Budapest: Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel kept Red Bull off the top of the Hungarian Grand Prix practice timesheets on Friday with Formula One leader Lewis Hamilton only fifth fastest for Mercedes.
Vettel, his team mourning the death of former chairman Sergio Marchionne, ended the day with the quickest lap of one minute 16.834 seconds after Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo led the way in the morning with a best of 1:17.613.
Ricciardo was third in a blazing hot afternoon session, behind 20-year-old Dutch team mate Max Verstappen, who was 0.074 slower than Vettel.
“I was pretty happy in the afternoon,” said Vettel on his team website. “More than in the morning session, as I think the car is performing well also over one lap.
“We can still improve, but this has been one of the best Fridays so far, technically speaking,” added the German, whose media activities were cancelled in light of the circumstances.
“Having a great amount of work ahead of us is probably the best thing for keeping our minds busy and getting through the weekend.” Ferrari flags flew at half-mast over the team hospitality.
Red Bull are expected to be among the favourites at a comparatively slow track that suits the aerodynamic qualities of their car much more than Mercedes, whose drivers seemed to lack grip, and is less engine dependent.
Mercedes have been able to count on more power in qualifying, however. Ricciardo won from pole in Monaco this year and the Australian took grid penalties in Germany last weekend to give himself the best shot at a circuit sometimes referred to as ‘Monaco without walls’.
“I think we have a good enough car to be on the front row. Over one lap I think we could still make some improvements, but the long run pace looks good and we’re all very close,” said Ricciardo.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was fourth in both sessions and compatriot Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s team mate, was sixth before and after lunch.
Hamilton is 17 points clear of Vettel in the standings after 11 races, with Sunday’s round the last before the August break. The Briton, who has won five times in Hungary but never in a championship year, suffered a big slide into the chicane on the dusty asphalt in the morning.
“As we expected, the Ferraris and the Red Bulls were quite quick and had a little bit more pace than us, so we’ve got some work to do tonight,” said Hamilton. “This is a tricky circuit and the tyres are overheating; looking after the rear tyres is the biggest issue.”
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg stopped on track with an engine problem and missed the last half hour of that early session.Italian reserve Antonio Giovinazzi replaced race regular Charles Leclerc at Sauber for first practice.