Hungarian GP Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton back on F1 pole with Max Verstappen third on grid
Hamilton and Mercedes enjoy flying performance in Budapest qualifying, locking out front row ahead of championship leader Verstappen; Hamilton booed after qualifying by some fans; Gasly fifth, Norris sixth; Sainz crashes out for Ferrari in Q2
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 31/07/21 10:31pm
Lewis Hamilton claimed a surprisingly dominant pole position as part of a Mercedes front-row lockout ahead of Max Verstappen in Hungarian GP qualifying.
Taking an official pole for the first time since May, Hamilton lapped three tenths of a second faster than team-mate Valtteri Bottas and four tenths clear of Red Bull rival Verstappen, who he trails by eight points in the championship after the dramatic events of Silverstone.
Hamilton was booed by some of the crowd in the main grandstand, which contained a large contingent of Verstappen fans, as he conducted his TV interview after the session.
"I appreciate the great support I have here," said Hamilton. "Honestly, I've never actually felt so great with the booing, if anything it just fuels me. So I don't really mind it."
Hamilton's first Q3 time of 1:15.419 was enough to secure his 101st pole. The Englishman did not improve on his final run after a slow out lap in which he ran behind Bottas and ahead of the Red Bulls.
Sergio Perez, behind Hamilton and Red Bull team-mate Verstappen in the queue, failed to cross the line in time for a final attempt.
"It's a bit of gamesmanship," suggested Red Bull boss Christian Horner to Sky F1. "Lewis has got a hell of a lap in the bank and then obviously he's just backing things up and obviously doesn't want to give our cars a clean run.
"But it's his right to do that, he's got the track position, so we haven't got a major issue. It's all about tomorrow now."
But speaking in the press conference, Hamilton said about any suggestion of gamesmanship: "Everyone was doing a slow out lap, so it was no different to any other lap. I'm not playing any tactics.
"I don't need to play no tactics, I know what I'm doing in the car. I'm fast enough, I don't need to have tactics."
In an additional boost for Mercedes for Sunday, Hamilton and Bottas will start the race from the front row on the more durable medium tyres compared to the Red Bulls, who had to abandon plans to do likewise in Q2 when they switched to the softs to be sure of Q3 positions in the final laps.
The red-marked soft compound has faster initial performance - which could benefit at the race start from row two - but degrades more quickly than the yellow-marked medium, meaning Verstappen will likely have to pit earlier than Hamilton in the race.
"Clearly the whole weekend so far we have been a bit behind and it showed again in qualifying," said Verstappen, whose four-race run of consecutive poles ended.
"Of course not what we wanted but nevertheless we're still there in P3 and we'll see what we can do. But so far not what I want."
Hungarian GP Qualifying: Top 10
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
3) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
4) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
5) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
6) Lando Norris, McLaren
7) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
8) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
9) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
10) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
Perez adrift, Gasly stars again, Sainz crashes
Despite missing his final lap, Perez still qualified fourth in the second Red Bull. However, his position alongside Verstappen on the second row belied the six tenths of a second gap to his team-mate.
Indeed, Perez was almost outqualified by Pierre Gasly from sister team AlphaTauri, the Frenchman starring on a Saturday again to take fifth on the grid and come within 0.052s of taking the scalp of a Red Bull.
McLaren's Lando Norris, the only driver to finish in the points at every race this season, was just 0.006s adrift of Gasly in turn in sixth place. Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo again dropped out in Q2, however.
Charles Leclerc was seventh for Ferrari but team-mate Carlos Sainz endured a Q2 nightmare, crashing out as he rounded the circuit's long final corner.
The Spaniard will start no higher than 15th on a track that is notoriously difficult on which to overtake.
After a much-needed double points finish at Silverstone a fortnight ago, Alpine got both their cars in the top 10 for the first time in seven races with Esteban Ocon ending Fernando Alonso's recent Saturday supremacy over him in eighth and ninth respectively.
Mick Schumacher, meanwhile, had earlier crashed his Haas in final practice and took no part in qualifying.
The German rookie's Haas car sustained major damage in the shunt at Turn 11 and, although the team worked to repaired the car in the hope of getting him out on track in qualifying, Schumacher did not appear in Q1.
By that time in any case he had collected a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, already all-but guaranteeing to place him 20th and last on Sunday's grid behind team-mate Nikita Mazepin, for the second time this year.
When is Sunday's Hungarian GP?
The 11th round of the season and final race before the sport's three-week summer break starts at 2pm from the Hungaroring, with all the best build-up before the live action on Sky Sports F1 from 12.30pm.