Sebastian Vettel took his second pole position of the season with a blistering lap at the Hungaroring that smashed the track record by more than two seconds.
The Ferrari driver set a time of 1:16.276 to power past the mark set by Rubens Barrichello in qualifying for the 2004 race here. Vettel’s time put him two tenths clear of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen as Ferrari annexed the front row.
Valtteri Bottas was third for Mercedes but it was a disappointing Q3 for Lewis Hamilton. The Briton made a mistake on his first run to lie ninth ahead of the final runs and then complained of tyre vibration on his final run to fourth place.
The major news before the qualifying was that Felipe Massa, who had been unwell on Friday, was again ill during final practice. The decision was taken for the Brazilian to sit out the remainder of the weekend, and so, after the necessary approvals had been given by the FIA, the team called on reserve driver Paul Di Resta, who last race at the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix for Force India, to take over.
The Scot, a DTM regular, had never driven a real world 2017 Formula One car before the start of Q1 but he quickly began to feed himself into the session rising steadily to a time of 1:21.075.
At the top of the order it was Vettel who set the pace, the German posting an early time of 1:17.244. That was almost matched by Max Verstappen who ended up two hundredths of a second behind the German, with Kimi Raikkonen third with a lap of 1:17.364.
In the drop zone with a minute to go were, Williams’ Lance Stroll, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein and Di Resta who improved to a time of 1:19.868.
That wasn’t enough to save him from elimination but the Scot had done an excellent job under the circumstances, beating P20 man Ericsson into the bargain. Ruled out ahead of Scot were Magnussen, Williams team-mate Stroll who finished in P17 just seven tenths ahead of Di Resta, and Wehrlein.
Magnussen, perhaps, had the most to feel aggrieved about. The Dane set an identical time to Force India’s Sergio Perez of 1:19.095, but the Mexican progressed by virtue of having set the time first.
Vettel again impressed from the off in Q2. Third on track when the pit exit opened the German soon laid down an impressive marker becoming the first man into the 1m16s bracket with a time of 1:16.802.
Verstappen came closest to matching that, setting a time two tenths adrift of the German in the opening runs. Hamilton lay third ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.
In the drop zone ahead of the final runs were Renault’s Jolyon Palmer – just under four hundredths of a second behind Force India’s P10 man Esteban Ocon – Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat, Haas’ Romain Grosjean and the second Force India of Perez.
Sainz was the one to make a late charge, with the Spaniard claiming P10 with his final flying lap. Palmer looked like he might threaten Sainz’s time of 1:18.311 as he put in a PB in the second sector but the Briton’s pace faltered in the final sector and he lost out to the Toro Rosso by a tenth. Eliminated behind Palmer in P11 were Ocon, Kvyat, Perez and Grosjean.
At the top the bulk of the top six from the first runs opted to stay in the garages for the second runs. Mercedes’ drivers were the exception and though Bottas could find no improvement beyond P5, Hamilton ratcheted up his pace and took P1 with a time of 1:16.693. He and Vettel were the only drivers into the 1m16s at this stage. Verstappen was third ahead of Raikkonen, Bottas and Ricciardo. Both McLarens also made it through to Q3 for the first time this season.
Vettel again set the early pace in Q3 with a lap of 1:16.276. This time though Hamilton couldn’t respond. The Britons first run was compromised by a mistake in Turn 4 and when the opening runs were done he found himself in P9 with just one more chance to make an impact. Bottas took P2 ahead of the final runs with Verstappen third and Ricciardo fourth. Hulkenberg sat in fifth ahead of the McLarens of Alonso and Vandoorne.
And in the final runs, Hamilton was again unable to respond as he had in Q2. The Briton reported a vibration on his tyres early in the lap and though he pushed hard he could only set a time good enough for third place. His time of 1:16.693 also left him vulnerable to attack from the Red Bulls in P5 and P6. Neither Verstappen nor Ricciardo could find enough time on track to improve position.
In fact the only driver to make significant gains in the final runs was Raikkonen. The Finn rose from fifth position and a time of 1:16.878 to a front row start behind his team-mate with a lap of 1:16.444 that pushed Bottas to third.
With the Red Bulls in fifth and sixth, seventh place went to Hulkenberg, though the Renault driver will take a five-place gearbox-related grid drop tomorrow. Alonso was eighth ahead of McLaren team-mate Vandoorne while Sainz qualified in 10th place.