Daniel Ricciardo has immediately shown his potential by lifting new team AlphaTauri to its best qualifying position in four races and besting teammate Yuki Tsunoda in qualifying for the Hungary GP.
Back in F1 as replacement for the luckless Nyck de Vries, Ricciardo squeezed into Q2 and will start 13th on the grid behind pole-setter Lewis Hamilton.
Ricciardo’s effort was hailed by fans as Tsunoda qualified 17th and under-fire Sergio Perez – the man many want the Aussie to replace next – could only manage ninth in his Red Bull.
“He’s done a great job,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said of Ricciardo. “He’s in a very foreign environment after seven months out of a seat, (so) it was a really solid, mature performance from him today and the team will really benefit from his experience and knowledge.”
“You can see he’s really enjoying it,” Horner added.
“It just felt fun again and that was really what I was looking for,” Ricciardo said.
The 34-year-old said he stayed up a little late watching the Netflix series Quarterback, which follows American football players Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota through the 2022 season, on the night before the qualifying session.
But it had left him primed to perform. “Watching that got me ready to go,” he said.
Asked if a top 10 finish was achievable in Sunday night’s race, Ricciardo said: “It’s really hard for me to say because I’ve only done an eight-lap long run at the moment. I really don’t know enough about (how) this car (will perform) with fuel, as the tyres get old … that’s where I’m going to discover more things with the car.”
Hamilton claimed his first pole position since 2021 after edging Max Verstappen with the quickest time.
The seven-time world champion ended a barren run stretching back 33 races by claiming a record-increasing 104th pole of his career and his record ninth at the Hungaroring circuit.
His success with a last-gasp lap was greeted with cheers by the crowd and ended defending double world champion Verstappen’s run of five straight poles for Red Bull.
“I didn’t expect this, for us to be fighting for pole position here this weekend,” said a hoarse and emotional Hamilton, who had described his car as being “at its worst” on Friday.
“But hats off to the team. They’ve done a fantastic job,” added Hamilton, back on the front of the grid for the first time since the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 2021.
The Briton outpaced Verstappen by just 0.003 seconds in a thrilling conclusion to their contest.
Verstappen, whose Red Bull car ran with an updates package, was disappointed. “We’ve not been on it so far this weekend,” he said.
But with a 99-point lead ahead of teammate Perez in the title race, Verstappen could afford a rare off day.
Lando Norris was third ahead of his McLaren teammate Oscar Piastri, Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with Valtteri Bottas taking seventh for Alfa Romeo.
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso was eighth for Aston Martin ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, back in the top-ten shootout for the first time in six outings, and Nico Hulkenberg of Haas.
The session began in warm sunshine with an air temperature of 27C with the teams busy calculating their options for tyre strategy on a circuit known for high attrition rates.
The introduction of F1’s new Alternative Tyre Allocation had reduced supplies to drivers and ensured that the first qualifying session was run using only hard compound, Q2 only mediums and softs for the top 10 shootout – another puzzle for them to solve.
Hamilton’s teammate George Russell, pole-man last year, failed to make it out of the first qualifying session, blaming heavy traffic for his elimination.
His comments on team radio were muted out by broadcasters.
Russell, disappointed by his early exit and 18th place on Sunday’s grid, blamed poor preparation and timing for his lap.
He said: “We got punished … We were fast and the car felt great, but we were out of synch for the whole session.
“I’m really disappointed. We didn’t need to take so many risks – you get what you deserve if you don’t do things right.”
Out with Russell went Williams’ Logan Sargeant, who was 20th, Haas’s Kevin Magnussen, Tsunoda and Williams’ Alex Albon.
The ‘mediums’ second qualifying segment began with Perez quickly on top only to be overhauled by Verstappen whose lap was promptly deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn Five.
This gave McLaren their chance to shine and Norris and Piastri rose to first and second while Zhou Guanyu, fastest in Q1, rose to sixth, showing just how open the competition had become.
With Verstappen 15th, Red Bull sent him out alone for another run which resulted in a cautious lap for P2 with two minutes remaining.
In a furious final flurry, Sainz, who started second for Ferrari last year, was knocked out in 12th along with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Ricciardo, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Pierre Galsly in the second Alpine.
Perez began the final session but he was quickly topped by Norris and then Alonso, who went second, before Verstappen and Hamilton took over in P1 and P2 on their first hot runs ahead of a tense finale.
– with AFP