Lewis Hamilton has admitted that he does not expect to be a factor in the Hungarian Grand Prix, despite qualifying his Mercedes on pole position for the third race in a row.
The Briton, having not been a factor in free practice on Friday, summoned the pace to out-qualify weekend pacesetter Sebastian Vettel by four-hundredths of a second when it mattered on Saturday afternoon, but concedes that the scorching temperatures at the Hungaroring are likely to affect his chances on race day.
Despite the furore surrounding its 'secret' test with Pirelli in Barcelona, Mercedes does not appear to have benefited from the session, and missing the recent Young Driver test at Silverstone – where the remaining teams got a heads-up on the latest specification of tyre – also appears to have left the Brackley team struggling to make its rubber last over the course of a race, even without the sort of temperatures expected this weekend.
“It is what it is, y'know?” a resigned Hamilton told journalists after qualifying, “It's been the same for a long time. We don't come into the race and it's a surprise to us. That's what it is.
“If you can get into turn one first, try and hold your position, then [pole]'s definitely advantageous. But looking after the tyres in these conditions is going to be trouble. These guys are going to be ridiculously fast, so trying to keep ahead of them or hold onto them is going to be the challenge tomorrow. It's going to be tough. It didn't feel like a disaster through our long runs, but it definitely wasn't as good as the guys next to me. That's the way it is.”
With both Red Bull and Lotus – who put Romain Grosjean into third spot on the Saturday timesheets – both seemingly able to make their Pirellis last longer than Mercedes, Hamilton admits that it is unlikely he'll be in the race for a fourth victory in Budapest.
“I'm not really looking forward to it,” he conceded, “It's just a shame [as] we obviously have good pace... We've got a good car so I think, if we didn't have the tyre issues, we would be able to compete with the guys in the race. It sucks in a way that I'm not able to have a race with these guys, but we will do the best we can tomorrow. The tyre degradation is an issue and, no matter what rules change or whatever solutions we find, so far it seems very difficult for us to improve.
“But we're just working away at it and, hopefully, we will get there before the rules change again for next year, [and] different tyres come in. Otherwise, it's just trying to get as many points as we can and trying to hold on to Sebastian for as long as I can...”
Admitting that the thought of equalling Michael Schumacher's achievement of taking four Hungarian GP wins with two different teams had not entered his head, Hamilton also insisted that he was not expecting the race to be punishing physically, despite temperatures being expected to touch 40°C.
“It's not really that bad, to be honest,” he claimed, “I've not really noticed the heat too much so far this weekend. Malaysia is usually the biggest killer - and Singapore, obviously, with the humidity - but it's not that humid here. It's nice and warm and, of course, it would be nice to be cooler in the car but, by this time of the season, you are used to it. You just have to make sure you drink plenty and that's it.”