Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes will gang up on Max Verstappen to stop Formula One’s man of the moment winning Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Verstappen, 21, lines up from the front of the grid after claiming the first pole position of his career, edging out Valtteri Bottas by just 0.018 seconds. Hamilton finished third, two tenths back.
Verstappen wrapped up his maiden pole just six days after his sublime drive to victory in the rain at Hockenheim. He became F1’s 100th pole man in the sport’s 1,009th race.
The Red Bull star crossed the line first – his record-breaking lap greeted with huge cheers by the travelling orange army occupying the main grandstand – and despite late improvements by both Bottas and Hamilton, the Mercedes duo were unable to usurp the Dutchman.
It is notoriously difficult to make a passing move stick at the slow and twisty Hungaroring, but with Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly back in sixth, Hamilton hopes his emerging rival will be vulnerable.
“It is a little bit harder when you are on your own at the front because you can come under attack,” said Hamilton.
“We are in a good position in terms of working as a team. If we can hold on to Max, work together and pull him closer, we can give him a run for his money.
“We have got a long run down to turn one, so hopefully we will have a battle, and after that it will be about team tactics.”
Verstappen is in the form of his life, and heads into Sunday’s race bidding for his third win in four appearances.
He remains a rank outsider to win the championship, lying 63 points behind Hamilton in the standings with 10 rounds – including Sunday’s race, the concluding action before the summer break – left.
But his impressive form, and Red Bull’s resurgence, has provided a surprise sub-plot to Hamilton’s quest for a sixth world championship.
Indeed, a win for Verstappen here will certainly provide the Briton with food for thought during the imminent shutdown.
“It is good that people will stop asking the question about getting my first pole, but for me it never mattered,” said the Dutchman.
“I knew it was only a matter of time before it happened, and I needed a bit of luck, too. We are definitely closing the gap to Mercedes.”
Ferrari remain without a victory this season, and look to have fallen behind Red Bull in the pecking order. The duo of Charles Leclerc, who survived hitting the barriers at the final corner in Q1, and his team-mate Sebastian Vettel will start fourth and fifth respectively.
Behind the big three teams, British teenager Lando Norris finished as the best of the rest.
The 19-year-old has had the beating of McLaren team-mate Carlos Sainz all weekend here, and qualified one place ahead of the Spaniard.