Lewis Hamilton hadn’t paid much attention to how far adrift of his pole time Red Bull were in Hungary, but was surprised when he was informed.
It was a sensational new lap record of a 1:13.447 that gave the Briton his 90th career pole, 0.1s clear of team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
But by far the biggest surprise were Red Bull. This time last year Max Verstappen claimed pole, before finishing P2 in the race after losing out in a battle with Hamilton who went on to win the race.
This time around Verstappen qualified P7, 1.4s slower than Hamilton, so it’s no surprise that the Dutchman has said the RB16 is a backwards step from last year’s car.
And Hamilton’s reaction was one of shock when he was informed of that gap by reporters at the Hungaroring.
“I didn’t know that was the case, but that is a big gap,” he said.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting them to be as off as they have been this weekend because we saw the pace of them last year. This is not a power circuit, this is more about the car and mechanical grip and aero package.
“I thought that they had a better package than I guess today’s results showed. But I don’t know if that will had great laps or not but, either way that’s a big, big gap.”
My 90th pole position! And my 7th pole position in Hungary 🤘🏾🔥 Those qualifying laps felt great. I’m focused as ever for tomorrow. Still feels strange not having you guys there cheering us on but I hope you’re all staying safe. Sending you all positive vibes 🙏🏾 #HungarianGP pic.twitter.com/RGxcPXmuU0
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) July 18, 2020
On-board shots of the Mercedes almost defied belief as the W11 stuck and powered through the corners and curves like they were nothing.
Hamilton’s pole lap was a 1.143s-improvement on the best Mercedes time from qualifying in 2019 in Hungary, and the six-time World Champion said this year Mercedes have come on leaps and bounds in the faster corners.
“The high speed particularly is quite a lot of different, so Turn 4, Turn 8 and 9 and then particularly Turn 11,” he said.
“But it’s a little bit everywhere I would say. The efficiency of the cars through the low and medium speed corners is definitely better than last year.
“But the high speed, particularly, as I say, you can nearly take it [turn 11] flat when before it was a full lift.
“Ultimately, it is an evolution of last year’s car, so without doubt it is a better car than last year.
“We go through a whole season and during the season, Valtteri and I work closely together to point out the issues and the limitations with these cars and we work closely with our engineers to advance it and with the designers.
“We have quite a lot of meetings back in the factory together to make sure that we leave no stone unturned.
“There’s no big-headedness or ignorance between any of the engineers and between us there’s just a real transparent discussion, and no idea’s too big or bold so we just continuously push that.
“We continue to inspire each other and then the guys back in the factory are hungry, they want to continue to raise the bar and they are the best at what they do.
“So it’s impressive to see each year, this incredible amount of confidence that I have in them naturally and from these years.
“We go from strength to strength as our relationship grows as our understanding of each other does, and how we all work continues to improve.”