Russell snatches pole from Sainz and confirms that Mercedes is back

George Russell celebrates the pole achieved this Saturday at the Hungaroring circuit. / Reuters (Bernadett Szabo)

Hungarian GP

The Briton achieves first place on the grid for the first time in his career and leaves the Madrid native with honey on his lips, with Alonso sixth

Already in 2021 it was clear that the Hungarian Grand Prix, without being far from the most anticipated of the year, could bring surprises. If last season gave the first victory of his life to Esteban Ocon, this year will end at least with the first pole position in George Russell’s sports career. The British talent has shown that he is a born competitor. Baptized ‘Mr. Consistency’ for the spectacular run of ‘top 5’ with which he started the season, this Saturday he achieved a memorable time in Q3 that not only allows him to debut his pole position, but also confirms what many teams feared : Mercedes is already here.

After a very complicated start, those responsible for the ‘silver arrows’ have managed to get back on track. Not without problems and with serious doubts regarding the W13, which have caused Lewis Hamilton to have the worst winless streak since he started in Formula 1 -he accumulates 13 and counting-, the progressive patches and updates that have been implemented have worked reasonably . Until giving Russell the necessary tool to overcome the Ferrari.

If in Mercedes it was all joy, for the men of the Scuderia there was no consolation. The classification ended with Max Verstappen tenth due to a fault in the power unit of his Red Bull, which gives a feeling of a missed opportunity for those from Maranello. Not so much because they can’t achieve a great result this Sunday, but because once again they missed a mistake by the great dominators to try to cut back. Carlos Sainz stayed less than half a tenth.

The performance of the man from Madrid was more than remarkable. Reliable during the first half of the session, as soon as Q3 started he got the best time of the weekend with solvency. He was the only one to improve the times of Q2, which invited us to be optimistic about a possible second pole, and this time of law without any conditions. With his time improving on the second attempt, Verstappen already ruled out of the fight and Charles Leclerc not improving his time, it looked like it was going to be his. but Sainz saw how George Russell began to score partial in green. Without setting a record in any of the sectors, the Briton was fast enough to improve the total lap of the Madrid native by only 44 thousandths.

Sainz could not hide his disappointment. Far from throwing balls out, the Spaniard took the blame for not making a perfect lap. «During qualifying we have been taking steps in the right direction, gaining more confidence with the car. But clearly that second lap of Q3 wasn’t special and it wasn’t enough to take pole. With a perfect lap, I would have been up there for sure,” he lamented.

Russell’s pole puts him as one more candidate to win this Sunday, and it may even be a small earthquake in the ‘status quo’ at Mercedes. Although Hamilton had a problem in the DRS, that does not explain why his teammate endorsed him almost seven and a half tenths and less on a short circuit like this one of less than a minute and a half per lap. If he also achieves victory this Sunday, perhaps the seven-time champion will begin to look more suspiciously at the box next door.

Alonso’s ‘trigger’

During a good part of qualifying the pilots looked at the sky. The morning practice sessions were held on a wet track, which meant that the inconceivable Nicholas Latifi finished first, which is why many wanted him to juggle in the final round as if it were the Asturian Naranjo de Bulnes valley that Fernando Alonso knows so much about. The Spaniard, despite the fact that the session was played dry, did leave some shine. In Q2 he set a memorable second time that suggested he could be in contention for the top of the standings in the final minutes, but he couldn’t. In fact, Alonso was one of those who worsened his time in Q3 (the wind also increased, but that does not explain everything) and he had to settle in the end with a gray sixth place on the grid that really is his natural place.

“The goal was to be among the top ten,” agreed Alonso, who will start behind his teammate Esteban Ocon, but who clearly sees who his rivals will be: the McLarens. «Lando (Norris) comes out in front. We’ll see what we can do. I start on the dirty part as well, so you will have to defend yourself a bit at the start,” Alonso warned.


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