Lewis Hamilton beat team-mate Valtteri Bottas to lead a Mercedes one-two in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Mercedes were in a league of their own – Hamilton beat Bottas by 0.181 seconds while Racing Point’s Lance Stroll in third was 0.93secs off the pace.
Stroll headed a Racing Point second row alongside team-mate Sergio Perez.
Ferrari locked out row three, Sebastian Vettel ahead of Charles Leclerc, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen seventh.
Lando Norris, third in the championship after two impressive opening races, was eighth for McLaren, while George Russell put in an impressive performance for the Williams team, recovering from a dismal 2019, in 12th.
Which way did they go?
It was a sobering day for Mercedes’ rivals – the world champions have now shown unbeatable pace across two very different circuits in the opening three races of the season.
Hamilton’s pole was the 90th of his career, and in the race on Sunday he will be going for a record-equalling eighth victory at one circuit.
“I have to pinch myself,” Hamilton said. “It just doesn’t register. It is quite humbling because I get to work with an incredible group of people without who I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so.
“Valtteri doesn’t make it easy for me at all and it requires absolute perfection when it comes doing laps and qualifying when it is like that is one of the things I enjoy most.
“The car was really nicely hooked up today.”
Bottas, who is six points ahead of Hamilton in the championship, said: “The last lap was really good. I just couldn’t go any faster.”
A Mercedes one-two-three-four?
The presence of the Racing Points on the second row emphasises their remarkable upturn in form this year, and will further antagonise their rivals who are suspicious of how they have done it.
The car has become known as the ‘pink Mercedes’ for its likeness to last year’s title-winning car and is racing under protest after Renault officially lodged an objection to the team after last week’s Styrian Grand Prix.
Regardless of the controversy over the car’s origins, which the team insist are legal, Stroll performed well to out-qualify team-mate Perez by 0.168secs and the pair are in a strong position to battle it out for the final podium position.
Like Mercedes, they managed to set their fastest times in second qualifying on the medium tyre, which they can now use to start the race, as long as it does not rain. Both teams believe this will be an advantage.
What on Earth’s wrong with Red Bull?
The third row was a step forward for Ferrari, whose previous best qualifying performance this year was Leclerc’s seventh in the first race.
But the stand-out result in the top 10 was Red Bull’s.
Verstappen started from pole in Hungary last year and challenged for the win, and Mercedes expected them to be tough opposition this weekend.
But not only was Verstappen 1.4secs off Hamilton’s pace, but he was also 0.3secs slower than his qualifying time last year.
The car appears to have an aerodynamic instability problem, and this weekend the team have reverted to an earlier nose design after introducing upgrades at the two Austrian races.
Verstappen said: “I don’t know why. Something is clearly not working here. The pace is all very close. We are also not starting on the best tyre, but we will see how we end up.”
Team-mate Alexander Albon was even worse off, 0.8secs off Verstappen in second qualifying and not even making it into the top 10, he qualified 13th.
That underlined the quality of Russell’s performance even further – the British rising star, who on Thursday said he would be staying at Williams in 2021, was 0.846secs quicker than rookie team-mate Nicholas Latifi.