Lewis Hamilton’s championship hopes went up in Mercedes-flavoured fire on Saturday.
Far from keeping his target of a Hungaroring hat-trick on pole position, having aced every practice session this weekend, the Briton’s silver Mercedes erupted in flames with a fuel leak at the very start of Q1. “I feel so bad for Lewis because this is such a tight championship,” said team boss Toto Wolff, speaking exactly a week after Hamilton’s qualifying crash at Hockenheim caused by brake failure. “I’m gutted.” Gutted, despite championship leader Nico Rosberg going on to secure pole position at a circuit where overtaking is almost as difficult as at Monaco.
But that was precisely why the always-snappish Niki Lauda sounded unrecognisably downbeat as he spoke to the British broadcaster Sky. “It is completely unfair on Lewis, especially as he was fastest all weekend and would have won the race,” said the team chairman. “It is very difficult to pass here. He was fastest and would have been fastest again.” Days ago, Hamilton roared through the Hockenheim field following a similar setback to finish on the podium, but – like Lauda – he expressed doubts about keeping his 14-point deficit to Rosberg in check on the twisty Hungaroring. “I don’t know what I can do tomorrow — it’s a track you can’t really overtake on,” he said in the paddock, having stumped back from the scene of his sizzling W05 in near-disbelief. “It’s going to be a struggle to make the top ten or at least top five. I’ll leave here more than 20 points behind Nico, but there’s still races to go,” added Hamilton.
Also unhappy in Hungary is Kimi Raikkonen, whose relationship with Ferrari is under more strain after a clear strategic error leaves the Finn near the back of the grid. Raikkonen told the BBC he checked with the scarlet-coloured pitwall “three times” when the decision was being made to run on only medium tyres. “Are you 100 per cent sure?” the 2007 world champion recounted repeatedly telling his engineer. “No comment,” team boss Marco Mattiacci told Sky afterwards.
Image: Mercedes GP