Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took his first Formula 1 pole position in a thrilling qualifying session at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Dutchman beat Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes by 0.018 seconds, with Lewis Hamilton third and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel next.
Verstappen was 0.9secs quicker than team-mate Pierre Gasly in sixth.
And there were outstanding performances from British rookies Lando Norris and George Russell in seventh and 16th.
How has it taken this long?
Verstappen’s pole has been a long time coming in his fifth season, but it came in style.
The 21-year-old, who has won two of the last three races, was quickest on both runs in final qualifying and improved by 0.4secs on his last run to fend off a great effort by Bottas.
Verstappen said: “It feels good but the whole weekend the car was very competitive. It’s always a question how it will work out in qualifying where we know (Mercedes) can turn up a bit more power. But the car was incredible, it was really enjoyable to drive.
“To get your first pole is very nice but what happens on Sunday is what counts. I knew it was a matter of time. I made mistakes as well to miss a pole shot. And today we finally got it.”
Bottas improved by even more on his final lap – knocking more than 0.5secs off this previous best to come so close to pole.
The result was cheered mightily by the thousands of Dutch fans wearing orange T-shirts who now seem to follow Verstappen to every European race.
Hamilton was 0.197secs off the pace in third, but is optimistic of a strong race, especially as there is a long run down to the first corner and the even-numbered side of the grid, where Bottas will start, is traditionally more slippery.
“It kind of got away from me a little but in qualifying but we are in a good position to fight for the win and we will be pushing hard,” Hamilton said.
Another mistake from Leclerc
Ferrari have not quite been on the pace in Hungary, the tight and twisty circuit not favouring their car, which lacks downforce compared to the Mercedes and Ferrari.
Leclerc escaped a crash in the first qualifying session, which left him with light damage to the rear of his car, to edge out Vettel by 0.028secs.
The 21-year-old was 0.471secs off pole position.
Leclerc had lost control in the final corner in the middle of the first session, damaging his rear wing.
It looked for a while as if his session might be over, but Ferrari were able to replace his rear wing in time to get him out in the second session.
There was some damage to the crash structure at the rear of the car, at least, so it was a strong performance from Leclerc – as well as something of a relief after the latest in a series of errors threatened to blight his day.
Norris and Russell get even better
Norris was superb in the McLaren, consistently the quickest midfield runner, although the large gap he had on the rest of his rivals was closed to just 0.052secs by team-mate Carlos Sainz in the end.
But Norris’ performance was put in the shade by Russell, who came oh-so-close to getting the Williams out of first qualifying for the first time this year.
He missed out on that feat by 0.05secs but still it was a major step forward for the team to out-qualify cars from other teams for the first time.
Russell beat both Racing Points of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, as well as the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo, and the Briton was a massive 1.293secs quicker than team-mate Robert Kubica.
Russell said the aerodynamic upgrades Williams introduced at the last race in Germany had helped them work the tyres more effectively. This produced a compound effect and a much-needed boost for the team that has spent much of the year adrift of the back of the field.
Ricciardo paid the penalty for getting into a tangle with Perez’s Racing Point at the final corner as both sought the best position to start their laps.