Lewis Hamilton produced a last-gasp effort to pip Max Verstappen for pole position by only 0.003s in qualifying for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Verstappen had occupied provisional pole but failed to improve on his final tour of the circuit, opening the door for Hamilton to clinch his first pole since December 2021.
The newly revised Alternative Tyre Allocation (ATA) qualifying format that mandated the use of the Hard tyre in Q1, Mediums in Q2 and Softs in Q3 provided an added element of intrigue heading into the session.
However, it was predominantly the usual suspects contesting the pole position shootout, with Hamilton breaking Verstappen’s run of five consecutive pole positions before today.
Earlier in qualifying the eight-time Hungarian GP victor had to survive a late scare in Q1. But while he escaped the embarrassment of missing the cut for Q2, Mercedes team-mate George Russell provided the shock of qualifying when he could only muster a time good enough for 18th.
Last year’s Hungarian GP polesitter was subsequently heard blaming his Mercedes team for compromising his final run by placing him in traffic.
Fellow Brit Lando Norris continued McLaren’s recent momentum by ending up less than a tenth away from Hamilton’s pole time to complete the top three, with Oscar Piastri backing him up in fourth.
Alfa Romeo put aside its recent qualifying struggles to haul both cars into the top 10, Zhou Guanyu producing a spectacular run to classify fifth – two spots above Valtteri Bottas.
Charles Leclerc split the two Alfa Romeos in the sole Ferrari in Q3, with Fernando Alonso similarly carrying the baton for Aston Martin as he could only manage eighth.
Although Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez avoided the ignominy of a sixth successive early exit in qualifying, the Mexican could only amass a time good enough for ninth.
Meanwhile, Nico Hulkenberg marked his sixth Q3 appearance of the season to round out the top 10 for Haas.
Following Russell’s astonishing elimination in the first stage, Carlos Sainz was next to be caught out as he was demoted into the drop zone at the end of Q2 by team-mate Leclerc. The Spaniard was pipped to a place in Q3 by just 0.002s.
Alpine’s recent miserable run continued as neither of its cars garnered a top-10 starting spot for Sunday’s race. Esteban Ocon was 12th, with Pierre Gasly ending up last of the competitors in Q2 after having his final effort deleted for exceeding track limits.
In between the Enstone outfit’s two cars was Daniel Ricciardo, who immediately out-qualified Yuki Tsunoda in his debut outing for AlphaTauri, and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.
Along with Russell, both Williams drivers dropped out of Q1, with Albon narrowly missing out on advancing but once again ahead of Logan Sargeant, who brought up the rear of the grid.
Kevin Magnussen’s one-lap struggles up against Hulkenberg continued as the Dane posted an effort that will see him occupy a starting berth on the back row.