Lewis Hamilton snatched pole position as Mercedes took advantage of a wet qualifying session to secure a one-two on the grid for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
After mixed conditions throughout qualifying that accounted for Daniel Ricciardo in Q2, Hamilton’s final lap on full wet tires was enough to give him pole position by a quarter of a second from teammate Valtteri Bottas. Ferrari had looked quickest throughout the weekend but Kimi Raikkonen slipped from provisional pole to third place on the final laps.
Sebastian Vettel will start from fourth after falling just 0.024s short of his teammate, while Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly excelled in the wet conditions to take fifth and sixth, respectively.
Red Bull had targeted the Hungaroring as a big victory opportunity, but those hopes took a major hit with a poor performance, with Max Verstappen ending up seventh — blocking Romain Grosjean at the end of his lap for good measure — and Ricciardo 12th. Brendon Hartley will line up alongside Verstappen in eighth, ahead of the Haas pair of Kevin Magnussen and Grosjean.
With rain circling the track, all of the Q2 runners queued up on ultrasoft tires to start the second part of qualifying except Vettel, who was on intermediates. By the time the field reached the final sector, heavy rain forced everyone else to follow Vettel’s lead, with track conditions rapidly worsening.
That meant the first cars to complete a lap were going to have a big advantage, with Raikkonen last across the line and producing an excellent lap to go eighth. From then on, it was impossible for drivers to find any significant improvements, so the top ten remained in the garage while four cars — Fernando Alonso, Nico Hulkenberg, Ricciardo and Marcus Ericsson — all circulated on full wets in the hope of a change in weather.
Lance Stroll crashed at the start of Q2 — spinning on the exit of Turn 9 and wiping his front wing off against the barrier — to not set a time, but the other four he was eliminated with were all some five seconds off the required pace in the closing stages. Ricciardo did at least improve marginally to jump Hulkenberg for P12 behind Alonso, with the Renault having suffered a refueling issue that hurt its chances of progressing.
The wet conditions in the second part of qualifying — with all drivers setting their best times on either intermediates or full wets — means the top ten will have free choice of tire compounds to start the race on if it is dry on Sunday.
Qualifying stared on a partially wet track due to a heavy downpour in the half hour before the session, but parts of the track were still completely dry. After the first laps on intermediates, drivers started switching to slicks despite heavy rain around the circuit, and the wet weather held off to allow dry running to the end of the session.
Ricciardo was already in trouble during the first session, having gone out on soft tires compared to ultrasofts for the rest of the field, but managed to make it through, with Stoffel Vandoorne dropping out in 16th ahead of Charles Leclerc, Esteban Ocon, Sergio Perez and Sergey Sirotkin.