BUDAPEST: Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton celebrated a record-extending and “surreal” 90th career pole position yesterday after a dominant Mercedes one-two in Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying.
Championship-leading team mate Valtteri Bottas will start alongside the Briton today, with the Mercedes-powered Racing Point cars of Canadian Lance Stroll and Mexican Sergio Perez third and fourth.
Hamilton is favourite to triumph for the eighth time at the Hungaroring and equal a record for most wins at the same grand prix held by retired Ferrari great Michael Schumacher, who won eight times in France.
The pole was his seventh in Hungary, equalling Schumacher’s record for that race, and his Mercedes again looked to be in a class of its own after the team won the opening two rounds in Austria.
“Hungary’s always been a good hunting ground for me but also I’m aware that qualifying isn’t everything here,” said Hamilton, who lapped with a track record time of one minute 13.447 seconds, 0.107 faster than Bottas.
The six-times world champion said he had not realised immediately the significance of a pole that leaves him 22 ahead of Schumacher, the next best qualifier in the history of the sport.
“It feels very, very surreal...it doesn’t seem real to have 90 poles,” declared the 35-year-old, who also has 25 more than his Brazilian boyhood idol Ayrton Senna managed in his F1 career.
Bottas hailed Hamilton for another great job but hoped to reverse the positions today.
“It’s going to be a bit of a drag race into Turn One between us tomorrow, so I look forward to that; the first lap will definitely be interesting,” he said.
Perez was quicker than Stroll in final practice but the Canadian got the lap that mattered and looked forward to a strong race in the ‘pink Mercedes’, a controversial car very similar to last year’s title-winning Mercedes and under protest by Renault.
The Ferraris followed the two-by-two team trend, with Sebastian Vettel lining up fifth and Charles Leclerc qualifying sixth – a positive after a tough afternoon in Austria last weekend where they collided in the Styrian Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, on pole last year, could only qualify seventh and ahead of the McLaren pair of Lando Norris – third in the championship – and Carlos Sainz.
Former champions Williams, who finished last overall in 2019, had something to cheer with both their cars through to the second phase of qualifying for the first time since September 2018. George Russell ended up 12th, and ahead of Red Bull’s Alex Albon, with rookie team mate Nicholas Latifi 15th.