Lewis Hamilton took the lead from Max Verstappen by just 0.003 seconds for the Hungarian Grand Prix in a thrilling and closely contested Formula 1 qualifying session.
The Mercedes driver was the last driver to cross the line in Q3 at the Hungaroring and overturned Verstappen’s benchmark lap to claim his first pole position of the season.
The qualifying format was modified as part of the ‘alternative tire allocation’ test, where only hard tires could be used in Q1, medium tires in Q2 and softs in Q3, leading to a competitive qualifying session.
Lando Norris entered 1m16s with his debut, sitting on top of the 1m16.904s line, but the McLaren driver had his hopes dashed when Verstappen threw down the gauntlet to set a 1m16.612s.
Hamilton then split the locked-out pair on the front row at Silverstone with a 1m16.738s, showing the ability Mercedes flashed at the weekend.
When it came to the second and final run of the series, Verstappen’s first sector was less impressive than his first. Despite improving in the second part of the lap, he fell short of his previous time and was attacked by drivers behind him.
Norris came close, falling just short after setting a 1m16.694s, but Hamilton closed in on Verstappen’s delta in the second sector. The seven-time champion claimed his first pole since 2021, despite Mercedes appearing to run out of line in the final two corners.
The McLarens locked down the second row as Oscar Piastre set up the best middle sector of the session, as the Alfa Romeo driver took his car to fifth place on Sunday’s stage, with Zhao Guanyu the only other driver to play in qualifying.
Charles Leclerc was sixth faster than Valtteri Bottas, who was more than a tenth off his Chinese teammate, as Fernando Alonso finished eighth, 0.001s behind the Finn.
Sergio Perez snapped a streak of five races without a Q3 appearance to finish ninth as Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10 as Nico Hulkenberg dragged his Haas back into the top 10 shootout.
Carlos Sainz was edged out of the second half of qualifying by Ferrari team-mate Leclerc at the death of the session as the Spaniard trailed compatriot Alonso by 0.002s.
Verstappen suffered a scare when his initial Q2 table-topping attempt was disqualified for exceeding the track limits at Turn 5, leaving him strong enough to go for a second attempt on a new set of forced medium tyres.
Although he took the edge with the white stripes, he eased into the top 10, pushing Esteban Ogan into the bottom five to set up a thrilling battle to enter the final stretch of qualifying.
Bottas proved the pace of the Alfa Romeo and moved up to fourth to secure safety, breaking off a fight between the Ferraris.
As Leclerc went into the final part of qualifying, Sainz was the one to miss out, but was more than a tenth ahead of Ogan – who was 12th in Sunday’s grand prix.
Daniel Ricciardo finished 13th after replacing Nick de Vries at Albadauri, as Lance Stroll was promoted to 14th. The final times all fell within one second.
George Russell had a huge scalp in a wild Q1 session, unable to improve his time in the dying stages of the session as Zhou Guanyu led the order on the harder tyres.
Russell complained of heavy traffic ahead of his final lap, and the Briton overtook ahead of the final corner as Lando Norris, Valtteri Bottas and Pierre Gasly were forced to the track. This pushed Russell back, and he crossed the line in 18th place.
Alex Alban looked to have escaped the trap zone but fell down the order as Ricciardo exploded to overtake Yuki Tsunoda at the first attempt. Alphonse was 0.8 seconds off, Tsunoda 0.002 seconds shy of the Anglo-Thai driver.
Russell qualified ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargent, with the American losing a lap due to track limitations at the top of the session, then screeching in another attempt to break out of the top five after scoring across the Turn 6/7 chicane.