After experiencing a prolonged drought of 20 months without securing a pole position, Lewis Hamilton finally emerged victorious at the Hungarian Grand Prix. This marks his 104th pole position, yet the thrill of the victory left Hamilton feeling as if it was his first time. He exclaimed, “I forgot what it feels like to sit in this spot!”
Despite his repetitive wins, the thrill hasn’t diminished for the seven-time title holder. Elated Hamilton shared, “It’s an extraordinary feeling, after you’ve been here for such a long time, and you’ve had success before. Even though it’s 104, it feels like the first. It’s hard to explain just how special it feels.”
The sensational Saturday afternoon qualifying was a perfect reminder of the intense action that Formula 1 is renowned for, especially when drivers from different teams are vying for the pole position. Hamilton managed to secure the position ahead of Max Verstappen by a hair’s breadth—just 0.003 seconds, putting a full stop on Red Bull‘s Verstappen‘s consecutive top spots.
For Hamilton, the victory ended a streak of 33 races without scoring a pole position, a dry spell which began post the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. During Hamilton‘s draught, Verstappen has emerged victorious in 24 races, secured two world championship titles, and assumed the mantel of F1‘s man to beat.
Hamilton‘s sudden resurgence and impressive pace during this race came as a surprise to many, considering Red Bull‘s dominance in the season. After the struggle to keep up with Red Bull, Hamilton‘s win led to apparent oversimplification of the Mercedes‘ problems over the past 18 months.
When asked about his unexpected success, Hamilton attributed it to newfound confidence in his vehicle. He stated, “Last year I had no confidence in the car… the confidence has finally come back and that is what you are seeing today. Also, just after driving it for so long you get used to it and now there is no fear that it is going to throw you off into the wall.”
The Mercedes team, unable to keep up with Red Bull since a major regulation overhaul in 2022, welcomed Hamilton‘s return to the front of the grid with open arms. Mercedes‘ cars have been prone to inconsistent performance, especially in high-speed cornering due to a lack of rear grip.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, discussing the inconsistency, admitted, “The biggest weakness we have in the car is that it is unpredictable. The drivers never have the confidence to really push.”
Regardless, the mere 0.003 seconds advantage of Hamilton over Verstappen is a testament to Red Bull‘s formidable pace over the entire race distance this season. But, Hamilton isn’t dismayed. He says, “We tend to have decent race pace, but Max’s race pace during Friday practice was, I think, quite extraordinary…. if there’s a way to hold position, then maybe there’s a fighting chance for us.”
While Hamilton will be going all-in for a winning performance, the Red Bull team’s exceptional performance in Friday and Saturday practise isn’t being taken lightly by Mercedes. Nonetheless, as Hamilton and Verstappen ready to share the front row of the grid for the first time since their 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix showdown, a thrilling race is anticipated by all.