Lewis Hamilton cited a DRS issue as the reason he fell so far behind his Mercedes team-mate, George Russell, during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday. Russell defied the odds by putting together a stunning lap to take the first pole position of his career, with Hamilton languishing in seventh.
Qualifying threw up a handful of surprises on Saturday, with Red Bull star Sergio Perez failing to make it through Q2 and a mechanical issue preventing Championship leader Max Verstappen from finishing any higher than P10.
Many would then have assumed that Ferrari would shut out the front row, and that looked to be the case when Carlos Sainz posted a blistering time that laid down a gauntlet to the rest of the field. Russell then powered through under the radar, pipping the Spaniard by fourth hundredths of a second to take his first career pole.
Hamilton was left fighting with one arm tied behind his back due to a DRS issue on his final qualifying lap, and while the Mercedes celebrations were jubilant, he was markedly less enthusiastic about his individual situation.
“I tried to open the DRS and it wouldn’t open, which is unfortunate,” Hamilton told Sky Sports. “I was feeling great, front row was definitely there so it would have been awesome to get one for the team.
“But these things happen. Congratulations to George as it’s a great result for the team given all we’ve gone through. We definitely didn’t expect that.” Indeed, Mercedes appear to be finding a rhythm just before the summer break with almost a month to wait until the Belgian Grand Prix after this Sunday’s race.
The Silver Arrows achieved their first double podium of the season last time out at Circuit Paul Ricard, with Hamilton taking second and Russell third behind Grand Prix winner Verstappen. It was another sign that the team have made significant progress since a poor sequence of races to kick off the season, with porpoising issues leaving them well off the pace.
Despite moving in the right direction, Mercedes are yet to claim a win in 2022. Russell has never won a Grand Prix in his career, and this season marks the longest stretch into a campaign that Hamilton has failed to register a victory, but with Red Bull virtually out of the equation they could fancy their chances in Hungary.
Russell’s pole position and Hamilton’s frustrating P7 was described as ‘bittersweet’ by team principal Toto Wolff, who refused to rule anything out when asked if the Championship races are still alive.
“It’s so difficult to say because there’s a big points gap behind Max, like everybody else,” he told Sky Sports. “But you can see how quickly we can go today. We will never give up. We doubt all the time, we oscillate and that’s what makes the sport so tough but exciting. I wouldn’t discount anything if we win tomorrow.”