|© AP Photo/Darko Bandic
Lewis Hamilton will start the Hungarian Grand Prix from the pit lane after the fire that engulfed his Mercedes during qualifying on Saturday necessitated a chassis, engine and gearbox change.
A fuel leak and subsequent fire during his warm-up lap in the opening minutes of qualifying ended his session early putting the Briton on the back foot in the battle for the title, particularly after his rival and championship leader Nico Rosberg claimed pole position.
“I can’t really believe it, there was just nothing I could do,” said Hamilton.
“There was an issue with the car as I was coming out of the second to last corner and then the engine just cut out. I thought we could get it back to the garage but then I looked in my mirrors and saw the whole rear end was on fire and that was it,” he explained.
Hamilton has had two retirements in races this season, coupled with reliability issues in successive qualifying sessions. Rosberg, in contrast, has retired from one race and managed to salvage second place in Canada after he was struck with gremlins.
“It’s getting to the point where it’s beyond bad luck now – as a team, we need to do better,” Hamilton said.
“It will be a very difficult afternoon as it’s one of the hardest circuits to overtake on,” he added referring to the tight and twisty Hungaroring circuit.
Mercedes apologised for the issues that have dogged the 2008 world champion.
“I was devastated for Lewis,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. “A Mercedes in flames is not what we want to show the world.”
Rosberg too sympathised with the plight of his teammate.
“I know how much it hurts to have technical failure where there is nothing you can do as a driver. We need to sort out the reliability issues,” the German said. “It takes away a bit of the excitement when there is no gloves-off battle because that’s what we are here for.”
Leading by 14 points and with nine races remaining, Rosberg is nevertheless ready to take full advantage of the situation.
"It makes it easier of course, because he's my competitor number one, so I will play it even more safe and just really try and avoid any unnecessary things happening and make sure to get as many points as possible because it's really a free opportunity,” he pointed out.