"I was really surprised when the guys told me over the radio that I was on pole today," Lewis Hamilton admitted after clinching the top spot at the climax of a nail-biting qualifying session at the Hungaroring on Saturday.

A few minutes earlier, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel had pulled out the best time of the weekend so far when he posted a lap of 1:19.506s at the very start of Q3, and it seemed that he'd thrown down a challenge to the other drivers that no one would be able to match. Even Hamilton thought it was just too good to beat, even after his put in his own final flier a few minutes later.

"It was a good lap but I thought Sebastian had done enough," Hamilton said. "So it's fantastic - and also to get three pole positions in a row," he added, adding to a run of qualifying success that extends back through the British and German Grand Prix races and also giving him hi 30th Grand Prix career pole.

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However, as Hamilton is all too well aware form his experiences last time out at the Nurburgring, getting pole and keeping it when the lights go out are two very different things.

"It's great to start from the front but, like we know, the race is where we score the points," he said. "Looking to tomorrow, this is a tough circuit to overtake on but it's also a long run down to the first corner, and both Seb and the Lotus cars will be really quick.

"We have a good car but the race will come down to how we use the tyres," he added. "We are working hard to improve in that area and we had some reasonable long runs yesterday. We'll have to see how it goes because it's going to be tough in these high temperatures."

Track temperatures peaked at 50C on Saturday and are expected to climb even higher on Sunday - air temperatures for the race are forecast to exceed 40C (104F) which will make it a demanding physically test of both driver and car - and of course the tyres.

Hamilton says he's looking forward to it: "I would love to have a real race with the guys around me, a proper battle, and the goal has to be to collect as many points as we can."

While Vettel will start alongside Hamilton on Sunday, his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg will be one row back in fourth place, slightly disappointing for the German after he paced both Q1 and Q2 earlier in the session.

"Qualifying did not go perfectly for me at the end, it didn't help that my brake balance adjuster got stuck, so I couldn't change it around the lap," he explained. "That cost me a little, but the pole wasn't possible today."

Even so, he was happy with how the car had performed on Saturday: "Our speed was a bit of a surprise today as the car set-up work was focused on good race pace this weekend," he said. "But it worked quite well in the hot temperatures. It's great for the team to be starting from fourth and pole position, I hope we can have a good start even though I'm on the dirtier side of the grid."

Team principal Ross Brawn was thrilled - and himself looked slightly stunned - by the success of his drivers.

"Lewis put in an exceptional lap at the end of qualifying, it was a really impressive performance," he said. "Nico did a good job too, all the more so considering he had a small car problem halfway through the lap. And the great thing about our driver pairing is how they consistently push each other to new heights!"

Whether the two can work together at the start of the race on Sunday afternoon to carry through their qualifying success into race performance remains to be seen, however.