Mercedes’ George Russell has claimed the first pole position of his career but it’s also clear McLaren’s step forward was no fluke.
Lando Norris will start from fourth on the second row of the grid, while Daniel Ricciardo will start back in ninth.
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It comes after Friday’s practice sessions which saw both McLaren’s in the top five times and seemingly finding more than they have in recent races.
While ninth is not often something to write home about, it was just the fifth time this season Ricciardo has made it to the final round of qualifying and the third time in the last nine races.
His last Q3 had been Canada, four race weekends ago.
Ricciardo’s qualifying struggles are well documented and while he lamented not finishing higher, he was feeling more comfortable about McLaren’s upgrades as McLaren’s battle with Alpine heats up.
“I definitely feel a bit better with the car,” Ricciardo said.
“Q3 I wasn’t happy with, so I’m still unfortunately looking for a good lap in quali, just put it all together.
“But actually I felt like the session, Q1 and 2 wasn’t too bad, I felt like we were in a decent spot to give a good run in Q3.
“Then, yeah, we just lost a little bit through that lap progressively, really from the start.
“So still not a lap where I’m stoked, but I think there is … certainly this weekend has been a weekend where we felt pretty good with the car.
“We’ve kind of, certainly, hit the ground running and we’ve been like a top 10 car all weekend – a solid top 10 car.
“So for that, obviously ninth is not where I want to be, but certainly being able to lean on the car more, push, and kind of be more on top of it, I think that’s consistently been a bit better this weekend.
“Obviously Q3, when you put everything into it, I still didn’t quite get it together.
“I want to say like unfortunately still some stuff to sort out and work on, but there is like surface stuff, but I think below the surface there is some good things, and positives.”
Norris was also happy with his position and seeing the positives, joking great mate and fellow Brit Russell had taken some of the gloss off the performance.
“It’s a very good day for us,” Norris told Sky F1. “A little bit disappointed – George takes a bit of my glory away! But I’m very happy for him, his first pole in Formula 1, so congrats to him.
“But a strong day, ahead of the guys we want to be ahead of. P4 is very strong for us on a track that’s not easy to overtake on and I hope that’s the case tomorrow.
“Not far off pole. Considering where we were at the beginning of the season, I’m very happy with that.”
Russell stunned the grid and claimed pole ahead of Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.
Bizarrely, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was way off the pace and will start 10th alongside Ricciardo.
Russell’s first pole in his 73rd Grand Prix was also Mercedes’s first since last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
“I’m over the moon – absolutely buzzing,” said Russell. “The lap time kept coming to me and it was an incredible feeling when I cross the line and saw P1.
“Yesterday was probably our worst Friday of the season and last night everyone worked so hard. We were still here at 11 pm and not sure what direction to go in.”
Sainz was quick to congratulate his Mercedes rival.
“George must have produced a pretty good lap,” he said while Leclerc took consolation from knowing Verstappen would start 10th while he was third on the grid.
After a rain-hit final practice session earlier in the day, qualifying began in dry conditions with some sunshine – and every driver emerging quickly on soft tyres to take advantage of the improved weather.
Hungarian Grand Prix Grid
1st row: George Russell (Mercedes) – Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
2nd row: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – Lando Norris (McLaren)
3rd row: Esteban Ocon (Alpine) – Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
4th row: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
5th row: Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
6th row: Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo)
7th row: Kevin Magnussen (Haas) – Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
8th row: Mick Schumacher (Haas) – Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
9th row: Alexander Albon (Williams) – Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
10th row: Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) – Nicholas Latifi (Williams)