Romain Grosjean repeated his strong qualifying form from the 2012 Hungarian Grand Prix to claim third spot on the 2013 grid, but remains cautious when predicting his fortunes on race day.
The Frenchman was close to the pace on the opening day of the meeting, before topping final practice on Saturday morning to put himself firmly among the tips for pole position. In the end, he only narrowly missed out to Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel but, with the Lotus still reckoned to be among the easiest on its tyres, Grosjean could still be a factor on Sunday afternoon, particularly as temperatures are expected to reach 40°C in Budapest.
“Well, [Hamilton]'s on pole at the moment, so he's the one with the advantage on the grid, but then it's just up to how the tyre reacts in the race, what the degradation is like, when people pit, the strategy and stuff like that,” the Frenchman reasoned, “We know the track is quite short and you can easily fall into traffic - which cost me the win here last year. It's just up to us to get the best out of everything I can.
“How much do you plan? I don't know. It really depends on how it goes. I think again it's a question of how long you can go in the first stint without losing too much time - or gaining time - and then the strategy guy will be on the pit-wall, making all the calculations and working harder to give me the best chance.
“It's good to be in the top three, [but] you always want better. I think we had a tough quail - it's really hot in the car and I gave a good effort to get there. This morning, we were fastest, but we knew it would be very tight and, again, it is. I'm pretty pleased with the gap behind, [but] the race is long and a different story.”
Shrugging off suggestions that the Hungaroring was something of a lucky charm for him, Grosjean….
“I think, at Silverstone and Nurburgring, we were very competitive and, to be honest, I haven't really found exactly the same feeling as I had last year with the tyres. I think we are just doing a good job with the car. That we struggled at the beginning of the year, with mapping and stuff like that, is not a secret but, since then, we have found what I need to bring the car where I want to and it's getting better and better. I don't think those tyres have changed the deal massively.
“I quite like the circuit, but it doesn't mean much unfortunately. It has been a good weekend so far, I've been working pretty hard with the team, trying to get the best out of the car. Our last lap was a pretty good lap, not missing much, but those guys were really quick, so I think it's good to be here. I was a bit surprised by the Mercedes being that quick but, in the race, we know it's a different story.
“[The long runs] were pretty all right yesterday. I think the option is quite a tough tyre to make last, but then the medium was all right on our car. With the temperature coming up, it can change a little bit, as was the case last race. My first stint was very long just because the tyres held up pretty well and, hopefully, tomorrow is going to be the case again. Then I can try to have a go.
“We will see different strategies, and we'll try to get the best of our car when we get free air…”