Lewis Hamilton took pole for the Hungarian Grand Prix with a superb lap to beat his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas into second and Bull’s Max Verstappen into third place. The Mercedes driver shone in the sunshine that bathed the Hungaroring with a lap that his title rival could not match. Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez was in fourth and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in fifth.
Verstappen opened the running in Q3 but struggled with a lack of grip from the off. Hamilton was immense behind him on track, beating his times across every sector to set a time of 1min 15.419sec, three tenths up on Bottas and a full half a second up on Verstappen.
On their second hot laps Hamilton and Bottas went out first, having slowed, backing up the Red Bulls, with Pérez failing to cross the line in time to start his final lap, a tactic that will by no means improve the testy relationship between the two teams.
With a slow start to the lap Hamilton and Bottas did not improve and Verstappen knocked only a tenth off his time. Mercedes had successfully locked out the front row with some controversial tactics that fell just within the regulations, which will leave Red Bull fuming once more. The fans, swelled with many from Holland, booed the world champion after he climbed from his car.
A fascinating contest is yet to come, tuttavia. Hamilton set his best time in Q2 on the medium tyre while Verstappen did so on the soft, putting them on differing race strategies but with the Dutchman enjoying the quicker tyre to start the race with on the run down the slope to turn one. The ideal race strategy given the high temperatures is a one-stop from medium to hard rubber.
Pole here was exactly the statement the world champion needed after the controversy of his win at the British GP. He had been quickest in qualifying at Silverstone but did not take pole, which was secured by Verstappen in winning F1’s first sprint race. The world champion went on to win, tuttavia, after a first-lap clash with his rival that ended Verstappen’s race. Both drivers are uncompromising and want to make their point on track. Hamilton’s intent to fight hard for the title is clear, a point he made emphatically in Budapest.
The British driver needs to convert the pole to a win to combat Verstappen’s recent momentum and with the title fight now finely poised. After Verstappen’s DNF at Silverstone his lead of 33 points was cut to just eight, while his team now lead Mercedes by only four points in the constructors’ championship.
After this 101st pole, if Hamilton takes the flag here he would score a unique double century with his 100th career win and remain in the fight for an eighth title which would beat Michael Schumacher’s record.
Hamilton was rightly delighted with a result that had looked beyond him in the majority of recent meetings. Mercedes had brought upgrades to Silverstone in the hope of bridging the gap to Red Bull and they look to have paid off. The high temperatures in Budapest suited their car in bringing their tyres into their operating window and they made the most of it.
Lando Norris was sixth for McLaren and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc seventh. Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso were in eighth and ninth for Alpine and Sebastian Vettel in 10th for Aston Martin.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz crashed out at turn 14 in Q2 leading to a red flag and he finished in 15th. Kimi Räikkönen was in 13th for Alfa Romeo, with his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi in 14th. McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo was in 11th.
Yuki Tsunoda was in 16th for AlphaTauri, with Williams’ George Russell in 17th and his teammate Nicholas Latifi 18th. Mick Schumacher did not set a time for Haas after he crashed in FP3 and will start from the back of the grid. His teammate Nikita Mazepin was in 19th.