Max Verstappen took his first career pole position in Formula 1 with a scintillating performance at the Hungaroring in Budapest.
Verstappen wasted no time asserting his claim in the Q3 shootout, gapping Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton by 0.178s after their first attempts, but Mercedes regrouped for the second runs to run the Dutchman close. By the end of the session the 21-year-old’s advantage was reduced to just 0.018s, but it was enough to secure him his first ever first-place start.
“This one was still missing,” Verstappen said jubilantly. “A big thank-you to the team — the car was flying in qualifying. Incredible!
“Very happy about today. There’s still a race to do…but for me today was an important one. A very nice one and a great one for the team.”
The result makes Verstappen the third-youngest polesitter in F1 history behind Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc and it marks the first pole for a Honda-powered machine since the 2006 Australian Grand Prix.
Bottas led the Mercedes charge against Verstappen. Only 0.01s separated him from teammate Hamilton after their first attempts, but by the end of the session the Finn had grown his advantage to 0.179s to claim the other front-row start.
“I’ve been kind of chasing a little bit this weekend after missing all of practice one and limited laps in practice two,” he said, referencing his unscheduled engine change on Friday. “It was getting better and better in qualifying, and I was really pleased in the end.”
Hamilton’s first lap had been imperfect after a slide through the Turn 6-7 chicane, and though the Briton honed his final attempt, the championship leader was ultimately caught short.
“Naturally I was targeting first,” he said. “It kind of got away from me a little bit once we got into qualifying. Still, we’re in a good position to fight for the win. I’m always down for a fight.”
Ferrari threatened to join the fight for pole during practice but faded during qualifying, the team’s powerful straight-line-speed advantage in the first sector comfortably neutralized by its rivals over the balance of the lap.
Charles Leclerc beat teammate Sebastian Vettel to lead Ferrari from fourth and fifth on the grid, but the Monegasque’s qualifying flirted with disaster early with a crash in Q1.
Leclerc was already second fastest in the session when he lost control of his car as he manhandled it through the long-radius hairpin at the last corner, sending his SF90 spinning backwards into the barriers on exit with an over-application of the throttle.
He was able to continue, albeit with debris falling away from his rear wing, and Ferrari was able to make the necessary repairs in time for him to continue qualifying.
Pierre Gasly qualified sixth in the sister Red Bull Racing car after being off his teammate’s pace all weekend. The Frenchman even risked elimination in Q2 when attempting to qualify for the top 10 with the medium-compound tire, escaping unscathed in ninth with just a 0.172s buffer.
Lando Norris continued an impressive weekend for McLaren by locking in seventh, 1.228s off the pace and just 0.052s quicker than teammate Carlos Sainz in eighth.
Romain Grosjean was Haas’s sole top-10 representative, qualifying ninth in his preferred Australia-specification aerodynamic package as part of an ongoing experiment to identify the car’s tire troubles. It’s the third weekend in a row the Frenchman has used the older car and the third qualifying session in succession he’s beaten teammate Kevin Magnussen in updated machinery.
Kimi Raikkonen qualified 10th for Alfa Romeo, while Nico Hulkenberg missed out a top-10 place by just 0.047s. The German managed to keep Toro Rosso teammates Alex Albon and Daniil Kvyat at arm’s length in 12th and 13th respectively.
Antonio Giovinazzi was 0.1s behind Kvyat in his Alfa Romeo, but the Italian will be investigated for impeding Lance Stroll during Q1 and risks a three-place grid penalty if found guilty.
Kevin Magnussen complained early in the session that his Haas had no grip, as its struggles with Pirelli’s 2019 tires continued. The Dane failed to find a solution, qualifying 15th and slowest of the Q2 drivers.
George Russell delivered Williams its best Saturday result of the season, qualifying 16th. Russell looked blisteringly quick from final practice in the morning and continued his form through to the afternoon. He spent most of Q1 well outside the knockout zone, and though he inexorably slipped back into the bottom five, he was only 0.053s away from a Q2 berth and a whopping 1.3s quicker than teammate Robert Kubica in 20th.
“That was everything, boys,” he said. “Considering everything, I think we can be pleased with that one.”
His way was aided by a clash between Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo as they jostled for position on their final laps. Ricciardo had emerged from pit lane behind Perez and attempted to pass the Racing Point in the final sector to set his time in clean air. But the Mexican was having none of it, defending his position on the inside and forcing the Australian to cede. It cost both drivers time, relegating Perez to 17th and Ricciardo 18th.
“What the f••k is wrong with Ricciardo, man?” Perez fumed over team radio. “He f••ked his lap, he f••ked my lap.”
Stroll qualified 19th and 0.4s behind his compromised teammate, while Kubica ended his day last on the grid.