Lewis Hamilton snatched pole position from Max Verstappen by just 0.003 seconds in a thrilling and hard-fought Formula 1 qualifying session at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver was the last driver to cross the finish line in Q3 at the Hungaroring, beating Verstappen’s benchmark lap and claiming his first pole position of the season.
The qualifying format was tweaked as part of an ‘alternative tire allocation’ trial, allowing only hard tires to be used in Q1, medium in Q2 and soft tires in Q3, resulting in a highly competitive qualifying session.
Lando Norris broke into the 1m16 mark with his opening game and topped the leaderboard with a 1m16.904s, but the McLaren driver’s hopes were dashed when Verstappen threw down the gauntlet to set a time of 1m16.612s.
Hamilton then split the pair who secured the front row at Silverstone with a time of 1m16.738s, showing the potential Mercedes had shown over the weekend.
In the second and final series of runs, Verstappen’s first sector had been less impressive than his first. Despite an improvement in the second part of the lap, he fell short of his earlier time and was vulnerable to an attack from the riders behind.
Norris came close and fell just short with a time of 1:16.694, but Hamilton was on Verstappen’s Delta at the end of the second sector. Even though the Mercedes seemed to get out of line in the final corners, the seven-time champion kept his lead and secured his first pole since 2021.
The McLarens occupied the second row while Oscar Piastri scored the best middle sector of the session, while Zhou Guanyu was another driver who starred in qualifying as the Alfa Romeo driver put his car in fifth place on Sunday.
Charles Leclerc was sixth fastest ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who was just over half a tenth off his Chinese teammate, while Fernando Alonso was just 0.001s behind the Finn in eighth place.
Sergio Perez was ninth on the grid after breaking a five-race streak without a Q3 appearance, while Nico Hulkenberg completed the top 10 after dragging his Haas into the top 10 shootout again.
Carlos Sainz was dismissed from the second part of qualifying by Ferrari team-mate Leclerc at the end of the session as the Spanish driver was just under 0.002s behind compatriot Alonso.
Verstappen suffered a scare when his first top win in Q2 was scrapped for exceeding track limits at Turn 5, prompting him to make a second attempt on a new set of the mandatory medium tyres.
He seemingly stormed into the top 10 with ease despite clawing an advantage with the white lines, edging out Esteban Ocon in the bottom five to spark a tense battle for a place in the latter part of qualifying.
Demonstrating Alfa Romeo’s pace, Bottas shot up to fourth to secure safety, hastening the Ferrari duel for the breakthrough.
Sainz was the one to miss as Leclerc pushed through to the latter part of qualifying but was more than a tenth clear of Ocon, who heads into 12th for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Daniel Ricciardo claimed 13th on his return after replacing Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri, while Lance Stroll moved up to 14th after Pierre Gasly’s final lap was scrapped due to track restrictions. The last times were all within one second.
George Russell was the strongest in a wild Q1 session, unable to improve his time in the closing stages of the session with Zhou Guanyu in the lead on the hard tyres.
Russell complained about the heavy traffic ahead of his final lap and the Briton was passed going into the final corner by Lando Norris, Valtteri Bottas and Pierre Gasly, who were all fighting for position on the track. This left Russell on the backfoot and crossed the finish line in 18th place.
Alex Albon had seemingly managed to escape the drop zone but fell back in order when Ricciardo broke through and passed Yuki Tsunoda on the first attempt. Albon was less than 0.8s off Zhou’s benchmark, while Tsunoda was just 0.002s off the Anglo-Thai rider.
Russell qualified ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant. The American lost a lap early in the session due to track restrictions and then sped through the Turn 6/7 chicane to break out of the bottom five again.