Lewis Hamilton has taken pole for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix – his first since 2021 – setting a record for the most number of pole positions at one circuit by one driver. He lines up ahead of Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, with the trio separated by only +0.085.
It was the first try-out of a new qualifying format, with drivers mandated to use only hard tyres in Q1, medium tyres in Q2 and soft tyres in Q3.
McLaren locked out the second row, further delivering on their upgrades from the last round in Silverstone. Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu had a strong showing in fifth, having topped Q1 earlier.
Slightly further down in the top ten, Perez finally put an end to his run of Q1 eliminations and lines up P9 on the grid for tomorrow’s race.
In his first qualifying session back in F1 – having been brought in as a replacement for Nyck de Vries at Alpha Tauri – Daniel Ricciardo ended up P13, with team-mate Yuki Tsunoda in P17.
Although Mercedes have reason to celebrate with Hamilton’s pole, it was not an entirely great day for the team. George Russell complained about traffic on the build-up to his last Q1 lap and wasn’t able to improve, finding himself all the way down in P18.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has taken pole position for today’s sprint race in Azerbaijan despite hitting the wall in the closing moments of the session.
It was the first outing of the new sprint weekend format, with an extra qualifying session to determine the starting order of the sprint race. The twelve-minute long SQ1 and ten-minute long SQ2 required the drivers to use the medium tyres, while the final eight-minute SQ3 mandated the use of a new set of soft tyres.
SQ1 ended with a bang when Logan Sargeant crashed at Turn 17, possibly distracted by the two slow Ferraris on the inside of the corner. With only 25 seconds left on the clock, the session wasn’t restarted.
In SQ2, Oscar Piastri narrowly missed out on advancing to the next stage by only +0.0032. His team-mate Lando Norris did scrape through, despite not having a new set of soft tyres available to him and therefore not being able to take part in SQ3!
Leclerc set the pace in the first runs of SQ3 and took provisional pole. On his second run, however, he hit the wall at Turn 5 and damaged his front wing. He was able to back out and continue round to the pits, but compromised his team-mate Sainz’s lap in the process.
Both Verstappen and Perez improved on their times in the closing moments, but it wasn’t enough to usurp Leclerc. It’s the Monegasque driver’s second pole of the weekend.
George Russell has taken the first pole position of his Formula 1 career ahead of tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix, while championship leader Verstappen could only muster tenth owing to power issues.
Russell flew somewhat under the radar in Q3, setting no purple sectors but instead improving on his own personal best in each to take a surprise pole. It follows what Russell himself referred to in the post-session interview as the ‘worst Friday of the season’ for his Mercedes team. Indeed, after the rain in FP3 on Saturday morning there were some concerns that he and team-mate Hamilton were in danger of not even making it out of Q1.
Lining up behind Russell on the grid will be Sainz and Leclerc, the former having looked to be the favoured driver to take pole until the final moments of the session.
Further down the order, Hamilton could only manage P7 owing to a DRS issue that forced him to abandon his final run in Q3.
It was not a good day for championship leaders Red Bull. Verstappen had looked competitive, but as he left the garage for his final run and started his out lap he warned his engineer over the radio that he had ‘no power’. He was given a couple of potential solutions but it was to no avail. The Dutchman starts tomorrow’s race in P10.
Things weren’t much better for his team-mate, Sergio Perez. Perez had had a lap deleted in Q2 due to an alleged track limits breach at Turn 5, only for replays to show he hadn’t actually crossed the white line at all. His time was reinstated and he looked to be safe. However, in the closing moments of the session he was pushed into the drop zone. In a case of bad timing from Red Bull, rather than being out on track and able to respond, Perez was instead being wheeled back into the garage. He starts P11.
With a few drivers relatively out of position compared to a ‘normal’ qualifying session, tomorrow’s race promises to be a very intriguing one.
Max Verstappen has taken pole for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix ahead of Williams’s George Russell, who put in a great performance in challenging conditions. Lando Norris crashed at Eau Rouge in the early stages of Q3, raising even more questions about the barriers at that corner.
The beginning of Q1 was initially delayed for 12 minutes because of heavy rain, but when it began both Russell and Nicholas Latifi headed out on track as the sole cars on intermediates. It was a decision that every other driver soon followed when the rain eased, as the times began to tumble.
Intermediates were the tyres of choice for Q2 as well. Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas left it late to get a good lap in, being brought in for new sets and only moving out of the drop-zone in the closing moments.
The rain came down heavier for the start of Q3.
Sebastian Vettel was one of the first drivers to head out, and he almost immediately radioed his engineer saying he thought the session should be red-flagged because of how bad the conditions were.
It was indeed red-flagged a couple of minutes later, but only after Lando Norris crashed heavily at the Eau Rouge/Radillion complex. Vettel pulled up alongside the McLaren to check that Norris was okay, voicing some very angry comments over the radio. “What did I say?” he demanded.
At the time of writing, Norris has been taken for a precautionary x-ray on his elbow, but he managed to get out of the car on his own at least.
Following as his crash does from the six-car pile-up during W Series qualifying yesterday at the same corner, there is certainly a debate to be had over the barriers at Eau Rouge. Norris was sent spinning back across the track, and it was only good fortune that meant no-body was following close behind and put in danger of collecting him.
After a half an hour-long delay Q3 restarted.
Hamilton took provisional pole after the first runs, only to be bested by George Russell. It looked for a moment as if the Williams would actually take pole, only for Verstappen to cross the line and go fastest of all by three tenths.
More of the same can be expected for the race tomorrow in terms of weather, and we are certainly in for an interesting 44 laps!
