BUDAPEST • Max Verstappen yesterday took pole for the Hungarian Grand Prix, leaving the Dutchman ecstatic at claiming the top spot for the first time in his career.
He did so for Red Bull with a flawless lap, although he was pushed to the very limit by the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, who was in second place, while five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was in third for the Silver Arrows.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who crashed in Germany, made another error in Hungary, spinning into the wall in Q1 to take "minor damage".
Remarkably, his car was still able to put in good times and he did well to take fourth, with his teammate Sebastian Vettel in fifth.
Now in his fifth season in Formula One, it has been some wait for his first pole, but Verstappen took it in some style.
He went quickest on his first hot run in Q3 in 1min 14.958sec, taking him almost two-tenths clear of Bottas and Hamilton.
Pushing his Red Bull to the edge, Verstappen was on another level on his last lap, going almost half a second quicker in 1.14.572.
HUNGARIAN GP GRID
1 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
3 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
4 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari
5 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
6 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull
7 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren
8 Carlos Sainz Jr (Esp) McLaren
9 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas
10 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo
18 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault
Bottas followed him to within a hundredth of a second but could not match him, while Hamilton, despite looking strong this weekend, was almost two-tenths back.
Verstappen said: "It's incredible. This was still missing, the car felt good all weekend and it was incredible. I'm very happy about today, there's still a race to do and that's the most important."
Verstappen, 21, is the fourth-youngest driver to claim a pole, and it is also a strong result for the team and their new power unit supplier Honda in their 12th race together.
This is the first pole for the engine manufacturer since they returned to the sport in 2015 and their first since Jenson Button took the spot at Australia in 2006.
Verstappen has not won at the Hungaroring before, but has shown good pace all weekend on a circuit he was optimistic at which his team could perform strongly.
Having won with a superb drive three races ago in Austria, been very competitive at Silverstone, before following it up with a fine win in the wet at Hockenheim, he is on a roll of good form ahead of F1 adjourning for a one-month break.
It continues a strong and very consistent opening to the season for Verstappen, who is third in the standings, 63 points behind Hamilton and 21 in front of Vettel.
He has come close to pole before, but this time pulled off exactly what was required against stiff competition.
Red Bull will also be immensely pleased that they have managed to perform on a track which they had targeted as playing to the aerodynamic strengths of their car.
Verstappen will hope to take advantage today, and Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes that they are poised to "sign off in the summer break with a good result".
He added: "Max was on fire this afternoon and he was quickest in pretty much every section.
"All credit to Honda. We couldn't do this without them, it's great for them and a great team effort.
"Progress (with the car) is being made in all areas, the power unit and chassis are working well."
F1 HUNGARIAN GP
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