Lewis Hamilton reckons his chance of challenging Max Verstappen for pole position at the Hungarian Grand Prix faded when his Mercedes Formula 1 car's pace "plateaued" in qualifying.
Hamilton topped Saturday morning's final free practice session, and looked on course to be able to fight Verstappen for top spot on the grid at the Hungaroring.
But Verstappen ended up grabbing his maiden pole position by 0.018 seconds from Valtteri Bottas, with Hamilton almost two tenths adrift in third.
Reflecting on his session, Hamilton said Mercedes had not made the gains it would normally expect to between practice and qualifying.
"It was a difficult qualifying session," said the world championship leader.
"Practice was going quite well. We knew the Red Bulls were quick, they are always quick here, but when we got to qualifying, the car wasn't the same as it was in P3.
"It was just a bit of a struggle from the beginning and it kind of plateaued there and it didn't get any better.
"We will look into it, but nonetheless we are still there in the fight. Hopefully for the race we have better race pace than in qualifying."
Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas said he was not too upset at missing out on pole by such a small margin, considering his lack of running so far this weekend thanks to an engine problem in first practice.
"It has been not the easiest of weekends so far," he said.
"We missed the whole practice one and [had] very limited running in practice two, so this morning it was really important to find a rhythm and it was getting better and better.
"I was getting confidence in the car and luckily there were no big set-up issues. In qualifying [I was] just learning more and more, and starting to feel very nice in Q3.
"It is a shame to miss the pole by such a small margin as always, but congratulations to Max. They have been really strong all weekend.
"Considering how the weekend started, in that sense, I am happy with that but I would be a lot happier sitting in the middle [of the top three]."