George Russell stormed to a maiden Formula 1 career pole for the Hungarian Grand Prix, after the Mercedes driver sensationally came from nowhere to pip Ferrari's Carlos Sainz to the top spot by 0.044s.
Charles Leclerc will have to start tomorrow's race from the second row alongside McLaren's Lando Norris, with Alpine's Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso locking out the third row.
But championship leader Max Verstappen suffered a power unit issue on his final run in Q3 and ended up only tenth on the grid, while Lewis Hamilton also had to abort his last hot lap due to a DRS issue leaving him lining up in P7.
After a wet final practice unexpectedly topped by Williams' Nicholas Latifi, the rain had moved on and the track given the chance to dry out before the lights went green at the end of pit lane to get the first round of qualifying at the Hungaroring underway. While the clouds overhead were still looking ominous, the official forecast suggested a low chance of any resurgence of significant rain as the cars headed out on soft slick tyres.
Q1: Hamilton and Russell go quickest as Vettel and Gasly miss the cut
Perhaps with half an eye on the gloomy sky, Haas' Kevin Magnussen and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda were quick to hit the track and get some times in the books. Also swift to head out was Sebastian Vettel, the Aston Martin crew having successfully made quick repairs to the car after he slid out and triggered a red flag late in the rain-hit FP3.
Magnussen was briefly quickest but soon ousted by Lance Stroll as the lap times came thick and fast. Lewis Hamilton went to the top, but his time was seven tenths slower than Max Verstappen's first flier in the Red Bull that clocked in at 1:19.020s. Traffic meant that drivers were soon having problems finding enough space to complete a clear run, and track limits messages were soon spewing fast and furious from race control with drivers losing track times for straying too far afield - including Haas' Mick Schumacher, who was left without a representative offering at the bottom of the timesheets as a result.
Verstappen improved to 1:18.792s to keep him 0.326s clear of his team mate Sergio Perez followed by Mercedes' George Russell, with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz slotting into fourth ahead of Lando Norris and Valtteri Bottas. Charles Leclerc's first effort was a rather anaemic tenth, and it looked like the team was eyeing a possible slipstream again this weekend as the two swapped positions before starting out on their second push laps.
Meanwhile Norris had found more time to split the two Red Bulls, proving that McLaren's Friday practice pace had been no fluke. But Verstappen pushed on to 1:18.509s which was enough to keep him out of reach of the latest laps from Sainz and Leclerc, with Hamilton moving to fourth ahead of Norris, Russell and Perez. At the other end of the times, Magnussen was on the bubble and at risk of being pushed into the bottom five where Zhou Guanyu, Nicholas Latifi, Vettel, Tsunoda and Schumacher were already at risk of elimination.
Both Haas drivers put in much better laps to propel themselves out of danger and into the top ten, and Zhou likewise found impressive form to jump into fifth place in the Alfa Romeo. Latifi was also able to go faster but only to 15th, backing his Williams team mate Alex Albon into the drop zone along with Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Ocon, Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda in a very fluid, fast-changing situation. There was now just a minute left on the clock, still time for one more run before the chequered flag.
Somewhat against expectations, Hamilton then shot to the top with a time of 1:18.374s with his Mercedes team mate Russell just 0.033s behind. Sainz also improved to third ahead of Verstappen, with Norris now up to fifth in front of Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo. Leclerc finished only eighth ahead of the latest improved laps from Ocon and Bottas. Perez had cut it fine to make it through in 13th while Stroll survived in 15th, leaving Yuki Tsunoda just failing to claw his way to safety which meant he was consigned to the sidelines along with Alex Albon, Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly and Nicholas Latifi.
Q2: Verstappen and Leclerc back on top as Perez fails to progress
Haas and Ferrari ushered their drivers out as soon as the lights went green for Q2, but it was Mercedes who succeeded in taking first blood with Russell's 1:18.883s proving a tenth and a half quicker than Hamilton. The Ferraris then took over the top two spots only to be pushed aside by another impressive effort from Norris with a lap of 1:18.121s. Then it was the turn of the Red Bulls to show what they could do, Verstappen punching in a time of 1:17.703s to go top by four tenths while Perez' lap was good enough for third - until it was deleted for track limits. Leclerc and Sainz then managed to improve, but they were only third and fourth and a full second off Verstappen's benchmark.
Alpine were also looking fast, Alonso jumping into second and Ocon fourth. After its morning soaking, the track was clearly evolving with more rubber going down with every completed lap: now it was time for the McLarens to fly with Norris third ahead of Ricciardo, and Zhou also jumping up to fifth ahead of Ocon, Leclerc, Bottas and Sainz. It meant that the two Mercedes had been pushed all the way back to straddle the cut line, and Perez was still to set a time after his earlier track limits violation.
Hamilton found clear track for his next run which put him third, with Russell slotting in between the two McLaren cars in fifth. Then it was Leclerc's time to respond and he missed out on the top spot by 0.065s, with Sainz moving briskly up to fourth moments later. Perez was also back in the top ten after race control had reinstated his earlier lap, which was just as well as his latest run wasn't quick and left him in ninth, now perilously close to missing the cut for the final top ten shoot-out round.
No one outside the top six could be feeling entirely comfortable as the drivers embarked on their final hot laps, but it seemed that the track was cooling off and improvements were harder to come by. However Bottas and Ocon managed to do so, pushing Perez out of the top ten and out of qualifying along with Zhou, Magnussen, Stroll and Schumacher. Perez blamed Magnussen for blocking him on his final flying lap, but the race stewards saw no reason to take action with both drivers having missed the cut.
Q3: Russell steals pole from Sainz and Leclerc as Verstappen falters
The wind had picked up and the clouds were still looking very threatening, and there had been reports of spots of rain at the end of Q2. But there was still no precipitation of note as Q3 got underway, with Ocon first to get to work followed by Ricciardo. Verstappen was feeling confident enough to hold back and was the last to set out.
Ocon's time of 1:18.890s was almost half a second ahead of Ricciardo, but both were far off the subsequent times set by the Ferraris, with Sainz almost half a second clear of Leclerc and Hamilton in third. Russell was able to split the Ferraris to go second, but Verstappen's first push ended in a lock-up going through turn 2 leaving him slower than Alonso and Norris in seventh as the cars headed back to pit lane for a final set of softs in readiness for their last efforts.
Verstappen was still on his out lap when he came over the Red Bull team radio to exclaim "I have no power!", with his race engineer suggesting a settings change to address what was hopefully just a faulty sensor. "Nothing works!", Verstappen reported as he continued to limp around n the vain hope that the problem might resolve itself.
Meanwhile the Ferraris were flying, Sainz improving to 1:17.421s to stay a tenth ahead of Leclerc's latest time. But out of nowhere, a flash of silver confounded expectations - and it was Russell who had successfully come out of nowhere to snatch his first career F1 pole position by 0.044s at the last minute. He will have Sainz alongside him on the front row, with Leclerc and Norris right behind when the lights go out for the start of Sunday's race.
Ocon and Alonso made it an all-Alpine third row, with Hamilton aborting his final run because of a problem with his DRS which left him in seventh on the grid putting him alongside his old team mate Bottas. Ricciardo set to start from ninth after Verstappen's power issues couldn't be sorted out in time.