Nico Rosberg took pole position in qualifying for today’s Hungarian Grand Prix after fate dealt team-mate and title rival Lewis Hamilton’s championship prospects yet another cruel blow.
Rosberg lapped the 4.3 kilometer long Hungaroring circuit on the outskirts of Budapest in one minute 22.715 seconds to take his fifth pole in six races.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was forced to park up with the rear of his Mercedes on fire just five minutes into the opening 18-minute session, without having set a time.
As a result, he starts on the back row of the grid in 21st, one place ahead of Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado who also stopped without setting a time.
Hamilton, trailing Rosberg by 14 points in the championship despite having won five races to the German’s four, arrived in Budapest hoping to put an end to the run of misfortune that has hampered his campaign so far.
The former world champion, who has won at the Hungaroring four times in seven appearances, had led Rosberg in all the three practice sessions leading up to qualifying and headed into the weekend as the pre-race favourite.
Instead, for the second time in as many weeks, the former world champion was left to trudge back to his garage, his head bent, just minutes into the hour-long session.
Red Bull’s reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel set the second-fastest time, nearly half a second down on Rosberg’s benchmark, while Williams Valtteri Bottas put himself on course to score his fourth-straight podium by going third.
Raikkonen struggles again
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth in the second Red Bull, failing to out-qualify his reigning world champion team-mate for only the fourth time out of eleven races this season.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who took his maiden Formula One win in Hungary, was fifth.
Alonso’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen’s struggles continued as the Finn failed to make it beyond the opening session for the second time in three races.
Ironically, it was Ferrari protégé Jules Bianchi, driving a back-of-the-grid Marussia who knocked out the former world champion.
Bianchi, a member of Ferrari’s young driver academy, has been tipped as being one of the candidates to replace Raikkonen should the disgruntled champion throw in the towel.
Felipe Massa was unable to match his team-mate’s pace and will start sixth ahead of Toro Rosso’ Jean-Eric Vergne, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Final dose of drama
Hamilton’s early qualifying exit may have smoothed Rosberg’s road to pole but it was by no means a straight forward session for the championship leader.
A final dose of drama was introduced to an already dramatic qualifying hour when rain began to fall just before the start of the final 12-minute pole-position shootout.
With the track not damp enough for wet weather tyres all runners chose to attempt a run on dry-weather rubber.
But with the track greasy, if not completely wet, Mclaren’s Kevin Magnussen locked up under braking for the first corner and, losing control of his car, smacked into the barriers.
The collision brought out the red flags with ten minutes of the final pole-position shootout still to run.
The session resumed after an eight-minute halt but with the brief drizzle having passed and the track dry once more, Rosberg was able to secure pole.