Sainz and Leclerc overtaken by the second Mercedes driver. Verstappen only in tenth place
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Until a minute from the end, Ferrari was having the perfect Saturday. Under a less hot sun, his two drivers were in the lead, while the Red Bull was wrecked in the middle of the group. The joke came at the last moment: after suffering on the worst Friday of the season, George Russell ran the best qualifying of his life, 44 thousandths faster than Carlos Sainz and 190 ahead of Charles Leclerc.
This year only the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers were in pole position. The extraordinary surprise of Russell and Mercedes comes at the most complex moment for the Cavallino, engaged in a desperate run-up. The faces of the drivers are tense, even if all in all the situation can be improved. Better to chase Russell calmly than to be in the lead with Verstappen at the ribs.
The world champion entered Q3 but failed to complete a single timed lap. While he was on the track he shouted over the radio “I have no power” and freaked out with the engineer because the problem persisted. “It’s not the engine, but the batteries,” he reassured him at the end of the session. If he does not need to change them he will start from tenth place, vice versa he will be forced to start from the pit lane. In any case, a complicated situation, because at the Hungaroring it is difficult to overtake.
Go and explain this to the Ferrari drivers, depressed by a result that at other times would have charged them to a thousand. Sainz examines his conscience (“unfortunately I made some small mistakes”) and eats his hands for the missed pole (“it was within my reach”). Leclerc has one more reason to burn himself: he was slower than his teammate a week after the mistake in the French Grand Prix. «I had problems managing the tires – he explains -. I couldn’t get them to the right temperature. However we have the pace to win ».
The rain that fell in the morning was enough to lower the temperatures and modify the performance. Russell found the right space at the right time. “At the finish line I saw my name on the big screen: it was an incredible feeling,” he says. It wasn’t the only surprise of the day: in the morning free practice, the worst driver (Nicholas Latifi, zero points in the standings) on the worst car (Williams) was faster. Then in qualifying, Latifi returned to the last place and the spotlight rightly turned on Russell.
Mercedes’ last pole position dates back to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 2021 and bore the signature of Lewis Hamilton, yesterday only seventh: the mobile wing did not work, so the opportunity to fight for pole disappeared in front of him.
Russell is the 105th driver in history to start from pole position. He is 24 years old like Leclerc and Verstappen and is waiting for the chance to win the first race. If in the next ten races he remains a permanent presence between Ferrari and Red Bull, he could become the referee of the championship by subtracting points from one or the other. Leclerc relies on us: Saturday’s defeat could turn into an opportunity today.
Since Friday the F1-75 has shown a race pace for great occasions. And this is a great opportunity to reopen the championship before going on vacation. Leclerc is 63 points behind Verstappen, while Ferrari is 82 minus from Red Bull. It is above all on the constructors’ classification that in Maranello they have concentrated their attention, for a couple of good reasons: the first is arithmetic, there are more points to be won; the second is technical: Sergio Perez, eleventh in qualifying, is becoming the weak point of Red Bull. –
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