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Lewis Hamilton was unstoppable in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, picking up McLaren’s 150th pole position. Romain Grosjean will start second, a career-best for the reigning GP2 Champion, with Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button on Row 2. Championship leader Fernando Alonso lines up sixth, with Michael Schumacher 17th.
McLaren confirmed their significant improvement in Germany last weekend, despite not winning at Hockenheim, and yet more updates in Budapest – including further modifications to the sidepods – have delivered large gains for the Woking cars. In qualifying, Button suffered with amounts of understeer but Hamilton was untouchable, claiming his third pole of 2012 and matching Fernando Alonso for 22 in the all-time driver rankings.
There have been few incidents all weekend so far, with Q1 maintaining that fact. As Button struggled for rear tyre temperatures, Hamilton set the pace while Kamui Kobayashi bumped Daniel Ricciardo out at the first hurdle. This marked the first time in the season season that the Australian had fallen at the earliest possible point, with Marussia’s Charles Pic beating team-mate Timo Glock for the fourth time despite the latter having a new chassis.
Without doubt, the big losers of Q2 were Mercedes. The silver arrows have been off the pace since Friday, although even Michael Schumacher did not expect to be 17th on the grid. As Jean-Éric Vergne – in Q2 for the fifth time – pitted from 14th place, the Frenchman fell back by two positions but still remained in front of the seven-time World Champion. To rub salt into the wounds for Mercedes, Nico Rosberg could muster no more than 13th spot.
A big winner of Q3 was Williams, which kept up its promising speed from practice to witness a double top ten result for the first time in 2012; Bruno Senna, starting ninth, managed the top ten for the first time this year.
With his expression at the end of Friday practice having told the story, Red Bull’s Mark Webber – still the closest challenger to Fernando Alonso in the World Championship – missed the shootout for the third time this year. He will start 11th, meaning he is the first driver able to choose his tyre compound for the start of the race. The sixth row will be shared with Britain’s Paul di Resta in the second of the Force Indias.
It initially looked as though as many as four drivers may have chosen not to post a lap time in Q3, in a bid to save tyres, but all ten contenders did eventually leave the pits. Unsurprisingly, Hamilton led the way, with Grosjean missing out on the leading time of 1:20.953 by four tenths of a second. Third was an achievement for Vettel, considering his team-mate’s lowly position and the fact that he has also out-qualified a McLaren, but the result did signal an end to his two-year pole run at the Hungaroring.
Alonso’s job on Sunday will be to limit the damage to his points lead, coming from sixth on the grid and behind Kimi Räikkönen.
In eighth, Felipe Massa had his best opportunity of the season to out-qualify team-mate Alonso, but missed out by 56 thousandths of a second. As Williams celebrated a double top ten result, Nico Hülkenberg qualified in the top ten for the fourth consecutive race.
McLaren’s 150th pole comes 11 weeks after it originally had, as Hamilton lost his Barcelona result when there was not enough fuel left for a sample.
The team’s first pole came at the 1972 Canadian Grand Prix, with American Pete Revson having achieved it at the Mosport circuit.
Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix begins at 2pm local time (BST +1) and can also be tracked through the interactive GPUpdate.net live report
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