By Abhishek Takle
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Nico Rosberg will keep pole position for Sunday’s Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix after having come under investigation for not slowing down enough for the yellow flags that cost title rival Lewis Hamilton a shot at top spot.
A spin for McLaren’s Fernando Alonso brought out the yellow flags in the dying seconds of a marathon rain-delayed qualifying session.
Hamilton, on his final flying lap, came upon Alonso’s, car which was sideways and partially on the track, and had to abort his run. The Briton was already on provisional pole and going faster than Rosberg at that time.
His German team mate, behind Hamilton on the road, improved on his final lap to seize pole despite onboard footage showing Rosberg driving past ‘double waved’ yellow flags, prompting the investigation.
The rules state that a driver must reduce speed significantly and be prepared to change direction or stop in case of ‘double waved’ yellow flags, and Rosberg and team boss Toto Wolff argued he had lifted off enough.
“No further action,” stewards declared in a statement on concluding their investigation more than three hours after the end of qualifying.
“The telemetry demonstrated that the driver reduced speed significantly into turn eight.”
The stewards’ decision secures Rosberg the 26th pole of his career and fourth of the season.
It is also the Mercedes team’s 46th pole from the last 49 races, with the German outfit starting all but one round this year from the front.
Hamilton, who trails Rosberg by one point in the championship and is hoping the seize the lead in the title race for the first time this year with an unprecedented fifth Hungarian win, was relaxed about being second on the grid.
“I don’t know how much Nico was up but I got the fastest first sector,” he said. “Bit unfortunate with Fernando but these things happen so I’m not really too disappointed.”
Daniel Ricciardo was third for Red Bull ahead of team mate Max Verstappen on a weekend when the former champions hope to challenge Mercedes for the win.
Sebastian Vettel, winner in Hungary last year, was the sole Ferrari driver in the top 10 in fifth. Team mate Kimi Raikkonen was a casualty of the rapidly shuffling order in changing conditions and only managed 14th.
McLaren had their best qualifying result since renewing their engine partnership with Honda at the start of last year with Spaniard Alonso and Briton Jenson Button, who both had their first race wins in Hungary, in seventh and eighth.
A torrential rain shower in the build-up to qualifying forced the start of the session to be delayed by 20 minutes.
The opening 18-minute session was then interrupted by four more red flags, first as the rain returned and then as several drivers, including Williams’s Felipe Massa, crashed out.
(Editing by Ken Ferris and Clare Fallon)