Reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton was at the receiving end of boos and jeers from the crowd after securing pole position on Saturday for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday. The Mercedes secured a front row lockout, with teammate Valtteri Bottas claiming the second position on the grid ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
Despite a strong session that left him on pole, the seven-time champion was met by animosity from the fans because of how the final seconds of Q3 played out. After securing provisionary pole, Hamilton went out just ahead of Verstappen to do his final flying lap of the session. However, as soon as Verstappen slotted in behind him in the pit lane, Hamilton visibly slowed down significantly.
He did the same throughout the entire outlap, keeping both Red Bull cars practically crawling behind him. The tactic resulted in disaster for Red Bull, with Perez failing to make it to the chequered flag in time for his final flying lap to count. It also compromised Verstappen’s lap, who was not able to start his run with enough momentum and tyre temperature.
Both Hamilton and Bottas were unable to improve on their time either, but the job was done anyway as they had already sealed the top two spots from their earlier Q3 runs. The fans however, did not appreciate the tactic that prevented a legitimate flying lap shoot-out in the final seconds of the session.
After the session, amid loud booing, Hamilton said, “I have never felt so great with the booing. If anything, it just fuels me. So I don’t really mind it.”
Verstappen, meanwhile, admitted that the Mercedes cars have the advantage this weekend. “The whole weekend we have been a bit behind and it showed again in qualifying. Not what we wanted but we are still there in third and will see what we can do,” he said.
Bottas also got behind his teammate. “I don’t think it’s fair,” he said about the crowd’s reaction. “We are here as athletes to do the best we can in the sport we love. Lewis did an amazing lap at the end and people should question themselves about this behaviour. It’s not right and we don’t want to hear those things,” he added.
Hamilton denied playing dirty tricks, claiming that his slow lap was perfectly normal. “I wasn’t playing any tactics. I don’t need to play tactics. I know what I’m doing in the car. I’m fast enough,” he said.