Lewis Hamilton breaks records as Mercedes lock out front row for Hungarian Grand Prix

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the qualifying session for the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod near Budapest. (AFP)
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Updated 18 July 2020

Lewis Hamilton breaks records as Mercedes lock out front row for Hungarian Grand Prix

  • The six-time world champion clocked a stunning time of one minute and 13.447 seconds

BUDAPEST: Lewis Hamilton broke the circuit lap record and drew level with Michael Schumacher for another feat on Saturday as he claimed a record-increasing 90th pole position for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
The six-time world champion clocked a stunning time of one minute and 13.447 seconds on his second run in final qualifying to finish just ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes reeled off their 65th front-row lockout.
It was Hamilton’s second successive pole of the COVID-19 delayed season and a Schumacher-equalling seventh pole at the Hungaroring, where he seeks his eighth victory to draw level with another Schumacher achievement for wins on the same track.
Schumacher won eight times at the French Grand Prix.
“I have to pinch myself,” said Hamilton. “It doesn’t register. It’s quite humbling because I work with an incredible bunch of people who do an amazing job here and back home.
“And Valtteri doesn’t make it easy for me. It takes perfection to do laps like that so this is one of the things I enjoy most.”
Bottas said he expected it to be close. “We seem to be on another level, pretty far ahead of the others. My laps were ok, but I couldn’t go faster really.”
Behind the two ‘black arrows’, the controversial ‘pink Mercedes’ of Racing Point were third and fourth with Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez ahead of a much-improved showing by four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc for Ferrari.
“I am very happy at the moment,” said Stroll. “Was strong all the way through qualifying, the whole weekend, really.”
Max Verstappen was a disappointed seventh for Red Bull, Lando Norris eighth ahead of his McLaren team-mate Carlos Sainz with Pierre Gasly, in his 50th Grand Prix, 10th for Alpha Tauri.
On a cool, damp afternoon at the Hungaroring, where blazing sunshine has been the norm over 35 years, the air temperature was 19 degrees and the track 28.6 as the session began.
The Q1 action produced drama and suspense, the track evolution — as the temperature fell — creating faster times right to the final seconds.
This resulted in the two Racing Points snatching first and second places ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes, with Perez leading Stroll in the ‘pink panthers’ private duel.
Out went Kevin Magnussen of Haas, Daniil Kvyat of Alpha Tauri, Romain Grosjean in the second Haas, Antonio Giovinazzi and his Alfa Romeo team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, four of them powered by Ferrari engines.
For the first time since the 2018 Italian Grand Prix, Williams saw both cars through to Q2, George Russell winding up in ninth place. “That’s a lap! That’s a lap!” he shouted aloud on team radio.
In Q2, Hamilton was soon on top with 1:14.261, pursued by Bottas, two-tenths adrift, both running on medium compound tires while behind them, on softs, Vettel and Verstappen led the chase.
Leclerc jumped to third in the final seconds as Daniel Ricciardo of Renault failed to make the top-10 shootout along with the two Williams of Russell and rookie Nicholas Latifi, Esteban Ocon in the second Renault and Red Bull’s Alexander Albon.
The luckless London-born Thai driver complained on team radio: “Sorry, guys, but I told you ‘Don’t put me in traffic’.”
He had earlier struggled with his car’s balance and handling, problems that the team intended to solve during a ‘night’ shift on Friday.
In Q3, Mercedes again set the pace with Hamilton breaking the track lap record and the 1:14 barrier with a lap in 1:13.613 and Bottas three-tenths adrift on their opening runs.
Stroll was third quickest ahead of Verstappen and Norris before the ultimate laps saw Vettel and Leclerc move up to fourth and fifth for Ferrari ahead of the final dramas.
Stroll and his Racing Point team-mate Perez managed to jump the Ferraris, but Hamilton and Bottas reasserted Mercedes’ supremacy.


