Sebastian Vettel put in a blistering 1:19.815 to beat Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Having lost out to their rivals in Friday's practice sessions, Red Bull mechanics waived the FIA curfew and put in an all-night session to improve the car. Vettel paid them back by claiming pole position on Saturday afternoon with a 1:19.815. It is the reigning World Champion's eighth pole of the campaign but his first in three races.
Hamilton was bumped off the P1 slot by just 0.163s, however, he'll be delighted with his second successive front row grid slot. Jenson Button was third fastest ahead of Felipe Massa, who edged his team-mate Fernando Alonso for the first time this season. Alonso will start the Hungarian GP P5 alongside Mark Webber.
The strong sunshine of Free Practice 3 had been replaced by sunny intervals at the Hungaroring with an ambient temperature of 22C and the track at 28C.
Lewis Hamilton had made a last-minute change of brakes from Carbon Industry to Brembo after he failed to get his car stopped at the end of the start/finish straight in final practice - ruining his final run on the super-soft tyre.
Sebastian Vettel was out early to set a confidence-boosting P1 time of 1:22.387 while Jenson Button slotted into P2. Lewis Hamilton then re-set P1 at 1:21.636 after which Jenson Button reclaimed P2 from Vettel and then Vettel claimed it back again.
In fact in the early stages of the session, P3 was the most-traded position - Massa then took P3, Alonso took P3 off him and then Button took P3 off Alonso. Fernando had the last say in the matter by taking P1 with a 1:21.578 and pushing Button into P4.
The difference between the soft (Prime) and super-soft (Option) tyre was judged to be around 0.8 of a second at the Hungaroring and in the final stages of the session, the mid-grid teams went onto the red-walled super-softs. The new teams occupied the bottom six places with four minutes left to run, and the danger position of P18 was occupied by Sebastien Buemi. Ahead of him: 17.Heidfeld, 16.Perez, 15.Maldonado, 14.Kobayashi.
With Fernando Alonso having set the P1 time and none of the front-runners going out again, everyone was already inside the 107% time. Kobayashi improved to P10, Petrov then took P10 and then team-mate Nick Heidfeld jumped to P10 and safety (though no doubt some criticism from Eric Boullier).
Rubens was looking in trouble and finding it difficult to operate his KERS but jumped to P14. Kovalainen in the dying seconds of the session improved to beat his team-mate Jarno Trulli and take P19. Buemi, who was facing a 5-grid-place penalty after his accident with Heidfeld in Germany, improved to P17 but was then beaten by last man over the line Pastor Maldonado. Curiously Buemi looked to be going faster than the Williams driver on his last run but chose to return to the pits.
So out went: 18.Buemi, 19.Kovalainen, 20.Trulli, 21.Glock, 22.Liuzzi, 23.Ricciardo, 24.D'Ambrosio.
Again a Virgin car had been beaten by an HRT (rwo in fact) and though Trulli hadn't managed to dislodge Kovalainen, he declared himself "very 'appy" with his new Team Lotus power steering. Ricciardo hadn't beaten Liuzzi, but is getting ever closer.
Sebastian Vettel came out very early at the beginning of the session, straight onto the red-walled super-soft tyres. Lewis Hamilton was out right behind him, but surprisingly, still on the yellow-walled soft tyres.
Vettel set the P1 time of 1:21.095 and Hamilton was just 0.10 short of him on the slower tyre. Mark Webber then took P1 with a 1:20.890, Jenson Button improved it to a 1:20.578, before Fernando Alonso trumped them all with a 1:20.262 which stood till the end of the session.
The order of the top teams after their initial runs was: 1.Alonso, 2.Button, 3.Webber, 4.Vettel, 5.Massa, 6.Hamilton, the only difference being that Hamilton hadn't used up a set of super-soft tyres.
Going into the last four minutes the danger positions were: 7.Rosberg, 8.Petrov, 9.Schumacher, 10.Heidfeld, 11.Perez, 12.Alguersuari, 13.Kobayashi, 14.DiResta, 15.Sutil, 16.Barrichello, 17.Maldonado.
Perez jumped up into P8, Barrichello could only improve to P11, Adrian Sutil - continuing his good form from Germany took P8, demoting Michael Schumacher to P11. Paul DiResta took P10, Nick Heidfeld could only manage P13 while Michael's final hot lap put him safely into P8. Kobayashi could only manage P13.
So out went: 11.DiResta, 12.Petrov, 13.Kobayashi, 14.Heidfeld, 15.Barrichello, 16.Alguersuari, 17. Maldonado - who saved his tyres and didn't set a time.
Adrian Newey was seen taking a close interest in the DRS mechanism of the rear wing of Vettel in between Q2 and Q3, but there was clearly no fault on it.
Only the top six would set two timed laps; Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren going out twice while Sutil, Perez, Rosberg amd Schumacher watched them from the garage. Perez didn't even bother going out once and stayed in his garage, a curious decision in that it guaranteed him a position on the dusty, slow side of the grid.
Alonso was first out on track and set provisional pole at 1:20.365 - slower than his Q2 time. Lewis Hamilton reset P1 at 1:19.978 and Vettel could go no quicker. So after the first runs the order of the top six was 1.Hamilton, 2.Vettel, 3.Alonso, 4.Button, 5.Massa, 6.Webber
Out they came again with Felipe Massa last across the line. The top three took it in turns to set purple first sectors, first Alonso and then Hamilton and then Vettel. Alonso looked to be diving inside Hamilton's pole time but as he crossed the line he was just P3.
Vettel put in a much more committed lap and improved the P1 time to 1:19.815. Seconds later there was disappointment for Mclaren. Hamilton went slower on his second run than his first. When the first non-Red Bull pole position of the year looked likely to fall, Hamilton blew his chances. Behind him, Jenson Button slotted into P3 and right at the close Felipe Massa improved to P4 - the first time he had outqualified Fernando Alonso all year.
Thus Alonso was demoted to P5 and a mystified Mark Webber was left back in P6, wondering where all his grip had gone. Nico Rosberg was the quickest of the one-lap-only brigade ahead of Adrian Sutil and Michael Schumacher, who took P9.
Last week at the Nurburgring, rain was predicted but never fell. More rain is expected on race day at the Hungaroring. When that happens, the Hungarian GP can be an epic affair, and with the top six cars evenly matched it could still be anybody's race.
01. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m19.815
02. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m19.978 + 0.163
03. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m20.024 + 0.209
04. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m20.350 + 0.535
05. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m20.365 + 0.550
06. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m20.474 + 0.659
07. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m21.098 + 1.283
08. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m21.445 + 1.630
09. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m21.907 + 2.092
10. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari No time
11. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m22.256 + 1.994
12. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m22.284 + 2.022
13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m22.435 + 2.173
14. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m22.470 + 2.208
15. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m22.684 + 2.422
16. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m22.979 + 2.717
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth No time
18. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m24.070 + 2.492
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m24.362 + 2.784
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m24.534 + 2.956
21. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m26.294 + 4.716
22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m26.323 + 4.745
23. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m26.479 + 4.901
24. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m26.510 + 4.932