‘I felt I had the pace for pole’ says Sainz after missing out to last-gasp Russell lap in Hungary
Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc are set to start the Hungarian Grand Prix P2 and P3, after Sainz saw a chance to claim his second ever pole position slip through his fingers in the final moments of qualifying.
Sainz had looked rapid heading into Q3, and set the initial benchmark 1m 17.505s – only to then improve to a 1m 17.421s on his final tour. But then seemingly out of nowhere, a wunder-lap from Russell blindsided the Scuderia, as the Briton claimed the first pole of his career, and the first pole for Mercedes in 2022.
“I’ve been feeling better and better every race and every qualifying session,” said Sainz afterwards. “Today I felt like I had the pace to do the pole position; it went away from us there in the last sector with a few snaps in the lap, but congratulations to George – he must have done a pretty good job in the Merc, but we will race from P2 tomorrow.”
P2 on the grid means Sainz will start from the less-fancied dirty side of the Hungaroring start-finish straight. But despite that, the Spaniard was targeting nothing less than a win on Sunday, with our Friday data having shown Ferrari with a clear pace advantage over the field.
“I think we have the pace,” said Sainz, “obviously the start and the tyre management will play a key role like always. The Mercedes pace is a bit of an unknown, and we will have to see how the race plays out tomorrow and if we can get them at the start then [that's] better. But I think it will be an exciting race.”
Charles Leclerc wound up 0.190s off Russell’s pace in P3. And while he seemed downcast as to where his strong Friday pace had disappeared to – after he comfortably topped FP2 – Leclerc also felt it was all to play for come Sunday.
“Today has not been a great day,” said Leclerc, who crashed out of the previous race in France a week ago. “I’ve been struggling massively with the tyres and just had a lot of inconsistency to put the tyres in the right window with those conditions, so I struggled to put a lap together.
“We will look into it, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got the pace in the car to come back a bit more tomorrow, so we will focus on that and hopefully we will have a better Sunday.
“The pace is there,” he added, “so we just need to understand what went on with the tyres today and I’m pretty sure we can come back tomorrow.”
A crumb of comfort for Ferrari was the disappointing performance of championship rivals Red Bull, Max Verstappen hitting technical issues in Q3 that left him a provisional P10 on the grid, as Sergio Perez encountered traffic to claim P11.