Formula 1: Last-gasp drama as Rosberg wins pole

Nico Rosberg negotiating the wet track during yesterday's storm-hit qualifying session for the Hungarian Grand Prix. The German, who leads his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by a solitary point in the world drivers' championship, said of his late
Nico Rosberg negotiating the wet track during yesterday's storm-hit qualifying session for the Hungarian Grand Prix. The German, who leads his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by a solitary point in the world drivers' championship, said of his late effort to wrest pole position from his chief rival: "Awesome. Very happy with that."PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hamilton pipped by world title leader while taking evasive action as Alonso spins off track

BUDAPEST • Nico Rosberg rode his luck yesterday to grab pole position for today's Hungarian Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in a prolonged qualifying session punctuated by rainstorms and red flags.

The Formula One championship-leading 31-year-old German produced a fastest lap of one minute and 19.965 seconds at the end of a session stretched to nearly two hours by heavy rain and crashes in the hazardous conditions on the twisting Hungaroring circuit.

Defending three-time champion Hamilton, who is just one point behind Rosberg after 10 of this year's record tally of 21 races, was 0.143 seconds behind his rival as the pair secured their team's sixth front-row lockout of the season.

"It was a really challenging qualifying with the changing conditions all the time," said Rosberg. "I've been feeling really good out there the whole weekend in all conditions. I'm looking forward to the race and the great opportunity tomorrow."

However, in his final lap, yellow flags were waved, and the German appeared not to have slowed down sufficiently.

  • HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX GRID

  • 1ST ROW

    1 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes

    2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes

    2ND ROW

    3 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull

    4 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull

    3RD ROW

    5 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari

    6 Carlos Sainz Jr (Esp) Toro Rosso

    4TH ROW

    7 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren

    8 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren

    5TH ROW

    9 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India

    10 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams

    SELECTED

    14 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner wanted stewards to check if Rosberg lifted for double-waved yellow flags.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo had to abort his final lap, and Horner told Sky Sports: "What I need to check is that Rosberg was behind Daniel, and managed to get a purple middle sector."

When told Rosberg lifted for the yellows, Horner added: "With that sort of lap time? That's down to the stewards to decide."

Rosberg said he did not expect to lose the time for not slowing sufficiently. "I had a big lift and I was also slower in that segment than on (the) previous lap so I am sure I will be okay," he said.

Hamilton looked to be on course to take pole when on an improved best lap he came across Spaniard Fernando Alonso's McLaren spinning off the track in front of him.

The Briton had to take evasive action, which cost him time, before Rosberg came round and was able to continue without easing off.

"It was unfortunate with Fernando, but these things happen," said Hamilton. "I did the best I could do and it's a long race tomorrow so I'll give it everything I've got."

The two Red Bulls of Ricciardo - who was also affected by Alonso's spin - and Dutch teenager Max Verstappen were third and fourth, ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.

Mercedes have yet to win at the Hungaroring in the V6 turbo hybrid era that began in 2014 but have put themselves in the best possible position to do so today.

Both drivers open the race from the best possible positions but will be wary of making a decent start on the 610m run in to Turn 1. Last year both Mercedes, in the reverse one-two order, were sluggish off the line and mugged by the two Ferraris of Vettel - who went on to win - and Kimi Raikkonen, who this year lines up in 14th place.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 24, 2016, with the headline 'Last-gasp drama as Rosberg wins pole'. Print Edition | Subscribe