Verstappen keeps pressure on Hamilton with Hungary pole
It's been a long time coming, but Red Bull's Max Verstappen clinched his first ever F1 career pole position by edging out the Silver Arrows of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.
It means the Red Bull driver is the 100th different driver in the history of Formula 1 to win a Grand Prix pole.
Charles Leclerc was the fastest of the two Ferraris in fourth place on the grid for tomorrow's Hungarian Grand Prix despite spinning off track and into the tyre barrier during the first round of qualifying.
A tight final practice earlier on Saturday - depsite large quantities of cement dust on the track to take care of an oil spillage in the Formula 2 support race - promised an exciting qualifying session, with a lingering chance of rain and a stiff breeze to contend with, although the thick cloud cover had started to break up and track temperatures were beginning to rise.
Racing Point's Lance Stroll was first to head out at the start of the 18-minute first round, beating the Williams pair of George Russell and Robert Kubica with the Pole very much the centre of local attention in Budapest. Also quick to make a move was Alexander Albon following his big Friday accident, accompanied by his Toro Rosso team mate Daniil Kvyat fresh from podium success in Germany.
Russell was the early pacesetter with a time of 1:18.143s, which Kvyat and Albon were able to improve upon by half a second. Kimi Raikkonen slashed a similar amount of time off again when the Alfa Romeo clocked in with a 1:17.131s, and he in turn was dismissed by a similar amount as his former Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel opened his account.
Vettel's benchmark lasted just a few seconds before current team mate Charles Leclerc posted a time of 1:16.337s, with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton splitting the Ferrari pair with their own opening efforts. However it was Max Verstappen who stole the early limelight with his impressive counter-bid of 1:15.817s, a new track record for the Red Bull man, while Lando Norris established McLaren as 'best of the rest' in sixth ahead of Pierre Gasly.
Leclerc's hopes of responding were dashed when he lost the backend of the SF90 in the final corner, spun off backwards and gave the outside tyre wall a hefty thump. He tiptoed his way back to pit lane for a new rear wing and a check to make sure that there wasn't any more serious damage.
After the first runs, the Toro Rossos straddled the elimination line with Kvyat at risk of missing the cut along with Antonio Giovinazzi, Lance Stroll, Romain Grosjean and Robert Kubica. Everyone had time to make a further run to improve their fortunes, and Grosjean leapt out of trouble and into the top ten on his follow-up effort, demoting Albon into the drop zone and leaving Russell on the bubble. His Haas team mate Kevin Magnussen did even better, jumping up to fourth place in the final seconds.
Russell also improved on his next run and even briefly featured in the top ten. However the track was getting faster with each passing minute and he soon found himself hustled back into the drop zone by five hundredths of a second behind Grosjean, eliminated along with both Racing Points of Stroll and Sergio Perez, and Renault's Daniel Ricciardo who lost out in heavy traffic and felt unfairly held up by Perez who was equally miffed by the 'disrespectful' Aussie.
Local fan favourite Kubica remained stubbornly bottom of the timesheets.
The two Silver Arrows led the way in Q2, both kitted out with medium compound tyres. Shortly afterwards the two Ferraris also headed out, the team happy with Leclerc's car after it's Q1 mishap. They too had selected medium tyres, as had the Red Bulls.
Hamilton duly took the early upper hand with a time of 1:15.548s, just 0.025s ahead of Verstappen, Bottas, Leclerc, Vettel and Gasly, until Lando Norris used soft tyres to pip Gasly for sixth place on this first push lap. Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz rounded out the top ten on soft tyres, leaving the Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeos in the elimination zone together with Kevin Magnussen.
After a brief lull, everyone was back in action for a second flying lap just in time before the chequered flag. For the front runners it was a case of safety first, but not seriously intending in setting times on soft tyres if they could help it.
A mistake from Norris saw the rookie driver give up on his run and pit early, while Sainz improved to slip into seventh place right behind his team mate. Grosjean also improved to go faster than Gasly, but the Frenchman was still safely through to the final round together with Raikkonen in tenth.
Just squeezed out as a result was Hulkenberg, eliminated along with Albon, Kvyat, Giovinazzi and Magnussen, who reported that a big gust of wind had knocked him on line during his final effort.
With tyre strategies for the start of Sunday's race now locked in, it was time for the top ten to get down to the business of pure speed in the pursuit of pole.
Hamilton was out first, accompanied by the two Flying Finns of Raikkonen and Bottas. The reigning world champion logged in with a time of 1:15.146s only to be promptly edged out by Bottas by a hundredth of a second. However, neither were a match for the pace of Mighty Max who delighted the fans in the grandstand with a run of 1:49.958s.
Despite flying in the first sector, that sort of pace was simply too hot for the Ferraris. Vettel and Leclerc settled into fourth and fifth ahead of Gasly, Norris, Sainz, Raikkonen and Grosjean, with one final push still to come after a change to a fresh set of sorts.
The front runners improved their times, Verstappen posting a new target time of 1:14.572s. That proved out of reach of Bottas and Hamilton and was good enough for his first ever F1 pole.
Leclerc managed to edge ahead of Vettel, while Gasly, Norris and Sainz retained their places and Grosjean and Raikkonen traded places on the fifth row for tomorrow's race.