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  • Reese Mautone

George Russell Seized His Maiden Pole Position In True ‘Mr Saturday’ Fashion At The Hungarian GP

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

George Russell put on a masterclass performance against Ferrari, disregarding their expected front-row lockout to claim a maiden pole position in Formula 1 in an exciting qualifying session in Hungary.

For the first time since Saudi Arabia 2021, Mercedes has taken pole position making them the first engine manufacturer to have secured a pole position in 26 consecutive F1 seasons.

As for Russell, he earned his first pole position with the team by putting in a lap time of 1:17.377, a time fast enough to out-qualify both the Ferrari’s of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, who qualified in P2 and P3 respectively.

Dry running in qualifying meant Mercedes’ tyre warm-up and grip concerns which hindered their FP3 performance were no longer a factor and allowed for the car’s true qualifying pace to be put to the test.

Q1 saw Mercedes’ surprising pace light up the timing sheets from the outset in favourable dry conditions. Lewis Hamilton ended the first qualifying session in P1, with Russell a mere 0.033 secs behind. The teammates were a slim 0.06 secs ahead of Sainz’s Ferrari, followed by Max Verstappen in P4 who was 0.135 secs off Hamilton’s time of 1:18.374.

The Silver Arrows shifted back to their FP1 form in Q2, finishing the session with Hamilton in P5 and Russell in P7. Max Verstappen took P1 while his teammate’s lap time deletion and reinstatement led to a “messy” strategy and a compromised final attempt, ultimately seeing Sergio Perez knocked out in Q2 by seven hundredths. The Mexican will start the Hungarian Grand Prix in P11.

After 2 incorrect calls made by the stewards in the last 3 races directed at Perez, the Red Bull driver said he doesn't “think the system is really up to it”.

“We have to review it and see how we can move forwards to have some more consistency,” Perez said, however, Helmut Marko, head of the Red Bull junior drivers' programme, neglected to take this into account when describing Perez’s early exit as the Mexican being in “summer break” mode.

On his first run in Q3, Russell split the Ferrari's in P2. His final run, despite not putting in any purple sectors, was filled with personal bests that outclassed the entirety of the top 10, earning him his first pole position at the Hungaroring, a track which has seen his teammate line up on pole eight times.

An ecstatic Russell celebrated on the radio with his excited team and after parking the W13 that brought him his first pole, jumped into the crowd of Mercedes team members and photographers in Parc Ferme before being congratulated by his fellow drivers.

Sainz and Leclerc, along with their team and the Tifosi, felt the disappointment of losing an expectant front-row lockout in the final stages of qualifying.

"I’m not very happy with the final result as I feel I could have done a better lap on the final attempt,” Sainz said.

“I prefer to focus on the positives: we are in a good position for tomorrow, I’ve been comfortable in the car all weekend and we keep making steps in the right direction. I’m confident we can carry the good pace of Friday into the race.

“Congrats to George on his first pole. He did a very good lap today and I look forward to the battle tomorrow,” the Spaniard said.

Sainz’s teammate shared the sentiment for Russell's performance, and understandably, the frustration as well.

“Congratulations to George for his first pole position, it's a special one!" Leclerc said, "it wasn't a great session [for us]. The tyres were very tricky in these conditions and I struggled to get them in the right window.”

Laurent Mekies, Ferrari Sporting Director, also felt the “unusual” qualifying conditions hampered the prancing horse’s potential.

“After this morning’s rain, we found ourselves with a track that was no longer rubbered-in and the temperatures were much lower than yesterday’s, so it was a case of starting over again.

“We thought we’d be up against Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, but in the end it was George Russell who took pole position, beating Carlos by a whisker,” Mekies said.

Both Hamilton and Verstappen’s Q3 runs were compromised by mechanical issues which saw them qualifying out of position for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

In a season which has rarely seen Mercedes free of problems, Hungary followed suit, with Hamilton’s DRS failing ahead of his final run. Due to the “unfortunate” DRS issue, the 7-time World Champion was only able to put in a lap time of 1:18.142, earning him P7 on the starting grid.

“My DRS stopped working, which was frustrating after all the struggle we had to finally have the chance to fight for front row but then not being able to, because of the issues with the DRS,” Hamilton said, “I don’t know where our race pace is going to be tomorrow, but hopefully we will be in a position to attack.”

Verstappen’s RB18 suffered a loss of power on his out lap in the final qualifying session, an issue that his team was unable to solve before the chequered flag was waved. The Dutchman will line up ahead of his teammate in P10 as a result of his 1:18.823 lap time.

“I just had no power in that final run exiting the pit lane. We tried to fix it but just no release. The engine was running but there was no release and that’s, of course, painful,” he said.

If Verstappen is to change his power unit ahead of the Hungarian GP, he will not incur a grid-place penalty as he remains under the allowed limit for this season.

As for the race, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff believes Mercedes can take home their first win of the season.

“If we have the right pace in the race tomorrow, I wouldn’t rule out that we can be part of the front again and have a chance of winning.”

With the two Ferrari’s hunting down Russell for maximum points in their Championship fight, both Red Bulls on the charge and the threat of rain, Russell and Hamilton will each have huge defensive efforts to perform to take the top step in Hungary.



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