Hungarian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton puts Mercedes on pole

Lewis Hamilton produced a stunning display in the rain
Lewis Hamilton produced a stunning display in the rain

Lewis Hamilton hopes his crushing qualifying defeat of Sebastian Vettel proves he is number one in this season's championship battle.

The Mercedes driver will line up on pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix after completing yet another chapter in his book of wet-weather masterclasses.

Hamilton took his fifth pole of the year with a scintillating lap to see off team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

Vettel, cast 17 points adrift of Hamilton after crashing out from the lead in Germany last weekend, will line up only fourth.

The evidence pointed towards Vettel taking pole, but he had no answer for Hamilton in the slippery conditions as he finished an eye-watering half-a-second adrift of his title rival.

Sky Bet make Hamilton an even-money chance to go on and win the race, with Vettel still considered his biggest threat at 2/1.

Does Hamilton's impressive display prove he is a better driver than Vettel?

"I know the answer to that question, but it is for the public to judge," the Briton replied. "All I can do is be the best I can be every single time I go out on to the track.

"The results will speak for themselves. I put all my energy into that. In such tricky conditions, and with so much pressure, the more days I have like this will hopefully change the mentality of fans who think one way, and shift them to the other. My social media following goes up by 100,000 every week so I am doing something right."

Lewis Hamilton produced a stunning display to secure pole
Lewis Hamilton salutes the crowd in Hungary

Dark clouds hovered above the 2.7-mile Hungaroring circuit before dramatic claps of thunder, and an ensuing downpour, created the first wet qualifying session since last September's Italian Grand Prix.

On that day, Hamilton crushed the opposition, finishing one second clear of his closest competitor, and, while his margin of victory was not as emphatic here, the result never appeared in doubt.

For every metre in which Hamilton revelled in the wet, Vettel, wounded by his Hockenheim crash just six days ago, appeared cautious, and he will now have his work cut out to stop Hamilton from establishing a greater championship lead.

"You get certain moments in life which you never get back," Hamilton added.

"On that last lap I thought it is now or never. I will have another chance to drive this track, but I will never be 33 again, and I will be in a different position next time. Everything you work towards is for that moment, so the amount of pressure I place on myself is huge.

"It was a very, very good lap, and I couldn't be happier. You are really tip-toeing around all the corners, like doing ballet. It is a shock as I was not expecting to be here, so I am very grateful."

Track position could prove crucial for Hamilton, with overtaking difficult at this slow-speed track.

Vettel, who topped two of the three practice sessions in normal conditions, said: "In the dry we were pretty much in control, so it wasn't meant to be. It is better if you start first, but we are focused on winning from fourth."

Carlos Sainz impressed for Renault to finish fifth. Daniel Ricciardo fell victim to the worsening conditions and lines up only 12th.

Indeed, Fernando Alonso was on hand to state just how wet the track had become when asked if he should stick to intermediate tyres or change to the full wet rubber.

"Put on whatever you like," he said. "Even if you put on a rocket ship we will [fail to improve on] 11th." That is where the double world champion, who turns 37 on Sunday, will start.

Hungarian GP podium

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 35.658secs
  2. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:35.918
  3. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:36.186

Remaining times: 4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:36.210, 5 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Renault 1:36.743, 6 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:37.591, 7 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:38.032, 8 Brendon Hartley (Nzl) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:38.128, 9 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:39.858, 10 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 1:40.593, 11 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 1:35.214, 12 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:36.442, 13 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:36.506, 14 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.075, 15 Lance Stroll Williams No Time, 16 Stoffel Vandoorne (Ned) McLaren 1:18.782, 17 Charles Leclerc (Can) Sauber-Ferrari 1:18.817, 18 Esteban Ocon Force India (Fra) 1:19.142, 19 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:19.200, 20 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 1:19.301

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