Lewis Hamilton has signalled his intention to re-enter the Championship fight with a commanding pole position in Hungary.
The Briton, who failed to score at all last time out in Germany, set an untouchable time of 1minute 20.953sseconds - over six-tenths faster than any other car - to take a dominant pole.
‘It’s been a really positive weekend so far,’ said Hamilton.
‘Our guys have done an incredible job this weekend, as always.
‘It’s been nice to put the car in places i previously wasn’t able to do.’
Starting alongside Hamilton on the grid will be Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who took his Lotus-not-Lotus so close its first pole of the year.
‘Yeah, we normally have a good race pace,’ noted Grosjean.
Despite starting from second, Grosjean’s efforts have put his team in the best possible position to take its first win of the season tomorrow.
‘I think the race tomorrow is going to be interesting.’
Third fastest of the afternoon was Sebastian Vettel, who was deprived of a front row start in the dying moments of qualifying.
‘For us it was more a difficulty of getting everything to work properly,’ explained Vettel. ‘It seems exteremly difficult once you lose the blaance a little bit.’
‘I’m not entirely happy with the lap I had. I think Romain was in reach.
‘I think, with the progress we made since this morning and thorugh qualifying, we should be in a good position for the race.’
His third-place comes amidst fresh controversy surrounding Red Bull, who are this weekend being accused of making illegal modifications to its car in parc ferme conditions.
Jenson Button had a tough time with understeer throughout qualifying. He qualified in a respectable fourth place, but was almost half a second slower than his team-mate.
Kimi Raikkonen couldn’t string together a lap as strong as his younger team-mate Grosjean, despite suggesting during the week that he had finally been able to find his groove in the Lotus E20.
The Finn will take pleasure, however, from starting ahead of Championship leader Fernando Alonso, who could only manage P6.
Felipe Massa lines up behind his team-mate in P7, and qualified less than a tenth slower - which will please him and his Ferrari bosses as the Brazilian hopes to boost his stock in search of a contract extension.
Pastor Maldonado will start from eighth, just ahead of his team-mate Bruno Senna. Nico Hulkenberg in his Force India will start from P10.
Qualifying kicked off with track temperatures in excess of 45 degrees - and, as expected, the conditions best suited the Lotus drivers Raikkonen and Grosjean.
The two were the only drivers in Q1 - with the exception of Lewis Hamilton - who made it through the session without using the soft tyre, setting laps on only the prime compound.
However, the Enstone pair were the only two who seemed confident, with the form guide developed over the past two races appearing unreliable.
Ferrari appeared to be unable to find the pace that won it last weekend’s German Grand Prix, while Sebastian Vettel avoided an early elimination by only six tenths of a second.
Ultimately, however, it was the usual suspects who found their afternoons end prematurely, with Daniel Ricciardo heading the pack with P18. Behind him was Caterham duo Heikki Kovalinen and Vitaly Petrov, whose team failed to optimise its mid-season upgrade package.
Further back, Charles Pic qualified in P21, with team-mate Timo Glock following closely behind, leaving Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan to fill the grid’s final two spots.
The field remained fiercely competitive through the second session of the afternoon, with the top ten being separated by less than three-tenths of a second - with the exception of fastest man Hamilton, who was four-tenths clear from second quickest.
Mercedes struggled, further compounding the team’s lack of pace as the season wears on, with Michael Schumacher proving slowest of Q2, relegating him to P17 on tomorrow’s grid.
It was Mark Webber, however, who was the biggest name to fall in Q2, with the Australian going only eleventh-fastest. He was knocked out after the chequered flag fell by an (unusually) quick Bruno Senna.
Webber, who enters the Hungarian Grand Prix in second place in the Championship, will be further disappointed by his team-mate’s second-fastest time of the session.
Behind Webber will start Paul di Resta in P12, Nico Rosberg in P13, Sauber pair Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi in P14 and P15, and Jean-Eric Vergne in sixteenth place.
Disappointment for Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo. The Western Australian will start tomorrow’s race from eighteenth place after the team decided to save a second set of the softer option tyres.
It was the first time that Ricciardo has been out-qualified by French team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne since the Spanish Grand Prix in March.
“It’s frustrating and a bit disappointing not to have made the cut to Q2, as this is the first time I’ve been stuck in Q1 all season and it would have been nice to keep that sheet clean,” said Ricciardo.
“The time I set on my first run on the Prime tyre was not too bad, but I was not completely happy with the car so we made a few changes before the Option run. It immediately felt pretty good but as I came down the main straight, I had a Lotus come out the pits in front of me and it stayed there for most of my lap.
“From the outside, maybe it doesn’t look like traffic, but to have someone a couple of seconds in front for a whole lap, can really affect you, especially in qualifying, when you need all the help you can get. It didn’t help my cause.
“In terms of our strategy, it was the right call to only go with one set of Option as I am confident we could have made the cut with a clean first lap. I’ll try and make up for this disappointment tomorrow.”
It’s been a frustrating time for Ricciardo who earlier in the weekend voiced his frustration with the current situation at Toro Rosso.
Team Technical Director Giorgio Ascanelli looks set to quit the team after a disappointing 2012 season so far.
Ascanelli was absent last weekend at Hockenheim and is missing again this week in Hungary.