Lewis Hamilton's hopes of Hungarian GP win go up in smoke after car catches fire
Mercedes already in race against time to fix car for Sunday's race; "I will probably leave here more than 20 points behind Nico," admits dejected Lewis; Fuel leak blamed for fire; Team apologises to 'Lewis and his fans'
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 27/07/14 8:14am
Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of victory in the Hungarian GP have gone up in smoke – literally – after his Mercedes car caught fire in the opening minutes of qualifying.
The World Championship favourite, fastest ahead of title leader Nico Rosberg in all three practice sessions at the Hungaroring, will have to start the race at the back of the field after enduring yet another qualifying disaster when his car was engulfed in flames within five minutes of the session commencing.
Hamilton will line up for Sunday's race in the pitlane with the extensive damage to his car requiring a change of gearbox, engine and chassis.
“I honestly don’t know what I can do tomorrow," a forlorn Hamilton, who escaped the fire unscathed, told Sky Sports F1. "This is a track that you cannot overtake on so I think I will struggle to get in the top ten tomorrow 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.
"It's getting to the point where it's beyond bad luck now."
Flames poured out of the rear of Hamilton's W05 as he completed his first installation lap of the afternoon, with the Mercedes driver reporting over the radio that he couldn't stop the car as he tried to limp his stricken charger back to the pits before it lost all power.
"It was on fire, but I was still trying to get it to the garage and maybe they could do something. But then they said ‘stop, stop, stop’ so I tried to stop, but the brakes weren’t working and the car kept running forward and the engine was working sometimes and sometimes not working so it is all pretty bad," said Hamilton.
A fuel leak is believed to have triggered the fire - the fourth instance of serious and costly unreliability that the luckless Hamilton has endured this term. Just a week ago, a brake failure saw Hamilton crash out of qualifying for the German GP with the Englishman only starting one race since May's Monaco GP on the front row.
"I'm devastated for Lewis. We are working flat out to give both drivers the best possible car, and a Mercedes in flames is not what we want to show the world. I'm sorry to Lewis and all his fans,” added team boss Toto Wolff, no doubt aware that the fire, in addition to damaging Hamilton’s title prospects, had inevitably fuelled the flames of conspiracy theories across social media sites.
Although Hamilton was able to recover from the back of the grid last week to claim a podium finish at Hockenheim, charging through the field at the ultra-tight Hungaroring will be a far tougher proposition.
To compound Hamilton's woes, Rosberg was able to cruise to an unchallenged pole position in his absence, outpacing the rest of the field by over half a second as his dejected team-mate made an early exit from the circuit.