Pierre Gasly admitted he was shocked to see himself qualify ahead of both McLaren and Ferrari cars, but was clearly pleased with his afternoon’s work.
While team-mate Yuki Tsunoda was unable to get his AlphaTauri out of Q1 for the Hungarian Grand Prix, the Frenchman kept up his sterling form in qualifying this season by being ‘best of the rest’ behind both Mercedes and Red Bull cars.
But even though he has shown his speed over one lap, Gasly said he had not been anticipating being in the top five of the grid again.
“To be honest, we didn’t expect to be ahead of the Ferraris and McLarens, so this was a really good surprise,” he told Sky F1.
“I was really happy with my lap in Q3. I knew when I closed it that this was a good one, but still I didn’t expect to be right in front of them and, with a small margin, we managed to make it happen, so I’m really pleased with this place.”
Qualifying in P5 in a car that his team-mate couldn't make it out of Q1 in…
— Planet F1 (@Planet_F1) July 31, 2021
The track temperatures have been searing throughout the weekend around the Hungaroring, with conditions of over 60°C playing havoc with how the tyres run.
Gasly does not feel as optimistic about the pace of his AlphaTauri when it comes to the race, but knows he has a strong early advantage by putting himself in a good grid slot on a track where overtaking is famously tricky.
“On long runs, we seem to struggle a little bit more,” he said. “But on a track like Budapest, the track condition is so important because it’s so hard to overtake.
“I think the key for us will be to get a good start, and then from there try to hold that fifth position. We expect the top two teams to pull away and use that free air to keep the tyres as we want them.
“The main target was to qualify as far forward as we could and I think today we achieved that.
“We know [Ferrari and McLaren] have fast cars but we’ve got the track position. I expect a very tight battle.
“It will be a long race, it won’t be easy with the tyres, [there’s] probably going to be a lot of fighting with the cars behind, but I’m really excited about it.”