Budapest, Hungary – Lewis Hamilton’s 101st pole position in Formula 1 provided a barren six-race run and set him perfectly for a shot at a 100th career win in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
The British driver holds F1 records for wins and poles and has a record eight wins in the Hungarian GP, including the last three.
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Although Silverstone is his home circuit – he has also won eight times – Hamilton feels at home at the Hungaroring.
He won here for the first time in 2007, just the third win in his stellar career. His first Mercedes win in 2013 was also at this sun-drenched track, set amid the rolling hills and countryside of Mogyorod, about 20 kilometers (12 1/2 miles) from Budapest.
Hamilton hadn’t been on pole since the Spanish GP in early May. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took the next two poles and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took four in a row as he flew ahead in the championship.
But Hamilton’s controversial win at the British GP two weeks ago has reduced Verstappen’s lead from 33 points to eight. Hamilton could even get ahead in the final race before the mid-season break.
Hamilton, who was .315 seconds ahead of Bottas and .421 of Verstappen in third place, was in a musical mood.
“I just had the song ‘YMCA’ in my head all the time,” Hamilton said with a laugh afterward, referring to the Village People’s cheesy ’70s anthem. “I don’t know why, but it’s a great song.”
“It was a great qualifying lap,” Hamilton said on track as some parts of the crowd booed him, perhaps because he was found guilty of the crash that sent Verstappen out of the British GP.
Hamilton didn’t let it go.
‘It’s sports, isn’t it? And people act wild. I don’t take it to heart,” he said. “I have to do something right to be up front.”
But Bottas was upset by those who booed his team-mate, saying: “These people have to question themselves, it’s not right.”
Verstappen, who leads Hamilton 5-4 for wins and 5-3 for Poles, said it was “not correct”, but drivers should be immune to it.
“We shouldn’t be disturbed by things like this,” he said. “It’s not fun, but it shouldn’t affect us.”
However, he was interrupted moments later by a question in the press conference about last week’s first lap crash at Silverstone.
Verstappen interrupted the conference host’s question mid-sentence, saying, “Can we stop on this?” He then used several expletives in a fit of rage, two days after talking at length about what he called Hamilton’s “disrespectful” victory celebration at Silverstone.
His teammate Sergio Perez was fourth.
Verstappen led Q1 – the first part of qualifying – from Hamilton and Q2 from Norris. Orange-clad Dutch fans in part of the main stand roared every time he whizzed past.
But Hamilton and Bottas were faster than Verstappen on their first runs in Q3.
Pole could be crucial as the sinewy and cramped 4.4 kilometers (2.7 mi) track is arguably the hardest track to overtake after Monaco.
About halfway through Q2, Carlos Sainz Jr. the back of his Ferrari and slid into a wall. The front wing dropped below the front tires. The Spaniard will start on Sunday from a moderate 15th.
Leclerc qualified seventh behind Norris and AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly.
Mick Schumacher starts from 20th and last place. He was out of qualifying after a crash in final practice and his Haas team was unable to repair his car in time.
Hamilton previously clocked the fastest time in the third and final practice, followed by Verstappen and Bottas.
The session was cut short with about 15 minutes to go when Schumacher – son of seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher – went off the track and crashed into a tire wall. He was uninjured but damaged the left side and lost the front wing of his Haas car, which was lifted off the track by a crane.
There was a near miss in the pit lane shortly afterwards as Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi pulled out of the garage just as Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll passed. Stroll cut the front wing of Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo slightly, but there was no damage.
On Friday, Verstappen topped the first practice and Bottas led the second.
After Hungary, the season will resume on August 29 at the Belgian GP in Spa.
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