(L to R): Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2023

Hamilton sees ‘fighting chance’ to beat Verstappen if he can ‘hold position’

2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says he must “hold position” over Max Verstappen at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix to have any chance of winning today’s race.

The Mercedes driver claimed pole position for today’s race by just three thousandths of a second from the championship leader. While they have tended to be quicker in races than in qualifying this year, Hamilton said Verstappen’s performance in Friday practice showed it will be hard to keep Red Bull behind them.

“Normally it’s not a bad race car, we tend to have decent race pace,” said Hamilton after qualifying yesterday. “Max’s race pace yesterday was, I think, quite extraordinary. I think they were quite a bit quicker than us.

“But if there’s a way to hold position then maybe there’s a fighting chance for us.”

Hamilton hadn’t achieved a front row start in a regular qualifying session since the final race of 2021, when he and Verstappen fought for the world championship. “Just even being up there in the top three is new,” he remarked. “We’re going to have a great race, for sure.”

Mercedes have only won once since 2021 – courtesy of George Russell in the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix – as they failed to master the technical regulations which were introduced the following season. But Hamilton said he never lost faith that the team would rediscover its form.

“Last year we were nowhere,” he said. “There were ups and downs, there was a moment where George was up here, but I don’t think I’ve been on the front row since 2021.

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“I’ve always had belief that someday if we apply ourselves in the right way, we will get there. I guess it was just a question of how long would that be.

Analysis: Hamilton has pole but Verstappen’s strongest threat may be behind him
“We started this season basically with – I’m not going to say it – but it’s like the twin sister or brother of the previous year’s car. And so I got in it, it felt identical and that was worrying.

“So we’ve been on this journey of trying to undo some of the wrong decisions that we’ve taken and it’s taken far longer than we ever hoped it would take. But we’re starting to see those benefits slowly and we’ve still got some big steps that we need to take to really be even more comfortable in the car, to be consistently challenging the front row.”

Neither Mercedes driver ran the soft tyre compound on Friday and they ended the day near the bottom of the times sheets. But Hamilton headed the final practice session ahead of qualifying after they made changes to their set-up overnight.

“The simulator sometimes feels good, sometimes feels terrible, and then we come to the track and you’re just always hopeful that when you get in, you’ve got somewhat of a decent balance and the car doesn’t feel bad,” he explained. “But nine times out of ten you get in the car and you’re like, damn it, this really feels terrible, the balance is off, front to rear temperatures, there’s always just an imbalance going through corners.

“Yesterday just wasn’t great for us, but what we do best is we work hard through the night. The team work hard on the simulator and we get new direction for Saturday.

“We made some really great changes to the car, naturally, last night, and it put us in a much better window. So I was then able to just build on that. But as I said, these guys were rapid. It feels great to be up here fighting with these guys.”

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2023 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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8 comments on “Hamilton sees ‘fighting chance’ to beat Verstappen if he can ‘hold position’”

  1. I don’t because even if he keeps the lead through the opening lap, he’d probably get passed into T1 on lap four at the very latest.

  2. I really think Norris will jump VER into T1, maybe HAM too.

    1. Difficult as HAM can inadvertently block him from overtaking both or either, even if he gets a better getaway.

  3. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    23rd July 2023, 10:47

    If he gets away well he has a slim chance, 9 times out of 10 Verstappen is winning this.

  4. Again. You. Sink.

    1. I’m happy he was able to get a pole, verstappen with this red bull is unstoppable, so even when there’s a chance, you see sometimes with norris, monaco with alonso, it’s never ever enough, this time hamilton did it by 3 thousandths of a second and that’s an achievement, but realistically speaking I didn’t think he could hold verstappen behind, and then just before they started I remember hamilton hasn’t been great at launch lately, and I thought, since he had nothing to lose, that he should’ve been harsher than he was, keeping verstappen behind at all costs, but having said that, given the massive gap in the end, it was never going to be realistic to hold him off. He could keep perez behind when he was trying to overtake him, but a thing is perez, a thing is verstappen, who gains 40 seconds per race on him.

    2. again your embarrassing negative comment

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