Lewis Hamilton said it felt like a first after beating Max Verstappen by the blink of an eye to take a record-extending 104th pole position of his Formula One career at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday.
The 38-year-old Mercedes driver was 0.003 faster than Red Bull’s runaway championship leader for what was also a record ninth pole at the Hungaroring — the most by anyone in the history of the sport at one circuit.
It was Hamilton’s first pole position since Saudi Arabia in December 2021, ending a 33-race drought for the seven times world champion.
Sunday will be the first time he and Verstappen have shared the front row since the decisive and highly controversial Abu Dhabi season-ender in 2021, when the Dutch driver secured his first title.
“It’s been a crazy year and a half, so I’ve lost my voice from shouting so much,” said the Briton, hoarse after giving his emotions full volume in the cockpit.
“I feel so grateful to be up here because the team have worked so hard. We’ve been pushing so hard over this time to finally get a pole and it just feels like the first time.”
Verstappen had been on provisional pole after the first runs, with Hamilton second, but the double world champion could not improve on his one minute 16.612 seconds while the Mercedes driver squeezed out more from the soft tyres.
“I’ve been struggling the whole weekend to find a good balance. Every session has been up and down,” said Verstappen, who had been chasing his sixth pole in a row and will now focus on securing Red Bull’s record 12th successive win.
“We’re still second, but I think we should be ahead with the car we have normally, but so far this weekend I think we haven’t been on it.”
Verstappen won last year in Hungary but Hamilton has won a record eight times at the Hungaroring and Sunday marks a decade since his first win for Mercedes at the circuit in 2013.
MCLAREN SECOND ROW
McLaren’s Lando Norris qualified third with Australian rookie team mate Oscar Piastri alongside and China’s Guanyu Zhou fifth in a much-improved Alfa Romeo.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc will start sixth with Valtteri Bottas seventh for Alfa Romeo and Fernando Alonso eighth for Aston Martin.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, second overall but 99 points behind Verstappen after 10 races, made the final phase for the first time since Miami in May but still qualified only ninth and next to Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg in 10th.
Hamilton’s team mate George Russell, who took the first pole of his F1 career in Hungary last year, provided the first big shock by qualifying only 18th.
The Briton had slowed in a bid to create space for his final flying lap in phase one but was undone by four cars overtaking him into the last corner.
“We were fast, the car felt great but for the whole session we were out of sync with everybody,” said Russell.
“If you don’t do things right you’ll get punished and we were punished for sure.”
Daniel Ricciardo made his return by out-qualifying Japanese team mate Yuki Tsunoda and sending AlphaTauri through to the second phase of qualifying for the first time in four races.
The Australian, a winner in Hungary with Red Bull in 2014, will start 13th — his team’s highest grid position since Monaco in May — with Tsunoda 17th.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, on the front row last year, missed out on the top 10 shootout when fellow Spaniard Alonso pipped him by 0.002.
China’s Zhou was fastest in the first phase on hard tyres, with Norris quickest in the second on mediums.
Hungarian qualifying was the first “Alternative Tyre Allocation” (ATA) trial with specific compounds mandated for each phase of qualifying — hard, then medium and finally soft — rather than a free choice.