis Hamilton’s hazardous manoeuvre against Max Verstappen at the British GP two weeks ago is still keeping everyone in the paddock and at home very busy.
The battle is on: teams and drivers will do anything in their power to beat their rivals, (even engaging in not-very-sporty behaviours).
It was the end of qualifying; the drivers were lining up towards the pit lane exit making their way to the track for their last attempt. Hamilton was in the pit lane and just behind him Verstappen and Pérez. Hamilton slowed down the pace in the pit lane, while looking at his opponent in the rear-view mirror.
A game that we interpreted as psychological.
The drivers had plenty of time for their last attempt, but yet again, at the end of the warm-up lap, in the last corner, Hamilton slowed down, impairing the two drivers behind him.
While Max Verstappen managed to get his last lap in extremis, Perez was ultimately prevented from setting a final time.
Immediately after qualifying, Hamilton was forced to answer questions on whether he’d done a his out lap consciously so slow – even ex-Haas driver Romain Grosjean tweeted: “If that was made on purpose, it’s not pretty”.
“It's so silly. Everyone was going slow; do you not watch everybody else? I don't understand”
“Do you think I could have gone quicker and then been closer to Valtteri?” he explained,
“Everyone was doing a slow out lap, it was no different to any other lap. Of course, each time we go out, we're trying to prepare the tyres and keep them cooler, because they get so hot throughout the lap.
“So I wasn't playing any tactics. I don't need to play no tactics, man. I know what I'm doing in the car and I'm fast enough, I don't need to add tactics. Those that are making the comments really don't clearly know anything about the job we're doing here. Which is probably why they're not driving.”
Even his teammate Valterri Bottas’ explained his point of view on the matter claiming that he doesn’t ever get into this sort of situation but “I heard a lot of booing at end of qualifying and I don’t understand it,” he began.
“I would like the people to question themselves and the behaviour, which I don’t think is fair.
“We are here as athletes to give every single thing we have to the sport we love, and Lewis did an amazing lap at the end and then you get booing. So, the people, just question yourself; it’s not right, it’s not fair and we don’t want to see this kind of things,'' Bottas concluded.
Hamilton himself addressed the crowd saying: “I appreciate the great support I have here.
“Honestly, I've never actually felt so great with the booing, if anything, it just fuels me, so I don't really mind it.”
We won't stop fighting. 💪 pic.twitter.com/7veYExrPdY— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) July 31, 2021
The Briton crossed the checkered flag 0.315s ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas, and 0.421s ahead of Verstappen.
“The first run [in Q3], the lap really felt beautiful, it was a real build up,” commented Hamilton.
“A lot of qualifying sessions you sometimes get your best lap in Q1 or Q2 or something like that, and it never goes always to plan. But today I got the best lap in Q3, run one, so really happy with it.”
Hamilton appeared thrilled about his eighth pole position in Hungary, which ties the record for the most poles at a single venue with himself at Melbourne, Michael Schumacher at Suzuka and Ayrton Senna at Imola.
Additionally, Hamilton’s 101st pole position comes with the chance to go for a 100th win on Sunday – and an all-time record: ninth victory at the same track.
“This is not even half the job,” said Hamilton.
Even if Mercedes has secured the front row, both drivers have qualified on medium tyres, while both Verstappen and Perez will start on softs for Red Bull. The race will thus be decided at the start with Red Bull’s drivers having more chances for coming in very aggressively.
“Tomorrow's a long race, we don't know what weather is around us.
“It's such a challenging circuit, and the whole top four will not be easy to beat. We've got a long run down to Turn 1, so it's going to be challenging tomorrow, especially if the temperatures are like this. So should be an exciting race,” concluded Hamilton.
Valtteri Bottas completes the front row for Sunday’s starting grid. Despite finishing only 0.315s off Hamilton, when asked if he was pleased with his qualifying result, Bottas expressed mixed feelings.
“To be honest, not 100% pleased. The issue was, I lost a bit of rhythm in Q2 with the medium tyres – I didn’t feel that comfortable with the rear of the car – so then it was not easy to go back on the softs and really attack it fully, so it was not so clean and definitely not my best laps of the weekend. But still good enough to get to the front row, so that’s good.”
Sunday’s race at the Hungaroring is projected to be entertaining – the crowd on the stands, Team Principles’ harsh comments towards one another and, most importantly, Bottas, Hamilton, and Verstappen having the chance to determine the turning point for the championship battle, which currently sees Red Bull holding a four-point lead in the standings.