Hamilton takes pole in Hungary as he aims for 100th F1 win

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - NOVEMBER 29: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on November 29, 2020 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Lewis Hamilton’s 101st pole position in Formula One snapped a six-race barren run and set him up perfectly for a shot at a 100th career win in the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The British driver holds F1 records for wins and poles and has a record eight wins at the Hungarian GP, including the last three.

While Silverstone is his home track — he has also won there eight times — Hamilton feels right at home at the Hungaroring.

He first won here in 2007, just the third win in his glittering career. His first Mercedes win in 2013 was also on this sunlit track, set amid the rolling hills and countryside of Mogyorod about 20 kilometers (12 1/2 miles) from Budapest.

Hamilton had not been on pole since the Spanish GP in early May. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took the next two poles and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen clinched four in a row as he soared ahead in the championship.

But Hamilton’s controversial victory two weeks ago at the British GP trimmed Verstappen’s lead from 33 points to eight. Hamilton could even move ahead in the final race before the midseason break.

Hamilton, who was .315 seconds ahead of Bottas and .421 clear of Verstappen in third place, was in a musical mood.

“I just had the song ‘YMCA’ in my head the whole time,” Hamilton said afterward, laughing in reference to the Village People’s cheesy 1970s anthem. “No idea why, but it’s a great song.”

“It was an amazing qualifying lap,” Hamilton said on track as some sections of the crowd jeered him, perhaps because he was ruled at fault for the crash which sent Verstappen out of the British GP.

Hamilton did not let it bother him.

“It’s sport, right? And people act wild. I don’t take it to heart,” he said. “I must be doing something right to be up front.”

But Bottas was upset by those booing his teammate, saying, “These people need to question themselves, it’s not right.”

Verstappen, who leads Hamilton 5-4 for wins and 5-3 for poles, said it was “not correct” but drivers should be immune to it.

“We shouldn’t get disturbed by these kind of things,” he said. “It’s not nice but it shouldn’t influence us.”

Yet, moments later, he was disturbed by a question in the news conference about the first-lap crash last week at Silverstone.

Interrupting the conference host’s question mid-sentence, Verstappen said “Can we stop about this?” He then used several expletives in an angry outburst, two days after talking at length about what he called Hamilton’s “disrespectful” victory celebrations at Silverstone.

His teammate Sergio Perez placed fourth.

Verstappen led Q1 — the first section of qualifying — from Hamilton and Q2 from Norris. The orange-shirted Dutch fans in one section of the main grandstand roared every time he zoomed past.

But Hamilton and Bottas were quicker than Verstappen on their first runs in Q3.

Pole could prove crucial given that the sinewy and tight 4.4-kilometer (2.7-mile) circuit is arguably the hardest track to overtake on after Monaco.

About halfway through Q2, Carlos Sainz Jr. lost the rear of his Ferrari and slid off into a wall. The front wing dropped under the front tires. The Spaniard will start from a lowly 15th on Sunday.

Leclerc qualified in seventh behind Norris and AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly.

Mick Schumacher starts from 20th and last place. He sat out qualifying after crashing in the final practice and his Haas team was unable to repair his car in time.

Earlier, Hamilton clocked the fastest time in the third and final practice, followed by Verstappen and Bottas.

The session was interrupted with about 15 minutes left when Schumacher — son of seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher — flew off track into a tire wall. He was unharmed but damaged the left side and lost the front wing on his Haas car, which was taken off track by a crane.

There was a near miss in the pit lane shortly after as Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi pulled out of the garage just as Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was coming past. Stroll slightly clipped the front wing of Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo but there was no damage.

On Friday, Verstappen topped the first practice and Bottas led the second one.

Following Hungary, the season will resume on Aug. 29 at the Belgian GP in Spa.