Hamilton masters rain to take Hungarian pole

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Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have locked out the front row for tomorrow Hungarian Grand Prix by mastering a difficult qualifying with continuously changing weather conditions. The Ferrari duo in Raikkonen and Vettel will start from the second row.

As qualifying started, the track had been wetted properly by a brief shower, required everybody to use intermediates to go out for a first couple of laps. In these early stages, it was Vettel and Raikkonen who went fastest, ahead of Ricciardo, Verstappen and Hamilon. Numerous drivers soon started reporting overheating tyres as it seemed the track had become too dry for inters.

Sainz was the first to make the switch, and hence also the first on a flying lap on ultra softs. He struggled through the first few corners, but with S2 entirely dry, he soon recovered the lost time and ended up fastest.

Others meanwhile were quick to switch as well, as more rain was on the way. All cars ended up on track on ultra soft, with times predictably tumbling quickly. In fact, Sainz' first slick time was only good enough for for 18th, but obviously he further improved in the meantime.

Just 3 minutes from the end, Ricciardo improved from 19th to 12th after he opted for soft tyres rather than the faster ultra softs. Ricciardo needed another two further improvements before the end of the session to be sure of progress, making for some anxious moments in the Red Bull garage.

Even though rain started falling again, the track remained perfectly suitable for slicks, proved by Hamilton who jumped atop the timesheet in 1:17.419, less than 2 minutes from the end of the first session. Bottas, Verstappen and Vettel improved on that in the dying minutes, with Vettel setting the benchmark to 1:16.666.

As Q1 ended, Vandoorne just dropped out, along with Leclerc, Ocon, Perez and Sirotkin.

The start of Q2 saw Magnussen, Grosjean, Sainz and Hulkenberg queue at the end of the pitlane, eager to get going on the ultra softs. Vettel joined them, opting for intermediates. Mercedes joined the party as well, but as the track appeared very wet in S2 and S3, only Vettel went on to complete a lap while all other rapidly returned to the pits to change to intermediate tyres as well.

As rain continued to intensify, it soon proved that Vettel's first lap was going to be difficult to beat in Q2. Sainz, Verstappen, Hamilton and Gasly all stranded at 2.5s of Vettel's banker. Raikkonen, who was another minute later out on track, only ended up 8th, 4 seconds down.

Lance Stroll meanwhile got surprised by the conditions and broke the front wing on his car at Turn 6. Raikkonen spun at the same location half a minute later, but without damage to his car.

Conditions were such that Magnussen and Ericsson subsequently opted to switch to full wets.

With 4 minutes left on the clock, and only Ericsson out on track, Alonso was 11th, followed by Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Ericsson and Stroll.

Hulkenberg and Ricciardo then also joined the track on full wets, but Alonso's earlier message, saying "the last sector is impossible man", was ominous of the task ahead of thoese currently eliminated. And indeed, Alonso and Ericsson went on with it and tried full wets, hoping they're come close to the earlier times set on intermediates.

10 seconds from the end, Ricciardo crossed the line with a 1:38, leaving him just one more lap to find 4 seconds and get through to Q3.

With conditions not improving, all these attempts on full wets proved futile, leaving those 5 eliminated. Quite obviously a big blow for Daniel Ricciardo.

When the light went green for Q3, drivers were told conditions were expected to become even worse within the next 5 minutes, so everybody was once again queuing up at the pitlane, this time all on full wet tyres.

After passing Gasly on the out lap, Verstappen was the first to start a flying lap. The Dutchman recorded 1:38.923 and struggled at various parts of the track. Hamilton and Bottas were considerably better and improved on that by 1.2s with Raikkonen slotting into third, a second quicker than Verstappen. Vettel's first lap was less than impressive, ending up slower than Verstappen.

Needless to say, everybody went on for more laps. Hamilton notably shaved off another full second of his previous best.

One minute later, the situation on the timesheet had changed again, with Bottas moving up again into second, ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel. Sainz improved to 5th, followed by Gasly, Verstappen, Hartley, Magnussen and Grosjean.

And another 30 seconds later, Raikkonen went fastest, half a second up on Hamilton.

Edging closer to the closing minute, Sainz improved once again to go third fastest, less than a tenth down on Hamilton, and 2 tenths up on Bottas.

Meanwhile, several drivers had entered the pit to do their final laps on new full sets. This initially saw Vettel go second fastest, but then Bottas jumped up the timesheets, and Hamilton improved even more, taking pole in 1:35.658.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarQ1Q2Q3Laps
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG1:17.4191:31.2421:35.65826
277Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG1:17.1231:32.0811:35.91825
37Kimi RäikkönenFerrari1:17.5261:32.7621:36.18626
45Sebastian VettelFerrari1:16.6661:28.6361:36.21024
555Carlos SainzRenault1:17.8291:30.7711:36.74325
610Pierre GaslyScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:18.5771:31.2861:37.59125
733Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer1:16.9401:31.1781:38.03224
828Brendon HartleyScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:18.4291:32.5901:38.12825
920Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari1:18.3141:32.9681:39.85824
108Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari1:17.9011:33.6501:40.59324
1114Fernando AlonsoMcLaren Renault1:18.2081:35.214-19
123Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer1:18.5401:36.442-21
1327Nico HulkenbergRenault1:17.9051:36.506-20
149Marcus EricssonSauber Ferrari1:18.6411:37.075-22
1518Lance StrollWilliams Mercedes1:18.560DNF-15
162Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren Renault1:18.782--11
1716Charles LeclercSauber Ferrari1:18.817--13
1831Esteban OconForce India Mercedes1:19.142--12
1911Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes1:19.200--11
2035Sergey SirotkinWilliams Mercedes1:19.301--12