Lewis Hamilton heads into tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix far from fancying his chances of equalling Michael Schumacher’s feat around the Hungaroring.
Schumacher holds the record of four wins at the track, with Hamilton hot on the seven-times champion’s heels with three, including two from pole position in 2007 and again last year.
Hamilton will start from pole tomorrow, the 30th of his career, his fourth this season, and for the first time since he arrived in F1, three in a row.
But in terms of converting that into another triumph he feels is a tall order as he has no doubts his Mercedes will again struggle on the Pirelli tyres.
“I’ve been fortunate to have won here in the past, but going into tomorrow I definitely don’t have the same confidence as when I’ve won previous races here, and for obvious reasons given the tyres,” said Hamilton.
“Maybe we will have a better chance tomorrow, but statistics show the Red Bull is half a second to eight tenths faster per lap on the prime tyres over a long run.
“So when you have those statistics there is nothing you can do. We just have to try our best to maximise every second we have out there.
“I’d really love to be able to remain in the fight, but it is the way the sport is at the moment – tyres are the decider.
“The team has done such a great job to build such a competitive car, and I honestly feel it is just as competitive in terms of downforce and mechanics compared to the Red Bull.
“But it’s the tyres because when we bolt those things on they just don’t work for us.”
The Pirelli rubber certainly works over one lap for Mercedes who have now claimed seven of the last eight poles, but come the race they are found wanting, notoriously over the first half.
The tyres are different from this race onwards as Pirelli have had to revise them for safety reasons following the number of blowouts seen during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
With this year’s compounds married to last year’s structure, Hamilton has seen nothing to suggest the situation tomorrow will be different to what he has so far experienced this season.
Hamilton added: “I don’t have any indications it’s going to be better. It didn’t feel great yesterday, but I’m hopeful it will be better.”
It was a pole, though, that came out of the blue, one that has hauled Hamilton ahead in the all-time standings of five-times champion Juan Manuel Fangio who scored 29.
“It really didn’t feel like a good lap, so I was really surprised,” assessed Hamilton.
“When I looked at the onboard (footage) it looks like reasonably tidy, but it generally didn’t feel good, so I thought it wasn’t good enough.
“But I’m delighted it was, happy to have put the team on the front row, and my brother (Nicolas) text me and told me it was my 30th pole, so I’m happy with that as well.
“As for Fangio, he is a legend, so for people to compare the amount of poles I’ve had is definitely pretty cool.
“I feel very privileged I’m even in Formula One and had one pole, so it’s crazy to think I’ve 30 now, although I’ve been here a while.
“But any time you get pole it generally always feels like it’s the first time.”
Three-times champion and current title leader Sebastian Vettel, who is 58 points clear of Hamilton, was ousted from top spot in the dying moments and will start from second, although is unconcerned.
“I would have loved to be a little faster and to be on pole, but I am still in a great place for tomorrow,” said Vettel.
“We have a good car, good pace for the race, so I’m quite confident.”
Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes are third and fourth on the grid, followed by Vettel’s two main rivals in Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus.
Jenson Button lines up 13th for McLaren about which he said: “I’m a little disappointed as I’d hoped for a bit more here.
“But it’s been difficult to balance the car. Hopefully we’ll show a little more pace in the race. I’m sure we can still have fun.”
Paul Di Resta is down in a lowly 18th as the Scot could not get the tyres to work on his Force India, whilst Marussia’s Max Chilton starts 22nd and last.