Lewis Hamilton broke championship leader Max Verstappen’s grip on pole position, with the Mercedes driver claiming top spot for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix just 0.003s ahead of the Red Bull driver as Lando Norris took third in a tightly contested session in which the top three were covered by less than a tenth of a second.
Verstappen looked to have done enough to take a sixth consecutive pole with his opening flying lap of Q3. The Dutchman claimed provisional pole with a lap 1:16.612 and when the impressive Norris crossed the line 0.082s off the champion on his final lap it looked like Verstappen’s failure to improve wouldn’t be punished.
Hamilton was the last man left to cross the line, however, and when the seven-time champion crossed the line he was 0.003s clear of Verstappen and on pole. It mark’s the Briton’s ninth pole at the Hungaroring, a new single circuit record in Formula 1.
Qualifying at the Budapest circuit saw the debut of the Alternative Tyre Allocation, with teams restricted to 11 sets of the tyres for the weekend instead of the usual 13. It also reframed the battle for grid position, with teams required to use Hard tyres in Q1, Mediums in Q2 and Soft tyres for the final top-10 shootout.
In Q1 Verstappen looked to be in control when, with eight minutes left in the 18-minute session, the Dutchman jumped to P1 with a lap of 1:18.658 that featured personal bests in every sector. However, with a little over four minutes left, his Red Bull team-mate, Sergio Pérez, moved to the top of the order with a lap of 1:18.209. He was quickly beaten by Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu who went two tenths of a second quicker and Carlos Sainz moved to P3 for Ferrari ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc. The track was quickly improving and it meant that in the final moments Verstappen slid to seventh place. He took a new set of tyres and just after the chequered flag fell he took second place behind Zhou with a lap of 1:18.318.
At the other end of the order, the returning Daniel Ricciardo took his AlphaTauri into Q2 with a lap of 1:18.906, 0.007s ahead of Williams’ Alex Albon who was eliminated ahead of Ricciardo’s team-mate Yuki Tsunoda, Mercedes’ George Russell and last-placed Logan Sargeant in the second Williams.
At the start of the second segment, Pérez set the benchmark at 1:17.675. Verstappen found plenty more pace, however, and he took P1 almost four tenths clear of his team-mate thanks to a lap of 1:17.296. However, the championship leader’s time was swiftly deleted for a track limits infringement in Turn 5. Norris then took P1, three tenths ahead of Pérez and the McLaren driver was joined at the top by his team-mate Oscar Piastri who slotted into P2.
Verstappen returned to the garage and with a new set of Medium tyres onboard the Dutchman jumped to safety, posting a lap of 1:17.547 to move from P15 to second on the timesheet. In the final moments Norris kept hold of top spot as Hamilton pushed Verstappen to P3.
There was no place in Q3, however, for Sainz, with the Spanish driver dumped to P11 by a last-gasp lap from team-mate Charles Leclerc who took P6. Also out at the end of the middle segment were 12th-placed Ocon, followed by Ricciardo, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Gasly, who had his final lap deleted for a track limits transgression in Turn 4.
When the green lights went on to signal the start of the top-10 shootout, it was Verstappen who claimed bragging rights in the opening runs with the champion claiming provisional pole thanks to a a lap of 1:16.612, 0.126 ahead of Hamilton.
In the final runs, however, the Dutchman couldn’t find the pace needed to stretch ahead and a slow final sector meant he failed to improve. Norris slotted in behind him, eight hundredths of a second off the champion but last across the line was Hamilton and the Mercedes driver managed to edge to pole position ahead of Max by the tiny margin of three thousandths of a second.
With Norris third, fourth place went to the Briton’s team-mate Oscar Piastri while Zhoou Guanyu scored an impressive fifth place ahead of Leclerc, Bottas and Alonso. Checo made a small gain on his final lap but in the end his time of 1:17.045 was only good enough for ninth place and row five alongside Nico Hülkenberg.
2023 FIA Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:18.577 1:17.427 1:16.609 20
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:18.318 1:17.547 1:16.612 21
3 Lando Norris McLaren 1:18.697 1:17.328 1:16.694 20
4 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:18.464 1:17.571 1:16.905 20
5 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:18.143 1:17.700 1:16.971 22
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:18.440 1:17.580 1:16.992 21
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:18.775 1:17.563 1:17.034 20
8 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:18.580 1:17.701 1:17.035 21
9 Sergio Perez Red BUll Racing 1:18.360 1:17.675 1:17.045 23
10 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:18.695 1:17.652 1:17.186 20
11 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:18.393 1:17.703 15
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:18.854 1:17.841 16
13 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:18.906 1:18.002 15
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:18.782 1:18.144 18
15 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:18.743 1:18.217 16
16 Alexander Albon Williams 1:18.917 8
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:18.919 9
18 George Russell Mercedes 1:19.027 9
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:19.206 8
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:19.248 8