As part of a series of interviews leading up to and following on from International Women’s Day, we spoke to Simona de Silvestro about her 2020 season and her plans for the coming year. This is the second part of that two-part interview.
Of particular note in 2021 is de Silvestro’s return to the Indy500, this time as part of an all-female team run by Beth Paretta and backed by Roger Penske.
“For her to choose me, and especially with Roger Penske behind it, for me it’s a big honour,” she said. “Hopefully we can fill as many positions as we can with talented females.
“The 500 is really special to my heart. It really made me as a racing driver and really put me on the map, so I’m pretty happy to come back and I really can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of an IndyCar. I’m stoked about it.”
When asked if the team had any long-term ambitions, de Silvestro said, “From the team’s perspective I think that’s the plan. I think they are going to plan to be full-time on the grid next year. For me personally I’m pretty lucky to be in the position that I’m in – I’m works driver for Porsche and them letting me to the 500 is pretty cool.
“But I think that’s the goal for Beth, to grow this team. I think that she has the right tools to do it, and she’s the right person for it as well, so I think it’s quite exciting and I’m excited to be part of it from the beginning, [knowing] that the first time this team turns a wheel at the 500 I’ll be [driving]’.
De Silvestro said the team’s decision to integrate women into all aspects of the team and not just the driver line-up was “important”, and that she thinks “with the team really pushing this, hopefully we will get a lot of young talented women coming in, and hopefully the other teams will maybe steal them from us.
“If you look at my career insights, I’ve been doing racing for a long time and it feels like now these opportunities are coming in with the right people around us. We have really great guidance with Team Penske behind us, so for whoever is coming in I think it’s the right place at the right time and that’s what’s really exciting.”
Looking back on her career, de Silvestro says she was always just focused on putting in the best performance that she could, but that she has noticed some changes when it comes to women in motorsport.
“If I look at my career, when I was in IndyCar, I felt at the time that I was pretty quick. We had podiums, we were running really strongly against the other drivers, but I didn’t get that chance to be in a top team, and I think that’s really what’s changing. I’m the first female who has ever been signed by Porsche as a factory driver and that’s a huge achievement, and for them to trust that I can get the job done.
“If a female driver can win races, I think I can open a lot more minds. I think we need this little bit of a push to show that it can be done and hopefully in 10, 15 years it won’t even be an issue anymore, and whoever is the fastest driver or the best mechanic or engineer gets those positions in those big teams.
“I think the platform that Beth [Paretta] is putting together can showcase that, and I think that’s really special.”
As well as the Indy500 de Silvestro is continuing her involvement with Porsche in 2021, although she hasn’t yet revealed which category she will be involved in with them.
“The thing that I can say is that I’m a reserve and development driver for the Formula E programme which is pretty exciting,” she says, “and the rest will be communicated pretty soon hopefully!”
When asked what advice she would give to young women looking to get involved in motorsport, de Silvestro says, “Believe in yourself, and I think a big thing as well is communicating what you aspire to do, because at the end of the day… you always need people around you to help guide you.
“Sometimes you will get no’s, but most of the time you will find some people who believe in the same dream and they will support you to get there, and that’s really important.”
From Formula E and IndyCar to V8 Supercars and GT racing, Simona de Silvestro has had a wide and varied career. She is one of the most high-profile female racing drivers and, in 2020, competed in ADAC GT Masters for Porsche. She was kind enough to speak to us as part of our series of interviews leading up to and following International Women’s Day.
As mentioned, 2020 saw de Silvestro take part in ADAC GT Masters as a factory driver for Porsche. COVID-19 saw her build-up to the season look fairly different to normal.
“I had just come back from Australia actually because I finished my supercar racing over there,” de Silvestro says, “and then started my new venture with Porsche. It was really strange because we came away from Christmas and we had all this testing planned and then all of a sudden there was really nothing going on for quite a long time.
“From that point of view it was definitely quite strange because since I was16, everything goes on from March and it gets pretty busy. Having the time and the big break was really strange.”
When asked how COVID affected her training, she says, “It definitely [affected] the driving side. I didn’t get into a car for a long time and I had a pretty big break, but physically it was quite good.
“Luckily, where I am in Switzerland was pretty chilled in the sense that you were still able to go outside and hike and things like that. So I actually felt really prepared on the physical side because I could really just focus on that.”
Despite the lack of track-time compared to previous years, de Silvestro still looks back on her 2020 season positively.
“It was good to learn a new car and I think a few races went quite well,” she says. “It was a bit of a mixed-up season but I’m pretty happy that this year it seems like things are starting to get a bit more normal.
“I think all of us got a bit used to it and are a bit more flexible. It’s good to see that everyone is adapting and that things are moving on and pushing on.”
One of the defining characteristics of the extended off-season at the start of 2020 was sim-racing. Drivers from any and all categories took part in virtual races to keep fans – and themselves – occupied. De Silvestro was one of those who got involved and she admits that although there were some positives to it, it isn’t something she would be quick to return to.
“I’m actually glad [sim-racing] is not happening anymore because it took a lot of commitment and it’s definitely not the same as driving a race car,” she says, “but it was still quite fun. We did the 24 Hours of Le Mans virtually with Porsche and that was a whole new experience. I never thought that I would go to my first Le Mans virtually!
“I think you just need a lot of patience for it and I don’t really have it, so the gaming part is not so much my thing. But everyone had a go at it and at the end I definitely became much better with computers and all that, so that’s a plus.”
In part two of our interview with de Silvestro she talks to us about her plans for 2021, including a return to the Indy500 as part of an all-female team.