Hot on the heels of his victory at the German Grand Prix that the Mercedes team called “a miracle”, Lewis Hamilton once again defied expectations by claiming an unlikely pole position for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

With the tight and undulating Hungaroring unsuited to Mercedes’ F1W09 chassis, the Brackley squad was focused on a damage limitation exercise this weekend to protect its Constructors’ Championship and Hamilton’s Drivers’ Championship leads.

With rivals Ferrari consigned to the second row of the grid and the pre-race favourites Red Bull Racing having a disastrous session by their expectations, the Silver Arrows are now well placed to extend their advantage ahead of the upcoming summer break.

Hamilton’s run to pole came off the back of heavy thunderstorm activity, canny Mercedes strategy and his sublime talent. As qualifying got underway, the lead-coloured skies opened to deliver their contents and force the field to start Q1 on intermediate tyres.

The first shower proved short-lived to the point that a number of the lower-placed runners took a gamble and switched to dry-weather tyres in the final eight minutes of play. As the lap times tumbled, the championship frontrunners at Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing belatedly followed suit.

Red Bull Racing threatened to kneecap Daniel Ricciardo’s chances of making it beyond Q1 by sending the Australian out on the slower Soft compound tyre when all other drivers were on the quicker Ultrasoft rubber. Ricciardo sat nervously on the threshold of being knocked out at the first hurdle but somehow scraped through into the second phase of the session while McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, the two Force Inais of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez and the Williams of Sergey Sirotkin failed to make it.

Q2 saw the rain return and steadily worsen. Getting out on track early would prove crucial to securing a spot in the top-ten Q3 shootout for pole and once again Red Bull Racing inexplicably delayed Ricciardo and teammate Max Verstappen being sent out on track. While Verstappen did enough on his first flying lap to scrape through, Ricciardo’s sole Intermediate flier was aborted after Lance Stroll spun his Williams into the barriers between Turns 9 and 10.

The Intermediates proved ill-equipped to handle a steadily more waterlogged track, leaving Ricciardo consigned to twelfth on the grid behind McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Joining them on the sidelines were Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and the aforementioned Stroll.

The final stanza of qualifying was reserved exclusively for the full Wet Pirelli tyres. Kimi Räikkönen held provisional pole position for much of the session and it looked like the Finn might break his drought of pole positions that stretches back to last year’s Monaco Grand Prix.

On their final stints, Bottas managed to pip his compatriot to take top spot before Hamilton emerged from the spray to deliver his knockout blow and the 77th pole position of his career.

The overjoyed Mercedes team claimed a front-row lockout ahead of the Ferraris, with Räikkönen outqualifying Vettel – the first time in 11 years he has beaten a teammate in qualifying at this circuit.

Carlos Sainz Jr. was an impressive fifth-fastest in his Renault, almost a second clear of sixth-placed Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso.

Max Verstappen was a frustrated seventh-fastest, sandwiched between Gasly and teammate Brendon Hartley, who delivered a career-best performance and will be hoping to end his rather luckless run of form in Sunday’s race. The Haas of Kevin Magnussen was in ninth in front of his teammate Romain Grosjean.

Q3 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09 1:35.658
2. Valtteri Bottas fi Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09 1:35.918 + 0.260
3. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF71H 1:36.186 + 0.528
4. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF71H 1:36.210 + 0.552
5. Carlos Sainz Jr es Renault Sport F1 Team RS18 1:36.743 + 1.085
6. Pierre Gasly fr Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13 1:37.591 + 1.933
7. Max Verstappen nl Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14 1:38.032 + 2.374
8. Brendon Hartley Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13 1:38.128 + 2.470
9. Kevin Magnussen dk Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18 1:39.858 + 4.200
10. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18 1:40.593 + 4.935
Q2 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap**
11. Fernando Alonso es McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33 1:35.214 + 6.578
12. Daniel Ricciardo au Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14 1:36.442 + 7.806
13. Nico Hülkenberg de Renault Sport F1 Team RS18 1:36.056 + 7.420
14. Marcus Ericsson se Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37 1:37.075 + 8.439
15. Lance Stroll Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41 no time
Q1 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap*
16. Stoffel Vandoorne ca McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33 1:18.782 + 2.116
17. Charles Leclerc mc Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37 1:18.817 + 2.151
18. Esteban Ocon fr Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11 1:19.142 + 2.476
19. Sergio Pérez Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11 1:19.200 + 2.534
20. Sergey Sirotkin ru Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41 1:19.301 + 2.635

* Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:16.666 posted by Sebastian Vettel
** Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:28.636 posted by Sebastian Vettel

Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • Lance Stroll will start from the pit lane due to breaching parc fermé conditions – his car will be fitted with bodywork that differs in specification to what he ran during qualifying.

Image via Scuderia Ferrari and Sutton Images / LAT

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.