July 23, 2016

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Nico Rosberg of Mercedes will start from pole position at the Hungarian Grand Prix, ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull.

Rosberg's fourth pole position of the season - and 26th of his career - was confirmed later Saturday by officials after reviewing whether the overall leader had slowed down enough during a yellow flag situation.

Qualifying was hampered by heavy rainfall, which delayed the start by 20 minutes and also led to several interruptions and crashes, including by Felipe Massa of Williams and Sauber's Marcus Ericsson.

Rosberg posted a time of 1 minute, 19.965 seconds according to provisional results, 0.143 seconds faster than Hamilton, who barely made it to the last of the three qualifying sessions, finishing 10th in session two. Ricciardo was third, 0.172 seconds off Hamilton's pace.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen, the only non-Mercedes winner so far this season, was fourth, followed by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

''It was a challenging qualifying. I just got a really good lap in the last lap, so I'm really happy with that,'' Rosberg said. ''I'm happy to be on the pole because it's a great chance for me to win a grand prix tomorrow.''

Replays seemed to show that Rosberg's last and fastest lap included a stretch while yellow caution flags were out, after a spin by McLaren's Fernando Alonso.

Race stewards summoned Rosberg several hours after the end of qualifying to discuss the incident, but Rosberg was adamant he had lifted his foot off the accelerator to slow his pace on seeing the flags.

''I had a very, very big lift and lost a lot of time as a result,'' Rosberg said. ''I was also slower than on my previous lap in that yellow sector ... so I'm sure it will be OK.''

Stewards agreed, saying technical data showed Rosberg had ''reduced speed significantly.''

The flags prevented Hamilton from completing his last lap at full speed and also hampered Ricciardo's final attempt.

''I was pretty angry on that last lap because I was up a bit and I think it would have put me closer to pole,'' Ricciardo said. ''I'm a little bit disappointed ... but at the same time the session went really well.''

Rosberg welcomed the officials' decision to stop the first qualifying session when the rain returned, even though it made Q1 last over an hour.

''These puddles made it uncontrollable,'' said Rosberg, who leads the championship with 168 points halfway through the 21-race season, one point ahead of Hamilton, the two-time defending champion.

The track was mostly dry by the time of the third qualifying session and drivers were able to use their super-soft tires on the final laps.

Hamilton is seeking a record fifth victory at the Hungaroring circuit. Michael Schumacher also has four wins in Hungary.

''I'm not really too disappointed'' with starting second, Hamilton said. ''It was a tricky session and I did the best I could do.''

Rosberg was fastest in the morning practice session, which was completed about 45 minutes before rain drenched the Hungaroring circuit.

Hamilton, who recovered from a crash early in Friday's second practice, was fourth fastest.

Before the last practice, motorsport's governing body reaffirmed its commitment to ''zero tolerance'' for cars going off the track.

Charlie Whiting, the FIA's Formula One race director, confirmed in a note to the teams that ''lap times achieved by leaving the track will be deleted'' during qualifying.

During the race, drivers leaving the track three times at turns 4 and 11 - where electronic sensors have been installed - will be shown a black and white warning flag. One more infraction will likely lead to a drive-through penalty, Whiting said.

The penalties, however, would not be applied if FIA found that the driver left the track ''for reasons beyond his control.''

The issue of going wide on the tracks controversially surfaced again at the British Grand Prix two weeks ago. Several drivers, including Hamilton, had qualifying laps deleted by race stewards.


Pablo Gorondi contributed to this report.

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