F1 2012 Hungary Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton battles for pole position

Lewis Hamilton during practice for the 2012 Grand Prix of Hungary [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

Lewis Hamilton during practice for the 2012 Grand Prix of Hungary [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

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FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton bids for pole position in qualifying for the 2012 Hungarian Grand Prix this afternoon (Saturday) having gone fastest in the opening two practice sessions at the Hungaroring.

Car 4: Lewis Hamilton

* Age: 27 (January 7 1985)

* GPs: 100

* Wins: 18

* Poles: 21

* FLs: 11

* 2012 points: 92 (5th)

The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes motor racer from Hertfordshire set the pace on Friday in both free practice sessions at the track near Budapest.

And the 2008 F1 world champion will be hoping to repeat that form in Hungary this lunchtime when the battle starts for grid positions at the Hungaroring circuit.

Hamilton clocked 1m 22.821s in first practice and then recorded an even quicker lap time of 1m 21.995s after lunch, before rain interrupted the second session.

Speaking after practice yesterday (Friday), Hamilton said: “It’s been a really positive day. I’m very happy.

Hungarian Grand Prix facts

* Race distance: 70 laps (190.531 miles/306.630km)

* Start time: 14:00 (local)/13:00 BST

* Circuit length: 2.722 miles/4.381km

* 2011 winner: Jenson Button (Vodafone McLaren Mercedes) 70 laps in 1hr46m42.337s

* 2011 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) 1m19.815s (197.601km/h)

* Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) 1m19.071s (199.461km/h)

“During the sessions we made some useful changes to the car to get it dialled-in, and we’re on the right path, but we’ve still got a bit of work to do. The guys did a fantastic job. We’re going to keep pushing, though.”

Hamilton added: “I’m on it. I’ve been on it all year. I feel a lot of support from the fans, here and everywhere, and I think things are looking pretty good this weekend. I’ll be focusing on maximising every lap and every opportunity I get out there.”

As for Sunday’s race, he said: “Overtaking here is difficult, so qualifying and track positioning will be of paramount importance.

“Some drivers may do longer runs, some may do shorter runs [in the race]. Either way, Jenson [Button] and I will be looking to qualify well and start at or near the front.

Lewis Hamilton’s Hungary record

* 2011: Q2, R4

* 2010: Q5, R8

* 2009: Q4, R1

* 2008: Q1 R5

* 2007: Q1 R1

“I love this track, even if overtaking here is a challenge. It’s a drivers’ circuit, with real character to it – lovely off-camber corners, nice ups and downs – and those elements combine to make it great fun to drive. It just flows.”

Hamilton’s teammate Button – runner-up in last weekend’s German GP – was second quickest in FP1 and then sixth fastest in the rain-hit afternoon session.

He said: “I’m pretty happy with the car, all in all, and I think we’re pretty competitive around here, but in FP2 we learned that a lot of other teams are pretty competitive around here too. As ever, though, it’ll be about getting the perfect balance.

“I reckon we’re going to see a fierce battle for victory this weekend. Having said that, we had a good car at Hockenheim, and we should have a good car here too, so we should be up there. As I say, it’s much too close to call, though.”

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh was satisfied with today’s running, which was effectively a test day for the team, although the track surface will inevitably rubber-in significantly over the course of tomorrow and Sunday.

Whitmarsh said after practice: “Today we saw a light sprinkling of rain, but our forecasters tell us that we’ll probably experience dry conditions for qualifying and the race.

“We hope they’re correct, and that the 2012 Hungarian Grand Prix will be a entertaining and exciting motor race, contested on a dry track, and that Jenson and Lewis will be in the thick of it by the time the chequered flag is waved on Sunday afternoon.”

Qualifying for the Grand Prix of Hungary starts at 1pm on Saturday.

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