Red Bull are ominously placed ahead of qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix after claiming a one-two in both of Friday’s practice sessions. Sebastian Vettel led his teammate Mark Webber in the morning and afternoon in the searing heat at the Hungaroring and looks in good shape as he aims to claim a third win in four races and extend his 34-point lead in the drivers’ championship. Lotus and Ferrari appear to be the closest challengers, with Romain Grosjean coming third in the afternoon, ahead of Ferrari duo Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. The second Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen was eighth, after twice being held up by Jenson Button, behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
In the three weeks since the German Grand Prix, there has been a special in-season test at Silverstone for new Pirelli tires, introduced following a host of blowouts at the same track during the British Grand Prix. Vettel does not feel there has been a huge change, while he is also taking nothing for granted about his practice pace.
“The car feels okay, but there’s always a lot of work to do and there’s some room for improvement,” he said, according to the official Formula One website. “My long run wasn’t completely clean, as we had to abort it at the start due to the brakes being a bit hot, but you work to find the limit. I don’t think the tires feel massively different, but they are a step in the right direction.”
Alonso, who lies second in the championship, believes that the tight Hungaroring circuit means that everyone will be going all out to start as high up the grid as possible on Saturday. “Here, more than at other tracks, starting from the front is extremely important and for this reason I believe that everyone will try and optimize their cars for qualifying, even if it means sacrificing a bit for the race,” he explained.
Hamilton was less than enthused with his car’s performance. Mercedes come into the weekend at a disadvantage having been banned from the three-day test following a recent unauthorized tire test. The blazing heat on the circuit, predicted to continue throughout the weekend, also counts against the Mercedes, which have been particularly harsh on their tires throughout the season.
“We don't seem to have the pace that we had at the last race," former world champions Hamilton conceded to Sky Sports. “Red Bull seem particularly quick this weekend. Fuel loads play a huge part and when we get to qualifying we are generally able to pull out a little bit more. I was told that on the same laps on the long runs that Mark Webber was eight-tenths faster at some stages, so that's interesting."
Where to watch: Qualifying for the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix will get underway at 8 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.