Budapest - Lewis
Hamilton danced in the rain on his way to a memorable pole on Saturday
ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes secured a front row
lockout for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The championship leading Briton, who is battling with Ferrari’s
Sebastian Vettel for a fifth drivers’ world title, delivered another
master-class in wet-weather driving and perfect timing.
He chose to go for his final flying lap in the dying seconds of the
session and grabbed pole with a lap that produced his team’s fourth
lockout of the season.
Six days after his epic drive from 14th on the grid to win the
rain-hit German Grand Prix last Sunday, he claimed his sixth pole in
Hungary, his fifth this year and the 77th of his career.
"Are we good?" Hamilton asked his team over the radio. "We're good," came the reply.
"It’s great for the team to have a one-two," added Hamilton. "Jeez.
We couldn’t have expected this. The heavens opened and it was fair
Hamilton was nearly three-tenths quicker than Bottas who was second
ahead of fellow-Finn Kimi Raikkonen and his Ferrari team-mate Vettel,
Carlos Sainz of Renault and Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso.
"When it was drier it was a bit like doing ballet and tip-toeing, trying to find a line," added Hamilton.
"It was give and take all the way around. We’ve got a great position
so we’re going to do our best to keep the red guys behind us…"
Bottas said: "I crossed the line on pole and then Lewis had a better
lap... He was quicker, but a one-two for the team - it could have been
worse! We are free to fight so I’m looking forward to it.”
Raikkonen reflected: "The weather
was the most important thing today and the car was driveable and
enjoyable. I was a bit unlucky with the tyres…”
Max Verstappen was seventh for Red Bull ahead of New Zealander
Brendon Hartley, who made the top ten for the first time in his Toro
Rosso, Kevin Magnussen and his Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean.
Ferrari had been clearly fastest in dry conditions, but after a
sweltering morning with a track temperature touching 58 degrees Celsius,
qualifying began in dramatically different conditions.
This created tricky conditions, similar to those during the race in
Germany a week earlier, and the use of ‘intermediate’ tyres as thunder
crackled and black clouds swirled.
Ferrari and Mercedes were the last to switch to the ultra-soft
slicks, leaving their drivers in danger of failing to clock a lap time
before more rain fell.
As Vettel led at the top, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, Charles
Leclerc of Sauber, Esteban Ocon and his Force India team-mate Esteban
Ocon, and Williams’ Russian rookie Sergey Sirotkin were eliminated.
When Q2 began, Vettel went out on intermediates while the rest
remained on slicks. Within seconds, it was clear that his decision was a
wise one as rain swept in and the pack returned to change tyres.
This all resulted in Fernando Alonso, Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg,
Marcus Ericsson and Stroll missing the cut to the top-10 shootout which
began with everyone on ‘full wet’ tyres.
In succession, Verstappen, Bottas and then Hamilton topped the times
on their first runs with Vettel down in sixth, as a patch of blue sky
appeared over the Turn 14 grandstand.
With five minutes remaining, Hamilton led Bottas before Raikkonen went top by four-tenths ahead of the two Mercedes men.
On new full wets, Vettel was unable to find much extra pace as, with
two minutes remaining, Hamilton and Raikkonen rejoined on new rubber for
their final - and dramatic - flying laps.