Max Verstappen held off the challenge from Mercedes to secure the first pole position of his career for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Just six days after his sublime drive to victory in the rain at Hockenheim, Verstappen thrilled his travelling orange army once more with another imperious display.
The 21-year-old lit up the time sheets with a Hungaroring track record, finishing just 0.016 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas with Lewis Hamilton in third, two tenths back.
Verstappen crossed the line first, his lap greeted with huge cheers from the main grandstand, and despite late improvements by both Bottas and Hamilton, the Mercedes duo were unable to usurp the Dutchman.
The Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel line up fourth and fifth with Verstappen’s team-mate Pierre Gasly sixth.
Leclerc hit the wall in Q1 after losing control of his Ferrari at the final corner. But swift repairs by his team allowed the Monegasque to carry on.
“The car has felt good all weekend and it was flying in qualifying,” said Verstappen, moments after capturing pole.
“I am very happy about today. There is still a race to do and that is the most important thing.”
Hamilton, who holds a 63-point lead over Verstappen in the standings, said: “We always target first, but it got away from me.
“We are in a good position to fight for the win so we will be pushing hard for the victory tomorrow.
“I am always down for a fight. It is a long way down to turn one. It is not easy to overtake but hopefully we can give them a run for their money.”
British rookie George Russell believes he is in contention to race alongside Hamilton at Mercedes next season.
The 21-year-old Englishman has impressed for the below-par Williams team this year, and here delivered both his and the British outfit’s best qualifying result of the campaign.
Russell finished 16th, putting his Williams above both Racing Points and the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo, too. He was also 1.3 sec faster than Robert Kubica in the sister Williams, extending his record over the Pole to a perfect 12-0 over one lap.
Russell is on the books at Mercedes and his impressive displays will provide team principal Toto Wolff with something to think about over the summer break as the sport’s all-conquering constructor determine whether to retain Bottas for another year.
The future of British motor racing is in safe hands. Following on from Russell’s display, Lando Norris finished seventh.
The 19-year-old, who has had the beating of McLaren team-mate Carlos Sainz all weekend, qualified one place ahead of the Spaniard.
Verstappen arrived in Hungary for the concluding round before Formula One’s summer break as arguably the sport’s pound-for-pound star.
The Dutchman, still only 21, has won two of the last three races, including his sublime drive to victory at the recent rain-hit German Grand Prix.
He has finished in the top five at the last 20 rounds. No driver outside of Hamilton’s all-conquering Mercedes team has scored more points than Verstappen in the last year.
Verstappen’s boss Christian Horner raised eyebrows when he said ahead of last month’s British Grand Prix that his driver would beat Hamilton if they were in identical machinery.
Former world champions Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg, old team-mates of Hamilton’s, have both since echoed Horner’s sentiments. Indeed, Rosberg claimed that Verstappen would be leading Hamilton in the championship if he traded in his Red Bull for a Mercedes.
“I don’t say anything about this and I don’t care,” said Verstappen, 63 points behind Hamilton in the standings. “For me, the most important thing is to perform on track.
“I made a big jump into Formula One and I made mistakes when I started. I am still getting better. I am only 21 and you learn how to become better through experience.”
Horner et al could be accused of jumping the gun. Verstappen has won seven races. Hamilton, 42 points clear of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, is this year closing in on his sixth world title. He has 80 victories, too.
Verstappen is Formula One’s youngest starter, controversially just 17, and without a road licence, when he made his debut. He is the sport’s youngest winner, at 18, when he triumphed in his first appearance for Red Bull in Spain in 2017.
Verstappen’s orange army follow him across Europe. Such is Verstappen’s pull that remarkably one million people have applied for tickets at his home race in the Netherlands next May. A ballot will be held for the 110,000 seats available at the Zandvoort race, Holland’s first grand prix in 36 years.
Mercedes are courting Verstappen and there has been a suggestion they could move for the Dutch star as early as next year, putting him alongside Hamilton in a blockbuster line-up. It seems unlikely with 18 months still to run on Verstappen’s £20million-a-year deal at Red Bull.
“I have not heard from Lewis saying he wants to join Red Bull,” Horner joked when asked if such a driver pairing would be good for the sport. “You can see positives and negatives in that scenario.
“Max is still a young guy. He has been driving at a very high standard and he delivered a phenomenal performance last weekend to keep his head in varying conditions. Max is arguably the most in-form driver on the grid. His situation with us is clear.”
Lewis Hamilton edged out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to finish fastest in opening practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The world champion, who was back on the track after his Hockenheim horror show, saw off Verstappen by 0.165 seconds.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel finished third ahead of Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly. Valtteri Bottas did not set a time after Mercedes discovered a fault with his engine.
Hamilton crashed from the lead at last weekend’s rain-disrupted German Grand Prix before crossing the line in 11th place.
The Briton had been battling a virus but, after revealing he slept for three days ahead of this weekend’s race, the last ahead of Formula One’s summer break, he returned to the summit of the time sheets.
No other driver has won the Hungarian Grand Prix more times than Hamilton, and the 34-year-old will go in search of his seventh victory here on Sunday.
Hot on his heels will be Verstappen, the 21-year-old who took advantage of Hamilton’s mistake-ridden afternoon in Germany, to claim his second win from the last three races.
The early signs suggest it could be a three-way fight for victory with Vettel, who drove from last to second at his home race, just one thousandth of a second slower than Verstappen.
Bottas should have reduced the championship deficit to Hamilton at the last race, but crashed out in the closing stages.
Bottas, now 41 points adrift of his team-mate, was sidelined on Friday morning, after Mercedes identified a problem with his engine.
Mercedes were forced to change Bottas’ power unit, leaving the Finn without a time to his name.
Kevin Magnussen finished fifth for Haas ahead of Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc in sixth.
British rookie Lando Norris ended the opening running in eighth, 1.3 seconds off the pace. George Russell finished ahead of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and Robert Kubica in the sister Williams to finish 17th.
The London-born Thai Alexander Albon crashed out of the rain-interrupted second session after he lost control of his Toro Rosso through the final corner.