Having tasted so much success throughout his Formula 1 career, there would seem to be very little that Lewis Hamilton can do that one may consider a surprise.

But for the second time in six days, Hamilton did exactly that, grabbing pole position in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix when it seemed all hope of beating the Ferraris over one lap was gone.

Hungarian GP - Best Moments

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Hamilton took a crucial victory at Hockenheim in the wet last Sunday, recovering from 14th on the grid to move back into the lead of the drivers' championship as title rival Sebastian Vettel crashed out while comfortably ahead of the field. And in Hungary, the rain once again shook up proceedings, giving Hamilton the upper-hand.

Friday's practice running had made for bad reading at Mercedes, which seemed to be the third-fastest team. Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas had finished fifth and sixth in both sessions, both a decent chunk of time adrift from the Red Bulls and Ferraris ahead. While there was a recovery of sorts in FP3 on Saturday morning - Bottas finished the session second, less than a tenth behind pace-setter Vettel - it was still expected that Ferrari would run away with it at the crunch point in Q3.

Rain has always been F1's great leveller, and so it proved to be once again through the most exciting qualifying session of the season. Light sprinkles at the start of Q1 prompted the field to head out on Intermediates before realising the slick compounds would still hold up, with drivers gaining more and more time with every lap that passed.

Q2 saw the rain still hover, but the majority of runners still felt the slicks would hold up. Ferrari immediately sent Sebastian Vettel out on Intermediates in a move that could have easily backfired, but it instead proved to be inspired. Vettel was the only driver who could keep his car on-track, allowing him to set a time that no-one would get within two seconds of. After sliding around on slicks and returning to the pits, the rest of the field tried getting in a lap as soon as they could. For the likes of Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo, the growing rain intensity meant they could not improve on their first timed efforts, causing them both to drop out in Q2.

Heading into Q3, Hamilton and Mercedes would have been looking at the sky sensing an opportunity. The strength of the Ferrari package meant pole in the dry was always out of reach for the Silver Arrows - but in the wet? It was on.

All of the drivers headed out early on the Wet compound tyre knowing they would gain more and more time as the session wore on. Even from the early sector times, Hamilton and Bottas seemed to have a step on the rest of the field, with Vettel and Ferrari looking like they were on the back foot.

Vettel managed to recover slightly, but it was his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, who became Ferrari's best bet for pole. Armed with a fresh set of Wets, his lap of 1m36.186s was enough to put him four-tenths clear of Hamilton, raising hopes of a first pole since Monaco last year. Yet both Mercedes drivers would spoil his parade and dash the hopes of the Finnish fans who'd made the trip down for the weekend, locking out the front row of the grid, led by Hamilton on a best lap of 1m35.658s.

"We started out with a large part of the track dry and making the right calls, getting the timing perfect and spot on in these conditions is everything," Hamilton explained.

"Maybe you’re a minute too early and you’re on a worse track, or you’re a minute too late and it’s raining more on the track or something like that, so it’s very difficult out there.

"To get a one-two particularly when we know that we were not going to be getting pole here in the dry conditions, the Ferraris were just too fast, but we were just focused on trying to do the best job we could and maybe lock out the second row.

"For the heavens to open and for us to be in this position is such a blessing for all of us and we don’t take the opportunity for granted. We’re going to work hard together as a team to try to keep the red behind us."

Keeping the red behind will be the big challenge for Mercedes on Sunday, though. Ferrari's pace on Friday was massively impressive, as was its tyre management. Hamilton bemoaned the way his rear tyres were overheating, leaving him to fear a "train race" offering little on-track action. Right now though, that's probably his best bet of winning in Hungary on Sunday.

"Getting through the stint is going to be key, not going over the temperature limits that we have been facing," Hamilton said. "It’s going to be close. I can’t really tell you what’s going to happen. Just got to get our heads down and keep trying to pull away."

The start will be crucial. If the Mercedes can hold position and keep the Ferraris back, then it will have a good grip on the race at the front. The freedom of tyre choice also works in its favour, perhaps allowing the team to make use of its favoured Medium-compound tyre with greater ease. That said, if the Ferraris can keep pace and extend their stints longer than Mercedes, they could be able to get the jump through the pit stops.

Hamilton's wet-weather heroics today should not be downplayed, but Ferrari still looks to be the team to beat in Hungary. Alas, with rain being the great leveller it is, it may have set the stage for a tight battle between the leading teams on Sunday.

And given how practice went, that really would be a surprise.

 

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