Three-time winner at Hungary Lewis Hamilton came good once again at just the right moment on Saturday, securing his third pole position in as many races and the 30th of his F1 Grand Prix career by pipping what had appeared to be a dominating lap by championship leader Sebastian Vettel.
Mercedes had clearly been biding their time in the run up to qualifying at the Hungaroring, not looking particularly strong in the free practice sessions. But the minute that Hamilton and his team mate Nico Rosberg were called into action in qualifying they were able to immediately get up to speed and show they were well up to the challenge of Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Lotus F1's Romain Grosjean who would have been forgiven for expecting to slug it out for pole coming into the session.
At the start of Q1 it was no surprise that Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez was the first man out of pit lane for a much-needed shakedown. having suffered from engine problems in the morning that had left him unable to run in Free Practice 3. He took advantage of the clear track to post a time of 1:23.998s, and once he was done the rest of the field started to emerge led by Force India's Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta along with Williams duo Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado.
The front runers were all trying to stay cool in their garages, and it wasn't until the second half of the 20 minute Q1 session that the pace started to hot up to match the skyrocketing track temperatures which topped 50C, with all the drivers streaming out on the soft compound tyres for effectively their one and only qualifying lap in the first round.
Lotus F1's Romain Grosjean picked up in qualifying where he'd left off in FP3 by going straight to the top of the timesheets with a lap of 1:20.447s, two tenths faster than Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes held out until the last minute before making their appearances out on track, putting them at rick of getting catastrophically caught out should there be an incident bringing out local waved yellows. Fortunately non materialised, although Mark Webber had a drama of his own with yet another KERS and gearbox problem on his RB9 that left him off the pace and at risk of failing to make the cut-off point for Q2.
No such problems for Mercedes, who finally showed their true form at the Hungaroring with Nico Rosberg immediately going top with a lap of 1:20.350s, a slender 0.013s faster than his team mate Lewis Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel settled for fourth place, splitting Grosjean and Alonso in the process and looking safely through to the next round.
Meanwhile his team mate's blushes were spared when the final laps of the session failed to deliver the necessary improvements, Paul di Resta in particular having an ugly time of it on the soft compounds and failing to improve on 18th place - another dreadful time of it in qualifying for the Scot, who was spluttering in disbelief over the team radio when told that he'd been eliminated along with Gutiérrez and the usual crowd of Caterhams and Marussias who all cleared the mandatory 107 per cent time of 1:25.974s by a good two seconds.
The preliminaries over and done with, now things got serious in Q2 with everyone on the soft compounds straight away. The two Lotus cars initially went fastest, Grosjean once again blasting away his team mate Kimi Raikkonen's time with a lap of 1:20.442s proving to be half a second faster than the Finn. Lewis Hamilton haves a little off that time, but it was Sebastian Vettel who delivered the game changer with a stunning time of 1m19.992s, the first driver to dip under the 80s mark so far this weekend. Both Lotus cars upped their games to slot into second and third place, even though their positions in Q3 were already looking reasonably secure.