BUDAPEST, July 28, 2012 (AFP) - Briton Lewis Hamilton confirmed that he and McLaren have recovered their form when he swept to a dominant pole position in Saturday's closely-fought qualifying session for Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix.
Driving with supreme speed and consistency, the 27-year-old Briton clocked a best time of one minute and 20.953 seconds to top the times ahead of nearest rival Frenchman Romain Grosjean in a Lotus.
Grosjean secured his front row starting position with a fast lap in the final seconds of a tight session to move ahead of third-placed defending drivers champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and Hamilton's team-mate and compatriot Jenson Button.
Finn Kimi Raikkonen was fifth in the second Lotus ahead of championship leader Fernando Alonso of Spain and his Ferrari team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa.
Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado was eighth ahead of his Williams team-mate Brazilian Bruno Senna and German Nico Hulkenberg in the leading Force India.
For Hamilton, it was a third pole of the year and the 22nd of his career.
On a hot afternoon at the Hungaroring, 25 kilometres north of Budapest, the track temperature was 45 degrees Celsius when qualifying began, with Grosjean one of the first men out.
The morning had been dominated by paddock gossip about another controversy surrounding the Red Bull team who, it was claimed, had been told to remove a device that allowed them to adjust their front ride-height by hand.
The claim came from the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport which said also that the incident happened following the Canadian Grand Prix.
The opening session saw Hamilton on top with the two Red Bulls struggling to avoid an embarrassing early cut, Webber winding up in 16th place and Germnay's Vettel 17th ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso who had his worst qualifying of the year.
He was the leading driver eliminated ahead of Finn Heikki Kovalainen and his Caterham team-mate Vitaly Petrov, Frenchman Charles Pic and German Timo Glock of Marussia and the two Hispanias of Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa and Indian Narain Karthikeyan.
Hamilton was out in front fastest ahead of two other Britons Paul Di Resta of Force India and Jenson Button, in the second McLaren.
In Q2, Grosjean was out early again to go top before he was replaced by Raikkonen. Then Hamilton, in blistering form, shot to the top in 1:21.060, half a second faster than the Finn.
The final minutes saw some dramatic scrapping for positions before, unexpectedly, Webber was unable to beat the cut and was eliminated in 11th place along with Briton Paul Di Resta of Force India who was 12th.
Also out went German Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, Mexican Sergio Perez and his Sauber team-mate Japanese Kamui Kobayashi, Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher of Germany who was 17th in the second Mercedes.
All this left Hamilton fastest again and looking supremely fast ahead of Vettel and Maldonado as they began their final countdown for the top ten shootout.
But when the final Q3 action began, Hamilton had to pull out of a fast lap when the back end of his McLaren appeared to twitch before he clocked a fastest lap to set the pace. After that it was down to the rest to try and catch him.