George Russell achieved his first pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix by beating both Ferraris while championship leader Max Verstappen was taken out of contention by a power issue.
The Mercedes driver was an unlikely contender to top qualifying after the struggles in the W13 all season, not least during both dry and wet running at the Hungaroring so far this weekend.
But despite not taking a fastest sector on his critical lap, his combined runs sailed George to the top over Carlos Sainz, who had the advantage on his teammate Charles Leclerc.
But it was a session to forget for Red Bull, with Verstappen only poised to line up P10 as Sergio Perez was eliminated in Q2.
The day-long downpour that was widely predicted held off to allow qualifying to take place as scheduled on Saturday afternoon in Budapest.
It was Sainz who ended the first part of the 12-minute Q3 run on top, his first flying lap placing him half a second clear of Russell after Leclerc had messed up straight away with a snap in his F1-75 at Turn 1 as he struggled with the tyres.
With Verstappen combatting understeer to run off track at Turn 2, he ended the first run-out only seventh fastest.
The ten fastest cars then emerged with three minutes, 40 seconds to run, but Verstappen was soon complaining of no power aboard his RB18 – cycling through sensor modes not enough to remedy the problem.
With the defending champion, who leads Leclerc in the standings by 63 points, out of the picture, Sainz cycled to the top with the fastest first sector of anyone (pipping Nicholas Latifi).
That gave the British Grand Prix polesitter the bragging rights initially as Leclerc slotted in 0.15 seconds adrift, but then three personal best sectors at the death for Russell gave him an unlikely pole.
His one minute, 17.377 seconds effort pipping Sainz’s one minute, 17.421 seconds best, while Leclerc managed to keep ahead of the McLaren of Lando Norris – the MCL36 impressing in dry qualifying and race simulations during FP2 on Friday.
Esteban Ocon managed to reverse the recent run of form to pip Fernando Alonso in the intra-team Alpine scrap, while Lewis Hamilton’s DRS failed to activate on his final lap to knock him to seventh.
Valtteri Bottas claimed eighth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, as Verstappen had to make do with a one minute, 18.823 seconds that left him 10ths and 1.5s adrift of the Mercedes benchmark.
Perez was the major casualty from Q2 in a strange session for the driver, his Red Bull being knocked out by a slender 0.05 seconds courtesy of the late improvements from Ocon and Bottas.
Checo complained that Kevin Magnussen’s line through the Turn 3 left-hander had ultimately cost him a place inside the top ten.
Perez had his first lap in Q2 scrubbed off for exceeding track limits at Turn 5, but it seemed a marginal call as replays showed not all four wheels crossed fully over the white lines.
Seven minutes after the fact, the lap was therefore reinstated to put him eighth. The reports of spots of rain plus a dip in track temperatures might have kept him safe enough.
But as the showers held off, the late climbs from the Alfa Romeo and Alpine dropped Perez to 11th ahead of Zhou Guanyu and Magnussen.
K-Mag aborted his final lap after missing his personal bests in sectors ones and two.
Lance Stroll, meanwhile, will start P14 ahead of the second Haas of Mick Schumacher.
Perez had already been at risk in P14 in Q1 as the chequered flag came out, but he was given respite when Pierre Gasly had his improved lap time deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 5.
That dropped the AlphaTauri to P19, with his teammate Yuki Tsunoda also eliminated in the first part of qualifying – the Japanese driver similarly crossing the white lines earlier in the session at the same protracted right-hand bend to have to start all over again.
With Tsunoda’s final, compliant effort not enough to progress as he landed 16th, Stroll had secured his slot in Q2 by 0.35 seconds. Meanwhile, Alex Albon ran for P17 ahead of the hastily repaired Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel.
In the two-hour break between sessions, Seb had helped his crew repair the AMR22 machine following his shunt into the barriers late in FP3 that resulted in a brief red flag.
The retiring four-time champion, who appeared to struggle for balance through the final corner, ultimately landed only P18.
Latifi, the unlikely pacesetter in a slippery final practice, might have progressed into the Q2 fight when yet again he mastered the first sector to set a purple run late on.
He combined this with a personal best sector two only to suffer a spike of oversteer in the final right-hander to cost him 0.7 seconds and leave him last in qualifying – much to his frustration over team radio.
So congratulations to George Russell in scoring his first Formula 1 pole position. Carlos Sainz’s lap was great and yet Mr Saturday’s performance was just epic. What a result for Mercedes after struggling all season. This pole is much needed to boost morale.
Hungarian Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 George Russell Mercedes 1:17.377
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:17.421
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:17.567
4 Lando Norris McLaren 1:17.769
5 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:18.018
6 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:18.078
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:18.142
8 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:18.157
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:18.379
10 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:18.823
11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:18.516
12 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:18.573
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:18.825
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:19.137
15 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:19.202
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTaur 1:19.240
17 Alex Albon Williams 1:19.256
18 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:19.273
19 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:19.527
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:19.570