By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton said it felt like a first after beating Max Verstappen in 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 Briton was just 0.003 faster than Red Bull’s championship leader for what was also a record ninth pole at the Hungaroring — the most by any driver in the history of the sport at one circuit.
It was Hamilton’s first pole position since Saudi Arabia in December 2021 and ended his run of 33 races without starting from the top slot.
“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 on his slowing down lap.
“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 used the soft tyres to maximum effect.
“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.
“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.”
McLaren’s Lando Norris qualified third with Australian rookie teammate Oscar Piastri alongside Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou fifth. 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 qualified only ninth and next to Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg in 10th.
Hamilton’s teammate George Russell, who took the first pole of his F1 career in Hungary last year, qualified 18th after an attempt to create space for his final flying lap was undone by four cars overtaking him into the last corner.
“We were fast, the car felt great but for the whole (first) 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.”
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Daniel Ricciardo made his return to a race seat by out-qualifying Japanese teammate 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 with Tsunoda 17th on the grid. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz missed out on the top 10 shootouts when fellow Spaniard Alonso pipped him by two thousandths of a second.
China’s Zhou was fastest in the first phase on hard tyres, with Norris quickest in phase two on mediums. Hungarian qualifying was the first ‘Alternative Tyre Allocation’ (ATA) event of the season with specific compounds mandated for each phase of qualifying — hard, then medium and finally soft — rather than a free choice.