The NBA MVP finalists: Antetokounmpo, James and Harden

Updated 09 August 2020

The NBA MVP finalists: Antetokounmpo, James and Harden

  • James would join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a six-time winner), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the NBA’s only five-time MVPs
  • Antetokounmpo is bidding to become the 12th back-to-back winner of the award

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: This season’s NBA MVP has won the award before.
A trio of past winners of the award — reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, four-time MVP LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and 2017-18 winner James Harden of the Houston Rockets — were announced Saturday as the finalists for this season’s top NBA individual honor.
James would join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a six-time winner), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the NBA’s only five-time MVPs. Antetokounmpo is bidding to become the 12th back-to-back winner of the award, and Harden is vying for his second MVP in three seasons.
“He’s an incredible teammate, plays unselfishly, does everything,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo last month, stating his best player’s MVP case. “And I think that’s kind of what the MVP is, so we certainly feel like he’s very deserving and we’ll be excited to support him.”
Antetokounmpo is also a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year, while Utah’s Rudy Gobert is bidding to win that trophy for a third consecutive season.
The league announced the top three vote-getters in six individual categories. Voting has already taken place by a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.
The NBA has not set specific dates when the winners will be announced.
None of the games taking place at the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World factored into the voting, because ballots were due before games began again July 30.
The league took the step of saying games played before the league suspended the season on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic could factor into award consideration, out of fairness to the eight teams that were not invited to the restart.
The other finalists for NBA honors:
Rookie of the Year — Ja Morant, Memphis; Kendrick Nunn, Miami; Zion Williamson, New Orleans.
Most Improved Player — Bam Adebayo, Miami; Luka Doncic, Dallas; Brandon Ingram, New Orleans.
Sixth Man — Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers; Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City; Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers.
Defensive Player of the Year — Antetokounmpo; Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers; Rudy Gobert, Utah.
Coach of the Year — Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee; Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City; Nick Nurse, Toronto.


GASOL VS. GRIZZLIES
Marc Gasol spent parts of 11 seasons in Memphis, going to three All-Star Games with a Grizzlies jersey on his back, earning two All-NBA selections there and a Defensive Player of the Year award as well.
And now, he’ll play against his former team for the first time.
The Grizzlies face Gasol and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. It’ll be the first game between the clubs since Gasol was traded to Toronto in February 2019 — a move that helped the Raptors win last season’s NBA championship.
Gasol said facing Memphis would be emotional.
“I got there when I was 16 years old. It was my first time out of Spain,” said Gasol, who still owns his Memphis home. “I started high school there as a teenager and left as a father of two kids. ... My ties to the city and my roots go pretty deep and my love for the people there, what they mean and the franchise, it’s forever.”
Gasol helped Memphis make the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons including the 2013 run to the Western Conference finals. He is the Grizzlies’ all-time leader for minutes played, field goals made, free throws made and attempted, rebounds, blocks and triple-doubles and is second in points — 49 behind Mike Conley.
The Raptors were supposed to have played back-to-back games against Memphis this season, going there March 28 and then playing host to the Grizzlies March 30. Those games, of course, were called off because of the season suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously it’s a little bittersweet that we couldn’t play in the city of Memphis, to get that love and feel that Iove from the fans,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said. “But I’m sure he’ll be happy to see some familiar faces and a lot of the people that he spent a lot of time with over the years.”


WORKING WIZARDS
On Friday, the Washington Wizards were eliminated from playoff contention.
On Saturday, they practiced.
The Wizards knew they were playoff longshots even before coming to the NBA’s restart at Disney, especially since Bradley Beal didn’t make the trip because of injury and Davis Bertans opted not to play because of health concerns.
But these eight games — Washington is 0-5 at Disney with three games left — were considered learning opportunities for the team’s young players, and a chance to get some high-level work in before the offseason starts. And just because the playoff chances are now gone doesn’t mean Wizards coach Scott Brooks is changing his thinking on that front.
“It’s about getting better,” Brooks said. “You know, I love our group. We want to keep improving. And the record, I’m not happy with it but I’m happy with our effort after every game that we’ve been in.”
Brooks has told his team repeatedly at Disney that the losses go on his record, not theirs.
“You can’t waste the days, you have to keep working on each day and keep improving and it’s hard,” Brooks said. “It’s hard to go through, you know, five losses in a row. But in order to get where we need to get to, you’re going to have to deal with it. You’re going to have to be able to handle it. You’re going to have to be able to get better from it, and it also has to hurt, going through it. And that’s fine.”


BUCKS CLINCH
The road to the NBA championship will go through Milwaukee’s white uniforms.
The Bucks have secured the top overall seed in the NBA playoffs for the second consecutive year, the clincher coming when the Los Angeles Lakers lost to Indiana on Saturday.
Ordinarily, that would come with the right to host Game 1 and Game 7 of every series. This year, it just means that the Bucks will be called the home team in those games in each postseason round that they reach.