Friday afternoon qualifying at the Hungaroring for this weekend's GP2 feature race event was dominated by a drying track, which caused the times to tumble for much of the session and for the pole position to be undecided until the very last flying lap of the 30 minute session.
The unexpected brief but heavy shower that hit the circuit during F1 Free Practice 2 had left a damp track, although by the time of the GP2 qualifying session almost all of the standing water had evaporated off in the Hungarian heat and with the sun burning its way back through the clouds. The singular exception was turn 11, which was proving stubbornly waterlogged; but other parts were still in various stages of dampness, with conditions continuing to dry off over the course of the half hour session resulting in a slot machine feel to the timing screens.
The Barwa Addax duo of Johnny Cecotto Jr. and Josef Kral led just half a dozen cars out when the lights went green, all of them various compounds of slick tyres, but the majority of drivers waited to see what happened to the track conditions over the opening minutes - and to allow those early runners to carry out some drying duties on their behalf.
Cecotto's first flying lap was a successful 1:33.855s showing that the track was not far off being back to its morning pace, and he pushed that down to 1:31.885s next time around with the medium compound tyres more up to temperature, almost a second ahead of Trident's Julian Leal. That was enough to persuade the rest of the drivers that it was time to get to work by the time ten minutes had elapsed.
New boy Sergio Canamasas made an unexpected appearance at the top of the timesheets for Venezuela GP Lazarus with a lap of 1:31.150s, but Rio Haryanto soon bettered that with a 1:30.493s in the Carlin as the cars increasingly cleared a dry line around the Hungaroring.
DAMS' Davide Valsecchi cut another quarter of a second off that time with a lap of 1:30.240s with iSport's Marcus Ericsson slotting into second; his team mate Jolyon Palmer threatened to go faster still until he ran wide and was lucky not to lose the car completely as he returned to the track over the wet astroturf.
Almost every lap was an improvement as the session approached its midpoint, the order completely rewriting itself as Cecotto went top with a lap of 1:29.367s ahead of Kral, Luiz Razia, James Calado and Stephane Richelmi, but Valsecchi put in his riposte of 1:29.152s to control provisional pole once more. Better laps from Giedo van der Garde (second in the Caterham), Nigel Melker (fourth in the Ocean Racing machine) and Fabio Leimer (fifth in the Racing Engineering car) quickly pushed Kral down to sixth.
While Valsecchi and van der Garde took to the pits, James Calado took the opportunity to pull out a lap of 1:29.003s to go top while his Lotus GP team mate Esteban Gutiérrez went fourth a quarter of a second back before coming in themselves with a little over ten minutes of the session remaining.
Even with a whole sale switch to supersoft tyres it seemed as through there wasn't much more time to get out of the track, although with five minutes remaining Jolyon Palmer put in a flying lap to briefly displace Valsecchi from second place with a lap of 1:29.034s, until Valsecchi promptly struck back with a lap of 1:29.034s in response to ease back in front, still 0.031 off Calado's best time. Luiz Razia's best run looked set to go top until he lost time in the final sector with a minor lockup, meaning the Arden driver had to settle for fourth place.
It fell to Max Chilton - on the last flying lap of the day, over a minute after the chequered flag had come out - to finally set the fastest lap of the day with a time of 1:28.980s, a slender 0.023s ahead of Calado to claim pole for the first time in his GP2 career.
However, Calado will not be starting alongside him on the front row of the grid for the feature race: he had earlier incurred a two-place starting grid penalty for Saturday afternoon after he was deemed to have blocked Felipe Nasr in the morning practice session. A clearly unhappy Calado had posted some scathing comments about the decision on Twitter, before having second thoughts and quickly deleting them.
Chilton will instead find himself duelling with Valsecchi down to turn one in the race, while Calado will line up on the second row of the grid in fourth place alongside Jolyon Palmer. Luiz Razia and Giedo van der Garde start from the third row.
The 39-lap feature race 1 on Saturday afternoon is scheduled to get underway at 2.40pm after Grand Prix qualifying, and the Sunday morning 28-lap sprint race 2 at 9.35am. All sessions are scheduled to be shown live on Sky Sports F1
Full qualifying times