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Thursday 2 October 2014

Luckless Lewis Hamilton's car catches fire as Nico Rosberg grabs pole in Hungary

Ian Parkes

Published 26/07/2014 | 14:40

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BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 26:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP looks on as fire marshalls extinguish the fire in his car during qualifying ahead of the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring on July 26, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP looks on as fire marshalls extinguish the fire in his car during qualifying ahead of the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 26:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks away from his car after it caught fire during qualifying ahead of the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring on July 26, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks away from his car after it caught fire during qualifying ahead of the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 26:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks away from his car after it caught fire during qualifying ahead of the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring on July 26, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP walks away from his car after it caught fire during qualifying ahead of the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring

Lewis Hamilton's bid for a fifth pole position in Hungary literally went up in flames as his car caught fire early in qualifying.

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Just minutes into the session at the Hungaroring, Hamilton's Mercedes was ablaze at the rear, and although he attempted to crawl back to the garage, it proved a futile exercise.

Hamilton was forced to stop on the pit lane entry road where marshals quickly used extinguishers to douse the fire, started by what Mercedes claimed to be a fuel leak.

As the Briton looked on, and even though the visor was down on his helmet, you could sense his bitter pain and disappointment as he shook his head disconsolately before trudging away.

It was yet another brutal blow for Hamilton in his bid to overhaul Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in this year's battle for the Formula One world title.

In the build up to this race Hamilton had spoken of his desire to enjoy a clean weekend without his errors on one hand, and unreliability on the other.

But the 29-year-old must now feel like this may not be his year given the run of wretched luck he has endured this campaign.

In a season when Mercedes are dominant, and when their cars do finish a race they are either first or second, Hamilton has so far suffered two DNFs (did not finish) to the one for Rosberg.

That has played a key role in the 14-point gap between the pair ahead of Sunday's race.

A poor run in qualifying has also been instrumental, with Hamilton making mistakes in Canada and Austria to deny himself pole.

There was an error of judgement at Silverstone, but Hamilton produced a masterful drive to take the British Grand Prix chequered flag.

But for these last two races, and in the space of eight days, the Briton has been hit by rotten misfortune.

At Hockenheim last Saturday a right-front brake disc failure resulted in Hamilton hurtling into a tyre barrier with a 30g impact.

Starting from 20th on the grid, as he also had to take a five-place penalty for a gearbox change given the damage sustained, he again pulled out a stunning drive to claim third behind Rosberg.

Hockenheim, however, affords a driver opportunities to overtake, but not the Hungaroring where it is notoriously difficult to pass.

Although Hamilton has won four times at the circuit, a fifth is not in the offing as he will now likely start from the pitlane given the team will have to work on his fire-damaged car overnight.

A forlorn Hamilton, who had been quickest through all three practice sessions, said: "I bailed out of that timed lap I was doing and I was like 'I'm going to try and do the second lap'.

"Then something happened to my brakes. Something on the brake system failed, so I had to engage some settings to try and correct it, then the engines died.

"I then thought 'I am right next to the pit entry so I will roll back and get them to fix it' but then I looked in my mirrors and it was on fire.

"I was hoping to get it in neutral so I could push it back or something

"I was still trying to get it to the garage and maybe they could do something, but they said 'stop, stop, stop' so I tried to stop, but the brakes weren't working. The car kept running forward.

"The engine was working sometimes and sometimes not working, so it is all pretty bad.

"I think it's getting to the point beyond bad luck - it's something else. We just need to do better."

As for his hopes for the race, Hamilton added: "We'll have to replace the engine and gearbox (which incur penalties).

"But with those it's a good thing - I can't go any further back (on the grid).

"There's a lot going through my mind, but I just have to try to turn it into positives.

"I honestly don't know what I can do tomorrow. This is a track where you cannot overtake, so I think I will struggle to get in the top 10 or at least the top five.

"I will probably leave here more than 20 points behind Nico, but there are still races to go.

"I don't know what to say, I will try my best."

The rest of the session was naturally nowhere near as dramatic, but was nevertheless eventful, particularly when rain began to fall at the start of the top-10 shoot-out.

As the drivers attempted to get in a flying lap on slick rubber, the slippery surface proved too difficult to handle, especially for Kevin Magnussen who slid off into a tyre barrier at turn one.

That brought out the red flags for his car to be recovered and for the barrier to be repaired, resulting in an eight-minute delay.

That period of time was enough for the rain to pass and the track to start to dry out, ensuring the remaining nine drivers could again use slick tyres.

Come the conclusion it came as no surprise when Rosberg clinched pole, his sixth of the year and fifth in the last six races.

Rosberg finished half a second clear of Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, on the front row for the third time this year.

Williams' Valtteri Bottas lines up third, followed by Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull and Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari.

Williams' Felipe Massa starts sixth, with Jenson Button seventh for McLaren ahead of Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne and Nico Hulkenberg for Force India, with Magnussen 10th.

Daniil Kvyat starts 11th in his Toro Rosso, although a spin on his final hot lap in Q2 denied him the possibility of a place in the top 10.

Sauber pair Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez qualified 12th and 14th, with Force India's Sergio Perez sandwiched in the middle.

Lotus' Romain Grosjean is 15th, with Jules Bianchi 16th for Marussia as Hamilton's fire was not the only surprise in Q1.

Ferrari misjudged matters that resulted in Bianchi dropping Kimi Raikkonen down to 17th and out of the session.

Behind the Finn will be Caterham pair Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson in 18th and 20th, either side of Marussia's Max Chilton.

Hamilton was placed 21st as Lotus' Pastor Maldonado retired with a technical fault on his Lotus just a couple of minutes beforehand.

Neither driver set a time, but both will naturally be allowed to compete, with the penalties for Hamilton meaning the pit lane start, allowing Maldonado to jump up to 21st.

As last Saturday at Hockenheim, Rosberg was again left disappointed he will not be battling it out at the front with Hamilton in the race.

"That's a pity for the team. Not a god thing definitely, we need to keep on it because that's reliability," said Rosberg.

"I would prefer to be out there battling with Lewis, that would give me an adrenaline rush, so this takes away some of the adrenaline."

There may yet be a fly in the ointment as storms are forecast for Sunday, leaving Rosberg to add: "With the weather coming it's still all to play for."

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