Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton shrugged off boos and accusations of gamesmanship to secure the 101st pole position of his career on Saturday as he defied the heat and championship rival Max Verstappen to set the quickest lap in qualifying for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who is aiming for his 100th Grand Prix victory and his ninth in Hungary, will be joined on the front row by Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas with Verstappen starting third alongside his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.
Hamilton brushed off the boos that came from a section of Verstappen supporters during the post-qualifying interviews.
“I have never felt so great with the booing,” Hamilton said. “If anything it just fuels me, so I don’t really mind it.
He also rejected suggestions of gamesmanship when his slow out lap at the end of the session prevented Perez from getting in a second fast lap.
“I was not playing any tactics, I don’t need to, I know what I’m doing in the car and am fast enough,” he said at a testy press conference.
“Those making the comments do not know about the job that we’re doing, which is why they are not driving.”
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris of McLaren took the third row of the grid with the Ferrari of Charles LeClerc, the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, and Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin rounding out the top 10.
Hamilton, who began the weekend eight points behind Verstappen in the championship, was quickest during the final practice session on Saturday morning.
However, the Briton bided his time in the afternoon and, unlike his rivals, stuck to the longer-wearing medium tyres in P2 which saw him land just the sixth-quickest time.
Switching to the softs for P3 he produced a blistering lap of 1min 15.419sec, over three-tenths of a second faster than Bottas, who had also used the mediums.
“It was an amazing qualifying lap and it has been amazing teamwork from everyone, Valtteri included, trying to push the car forward,” said Hamilton.
“The guys at the factory have left no stone unturned.
“The soft tyre is worth something like five metres into turn one. It was surprising to see everyone in the top 10 on the softs apart from us.”
Verstappen, who crashed out of the last race at Silverstone after a first lap collision with Hamilton, had to make do with third, 0.106secs behind Bottas.
“The whole weekend we’ve been a bit behind and it showed in qualifying,” said the Dutchman who has now made a remarkable 20 consecutive top three qualifications.
“It’s not what we want but we’re still there in P3 and will see what we can do.
“It’s going to be really hot so a soft tyre will not last as long as the mediums but we should be good off the line.”
The Hungarian GP is the last before the summer break with racing resuming at Spa for the Belgian GP on August 29.