Daniel Ricciardo was the random name in the bottom seven after the opening phase of qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix, but it could just as easily have been world champion Sebastian Vettel as the German sank towards the Budapest 'drop zone'.

Ricciardo briefly escaped the pull of the trapdoor, but was in the pits at the end of the 20-minute session and powerless to prevent himself from being subsumed by improvements from Paul di Resta and Kamui Kobayashi, which ultimately relegated the Australian to 18th. The Toro Rosso drivers joins the Caterham, Marussia and HRT combinations in heading for the exit, but Heikki Kovalainen did not go quietly, having filled a place above the drop for some time, and ending the session just half a second from eliminating the biggest name of all.

Vettel was also off the track when the chequered flag fell, having been told by his Red Bull engineers that his time of 1min 22.948secs was good enough to see him through. It was a close call but the world champion, who had been third fastest in morning practice, escaped to fight again.

Friday pacesetter Lewis Hamilton ended the session on top, clocking 1min 21.794secs to lead the way from di Resta, an understeer-plagued Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, who defied predictions of a possible Q1 exit for Mercedes, and Fernando Alonso. Like di Resta, sixth-placed Sergio Perez and the following Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa appeared to use a set of the softer Pirellis to set their times.