At first the stands fell completely silent for the first time this weekend, then came the boos. And they were loud too, really loud, in the direction of Lewis Hamilton.
He sported a wry smile as they rained down from the grandstand. Hamilton was soaking up every single second of spoiling this tangerine party.
It’s a bit hot for a pantomime, temperatures in Budapest rising above 30 degrees Celsius, but Hamilton not only didn’t care, he relished his role as a villain after taking pole position for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix in a Mercedes 1-2
Hamilton and Mercedes looked impressive and were four tenths quicker than Max Verstappen
‘Honestly I’ve never actually felt so great with the booing,’ Hamilton said. ‘If anything, it just fuels me, so I don’t really mind it.’ In other words – bring it on.
Where was Max Verstappen when his legion of fans spewed out vitriol in the direction of his Mercedes rival?
‘I was in the garage, I didn’t pay attention to what was going on outside,’ he deadpanned. Perhaps he should have done.
Verstappen was gunning for his fifth straight pole position and after winning the inaugural Sprint Race at Silverstone two weeks ago there were no boos of this kind hurled in his direction from Hamilton’s supporters.
Verstappen congratulates Hamilton for his pole position after the qualifying session
Red Bull suggested there was a ‘bit of gamesmanship’ from Mercedes after the session
It is difficult to remember an atmosphere as tribal and as football-like as this in Formula One for many years. Social media was awash with insults back and forth between warring fan-bases all morning, some even separated themselves in the queue at the taxi rank.
‘People have a right. It’s sport,’ Hamilton continued. ‘People act wild when it’s sport and competition. I don’t take it to heart. I must be doing something right to be up front.’
Based on Saturday’s 1.15.419 run to claim pole he’s doing more than something right. He’s got his mojo back, the glint in his eye that suggests he feels that record-breaking eighth title is right there again.
Many of those in the grandstand felt compelled to make the pilgrimage from Holland to roar Verstappen on in the wake of his dramatic 180mph crash at Silverstone, which saw Hamilton cut the championship lead to eight points.
Hamilton was booed during his interview with plenty of Max Verstappen fans in attendance
Valtteri Bottas did his teammate a favour by splitting Hamilton and Verstappen for second
‘Sir Cheat: Karma is coming,’ read one anti-Hamilton banner. There were numerous other signs looking to shame the seven-time champion. They didn’t work.
The boos were directed at Hamilton for his final out-lap, painstakingly slow from the pit-lane if you were Red Bull, which cost six of the top 10 a chance at one final flying run.
Verstappen just about made it to the chequered flag, no more than a second to spare. His team-mate Sergio Perez, who will start fourth, wasn’t quite so lucky.
‘Gamesmanship’ was how Red Bull chief Christian Horner referred to it with Verstappen ill-prepared to have a real crack at pole. This box-office rivalry boiling again, just when everyone looked to be trying to put a lid on it.
This was just a second front-row lockout for Mercedes this season but try convincing Hamilton that his snail-pace at the end was tactical.
‘It’s so silly man. Everyone was going slow,’ he fired back when questioned on whether his slow run was deliberate in keeping Verstappen off the front row.
‘I don’t understand. I don’t need to play tactics, I know what I’m doing in the car. Those who make those comments don’t know what we are doing which is probably why they aren’t driving.’
In the last race before the summer break many of those in orange know how important it is to see the pendulum of momentum swing back in Verstappen’s favour.
Sergio Perez lines up fourth and he and Verstappen will start on the softer compound of tyre
Lando Norris will start in position six behind the impressive AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly
Composure is the aim of the game from here on in and while Hamilton showed a tranquillity amid the boos that suggests he believes he now has the upper hand, Verstappen is starting to appear unnerved.
‘Can we already stop about this?’ moaned Verstappen, asked again about the hangover from the Silverstone crash.
‘We’ve had so many f****** questions about this. All of Thursday we answered so much s*** about this.’
He was frustrated, naturally, after qualifying third but now is not the time for Red Bull to lose their heads. Do that and Budapest’s pantomime villain will claim win No 100 and take centre stage once more.
George Russell failed to make the second part of qualifying for the first time this season
There was disappointment for Carlos Sainz who crashed out of the second part of qualifying
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