Lewis Hamilton achieved his third successive pole position in Formula 1 in a superb duel with championship leader Sebastian Vettel at the Hungaroring.
The Mercedes driver denied the triple world champion in the final moments of qualifying. His margin was less than four-hundredths of a second.
Vettel seemed to have put himself out of reach with an incredible first flying lap in Q3 that was eight-tenths of a second clear.
It was an impressive lap and Red Bull even had a fresh set of tyres for both Q3 runs. Their rivals were all saving their rubber for their final lap.
Initially, Vettel remained too fast to catch, with final practice pace setter Romain Grosjean getting closest in his Lotus.
But Hamilton was able to mount an attack with a time of one minute, 19.377 seconds to displace Vettel. The Red Bull driver improved his pace but fell short by just 0.038 seconds.
Still, this was far better than his team-mate Mark Webber. After setting the second quickest time in both Friday practice sessions, the Australian suffered a KERS failure in qualifying.
Webber struggled through to Q3 but did not run in the top ten shootout, so will start in tenth position.
Grosjean held on to third place, joined on second row by Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Ferrari was not a contender for the pole, with Fernando Alonso fifth and Felipe Massa seventh.
Kimi Raikkonen was briefly on the provisional front row as he completed an early final run, but in the end, the Lotus driver will start the Hungarian Grand Prix in sixth place.
Raikkonen’s rival for next year’s Red Bull seat is Daniel Ricciardo and the young Australian maintained his strong recent form to put his Toro Rosso eighth, six positions ahead of team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne.
Sergio Perez was the other Q3 contender in ninth, sticking to his set of medium tyres rather than going for pole. His McLaren team-mate Jenson Button understeered to a disappointing P13.
Given his engine problems during the final practice session, Esteban Gutierrez’s Q1 departure was little surprise.
And yet Paul di Resta’s early exit in qualifying was a shock. The Scot and Force India were left baffled by the performance of the tyres.
Team-mate Adrian Sutil missed out on the top ten by just 0.042 seconds and joins Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber on row six.
Caterham proved comfortably quicker than Marussia in the fight at the back, while brief late-Q2 top-ten appearances from both Williams drivers proved deceptive as they were shuffled back to P16 and P17.
So a fantastic qualifying effort by Lewis Hamilton but will the tyres play a part in the overall race pace of the Mercedes come the Grand Prix? Overtaking is difficult around the Hungaroring as it’s tight and twisty but if Hamilton can keep his rivals at bay, we could see him score that dream win for Silver Arrows.
Qualifying times from the Hungaroring:
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m19.388s
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m19.426s
3. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m19.595s
4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m19.720s
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m19.791s
6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m19.851s
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m19.929s
8. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m20.641s
9. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m22.398s
10. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault no time set
11. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m20.569s
12. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m20.580s
13. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m20.777s
14. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m21.029s
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m21.133s
16. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m21.219s
17. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m21.724s
18. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m22.043s
19. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m23.007s
20. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m23.333s
21. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m23.787s
22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m23.997s
107 per cent time: 1m25.974s