Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton turned up the heat at an already sweltering Hungaroring on Saturday, delivering a scorching lap to seize pole position for the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix.
The Briton lit up the timing screens with a one minute, 15.419 second lap, 0.315 seconds quicker than team mate Valtteri Bottas, who locked out the front row for Mercedes.
Crucially it put the 36-year-old Hamilton 0.421 seconds clear of championship-leading Red Bull rival Max Verstappen who was a disappointing third.
“It was an amazing qualifying, that last one,” said Hamilton, who trails Verstappen by eight points in the overall standings amid jeers and boos from the Dutchman’s fans, after taking his 101st career pole and first in six races.
“The guys at the factory have just not left any stone unturned. It’s been amazing to see everyone coming together, rallying up and pushing forward.”
The result handed Mercedes their first front-row lockout since the Portuguese Grand Prix in May, where Bottas took pole.
The once-dominant champions have faced stiff competition from Red Bull this season, with the Milton Keynes-based squad having usurped their German rivals as the team to beat over recent races.
Verstappen had started the last four races from the front but, with track temperatures hovering around the 60 degree Celsius mark, he was unable to stop Hamilton taking a record eighth Hungarian pole.
However, starting on the grippy but less durable soft tyres compared to Hamilton’s mediums, could give him an edge off the line.
“The whole weekend so far we’ve been a bit behind and it showed again in qualifying,” said Verstappen.
“Of course not what we want but nevertheless we’re still there in third and we’ll see what we can do.”
Hamilton will start Sunday’s race gunning for a landmark 100th career victory and a record ninth in Hungary. If he wins ahead of Verstappen with the fastest lap, he will go into the sport’s summer break level on points with the Dutchman.
The 23-year-old will be determined to stop him, however, with the rivalry between the pair taking on an added edge after their collision at the last race in Silverstone.
The heightened tensions were visible during the final part of qualifying.
Hamilton, ahead of Verstappen on track, drove a slow warm-up lap as the clock ticked down with both drivers crossing the line to start their flying laps with only seconds to spare.
But Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull missed out. The Mexican will start fourth alongside Verstappen on the second row.
Pierre Gasly was an impressive fifth for AlphaTauri ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Esteban Ocon was eighth for Alpine ahead of team mate Fernando Alonso, who turned 40 on Thursday.
Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top 10 for Aston Martin.
Qualifying was halted briefly when Spaniard Carlos Sainz spun off into the barriers during the second phase. He will start 15th in his Ferrari.
Mick Schumacher did not take part with the Haas team unable to repair his car in time after the German’s crash in final practice earlier on Saturday.
The 22-year-old is carrying a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change but will start from the back anyway.