Lewis Hamilton sent a strongly worded message to his team after dropping out of qualifying in the first session once again with a reliability problem.
The Briton said that this run of setbacks is “beyond bad luck” and called on the team to raise its game, as his championship hopes took another knock.
Hamilton, who trails team mate Nico Rosberg by 14 points in the drivers’ standings, had been fastest in free practice and most were backing him for pole position on one of his favourite tracks, where he has won four times before.
But the Mercedes caught fire spectacularly at the start of Q1 after a fuel leak. Hamilton will probably need a new engine and extensive other repairs and is likely to start from the pit lane, while his team mate Nico Rosberg starts from pole position for the sixth time this season and the fifth time in the last six races.
Whereas Hamilton was able to come through the field from 20th relatively easily in Germany, Budapest is a different challenge. Last year there were only 23 overtakes in total during the race, of which 14 were DRS assisted. The possibility of rain complicates that picture further.
“We’ll have to replace the engine and gearbox,” said Hamilton, speaking to the BBC minutes after climbing from his car.
“There’s a lot going through my mind, but I just have to try to turn it into positives until tomorrow.
“I think it’s getting to the point beyond bad luck – it’s something else. We just need to do better.”
It is the sixth race in a row where Hamilton has not got the maximum qualifying result – Monaco he was unable to complete the lap due to Rosberg going off, Austria and Canada he made a mistake, Silverstone he qualified sixth, Germany he had a brake disc failure.
Reliability issues are mounting up for Mercedes, even though they are in complete control of both championships – in addition to Hamilton’s two recent qualifying issues, Rosberg had a gearbox failure in Silverstone, both drivers had ERS and brake problems in Canada.
“I honestly don’t know what I can do tomorrow,” Hamilton added. “This is a track where you can’t really overtake.
“I think I will struggle to get into.. the top five. I’ll probably leave here more than 20 points behind Nico. There’s still races to go but I don’t know what else to say.”