It’s taken him 93 Grands Prix to get there but Max Verstappen has finally broken through to claim his first Formula 1 pole position at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Supported by a huge ‘Orange Army’ of Dutch fans, the Red Bull Racing driver delivered a scintillating final lap to beat Mercedes-AMG’s Valtteri Bottas to top spot by just 18 milliseconds.
In claiming his first pole, Verstappen is also the first Dutch driver to do so and the 100th driver overall to win pole. In a further indication of Honda’s increasing competitiveness where he has delivered the engine supplier two wins already in Austria and Germany, it is the first the the Japanese powerplant has pole position in its return to the sport in 2015. Its last pole came at the 2006 Australian Grand Prix as a full factory team.
It was a flawless final lap by the 21-year-old, who obliterated the qualifying lap record on his first run and then lowered the benchmark by a further half-second on his second and final flying lap in the dying stages of Q3. Seconds later, Bottas crossed the timing to miss out on denying Verstappen top spot by just 0.018 seconds.
“It’s incredible,” he beamed. “This [pole] was still missing. The car felt good all weekend. I’m very happy about today but there’s still a race to do and that’s the most important.”
Verstappen has every reason to feel confident for Sunday’s race. He has won twice in the previous three Grands Prix and has outscored everyone else in the last four. Red Bull Racing is returning to the sort of form that saw it dominate the sport in the early part of this decade, and on a circuit that plays to the strengths of its package Verstappen could well be on the top step of the podium again.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton faded in qualifying and will start from third on the grid, with his best time almost two-tenths of a second slower. The Briton lines up ahead of the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, with the former needing an emergency rear wing change after spinning backwards into the barriers at the final corner in Q1.
Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly was sixth-fastest, a solid result for the Frenchman but in the context of his teammate’s performance in identical machinery the 0.878-second deficit will not ease the speculation that his seat at the Milton Keynes squad remains under threat.
The top ten was completed by the McLaren pairing of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr., ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen.
Further down the grid, there were smiles at Williams which saw George Russell break off the back row of the grid on merit for the first time this year. The Grove squad’s FW42 has locked out the last row of the grid at every event this season, but a recent aerodynamic upgrades have genuinely transformed the car. The rookie pulled out all stops on his final Q1 lap and missed out on a Q2 berth by a few hundredths of a second.
|FORMULA 1 ROLEX MAGYAR NAGYDÍJ 2019 – QUALIFYING|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:14.572|
|2.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:14.590||+ 0.018|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:14.769||+ 0.197|
|4.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:15.043||+ 0.471|
|5.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:15.071||+ 0.499|
|6.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:15.450||+ 0.878|
|7.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:15.800||+ 1.228|
|8.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:15.852||+ 1.280|
|9.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:16.013||+ 1.441|
|10.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:16.041||+ 1.469|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:16.565||+ 1.017|
|12.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:16.687||+ 1.139|
|13.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:16.692||+ 1.144|
|14.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:16.804||+ 1.256|
|15.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:17.081||+ 1.533|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|16.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:17.031||+ 1.214|
|17.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:17.109||+ 1.292|
|18.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:17.257||+ 1.440|
|19.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:17.542||+ 1.725|
|20.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:18.324||+ 2.507|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 lap time of 1:15.548 posted by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 lap time of 1:15.817 posted by Max Verstappen
- Antonio Giovinazzi – who provisionally qualified P14 – was penalised three grid places for impeding Lance Stroll during Q1.
Image via Red Bull Content Pool