• McLaren driver proves untouchable in Hungary
• Romain Grosjean pips Sebastian Vettel on to front row
Lewis Hamilton was untouchable at the Hungaroring on Saturday, leading every session of qualifying and producing two dominant runs during the final run to take pole position at the Hungarian Grand Prix. It is his third pole this year but the first since the second race of the season in Malaysia and confirms that, at least in the hands of Hamilton, the McLaren has the pace again to challenge at the front.
Hamilton, who has won in Hungary twice before and has also scored two poles here in 2007 and 2008 – the former converted to a win – was pleased with the result. “I’m really happy with what the guys have done,” he said. “This is a good boost for the team. We need to keep our cool.”
He finished four-tenths of a second ahead of the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, who will start from the front row on Sunday for the first time in his career after his sharp final lap pipped Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull into third. Jenson Button, who reported difficulties with understeer on his McLaren, was fourth.
Kimi Raikkonen in the other Lotus was fifth, the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were sixth and seventh, followed by the Williams of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna, with Nico Hülkenberg of Force India rounding out the top 10.
Hamilton went wide through turn eight on his first quick lap in the final session. He backed off and then set the fastest time of the first runs but had used fewer of the soft (option) tyres than his rivals in Q1 and Q2. On another set of fresh softs he bettered it with his second outing and still could not be touched. By the end it was clear that both his times had been good enough to hold pole.
During the first session initial runs on the medium (prime) tyre were quickly overshadowed when the leaders began putting in much quicker times on the softs. The track, too, was becoming faster as it rubbered in and it was Hamilton who managed to top the time sheets but crucially without using a set of his soft tyres. He was followed by Force India’s Paul Di Resta and Button but the latter was already reporting he had understeer from early on in Q1. Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso joined the cars of Caterham, HRT and Marussia to be dropped on the first outing.
Having shifted to the softs, Hamilton went on to light up the second session finishing at the front again after a lap in which he felt he could have been even quicker but for being held up by a Sauber. At that point Hamilton was six tenths clear of his nearest rival, Raikkonen. Fastest in the first and last sectors, he did not have to take a second run, saving another set of softs for Q3 and ultimately finishing clear of Vettel in second until the German was surpassed by Grosjean.
Q2 also saw Senna make it into the final run for the first time this season with a very tidy run, knocking out Mark Webber, who was struggling for grip, and finishing just behind his Williams team-mate, Maldonado.
Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg also failed to make it into the shootout in their Mercedes. Both have strained for pace all weekend and were running heavy fuel runs, perhaps anticipating a poor qualifying and an alternate race strategy on Sunday, where they will start firmly in the midfield, from 17th and 13th respectively.