5 things we learned from Friday practice at the Hungarian Grand Prix
The Hungaroring looked resplendent on Friday afternoon as teams worked through packed programmes across two scorching one-hour practice sessions ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. It was important to gather as much data as possible, given that it’s expected to rain all day on Saturday before the sun returns on Sunday. So, who made the most of it – and who was left wanting more?
1. Ferrari’s favourite tag appears justified
Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto set the ambitious target of a one-two heading to the Hungarian Grand Prix, the F1-75 expected to suit the tight and twisty Hungaroring, which demands a Monaco-spec high downforce set-up.
Red Bull, too, were anticipating Ferrari would have the edge on their duo, with Ferrari consistently showing better pace in the slow and medium-speed corners (which make up most of Budapest track) this season – and based on Friday’s running, that assessment appears to be correct.
Charles Leclerc set the pace on Friday, and while Carlos Sainz couldn’t make it a one-two on track with the third best time, our ideal lap data – which combines a drivers’ best mini sectors – would have put him second overall.
Both drivers were understandably buoyant when speaking to the media. They hold a three tenths of a second advantage over Red Bull in qualifying trim and that extends by a tenth when fuel is topped up to assess long run pace. Providing they can navigate the tricky weather conditions tomorrow, they are very much favourites to follow through on Binotto’s goal.
2. Red Bull second best and giving chase
Championship leader Max Verstappen admitted that as it stands, Red Bull have no chance of beating Ferrari this weekend in dry conditions.
But if they can capitalise on the wet weather tomorrow, anything is possible come Sunday (which is set to be dry, but cooler than Friday) on a track where it is tough to overtake.
The Bulls were lacking most in the slow corners and struggled to get the right balance in the low-speed corners, which dominate this circuit located in an amphitheatre-like setting.
Nonetheless, they remain the second best in both one-lap and race pace data rankings ,and have proved consistently this season that they can find big gains from Friday into Saturday this season.
3. Mercedes slower than expected on difficult day
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell cut despondent figures on Friday evening in Hungary, the duo considerably slower than they had expected to be.
They took the wrong direction with the car from FP1 to FP2, which means they will have to row back on some changes overnight.
To make matters worse, Hamilton, an eight-time winner at the Hungaroring, picked up damage on his low fuel run, which the team couldn’t repair in time. So he was left with a car that handled very inconsistently.
They are just fifth in qualifying and race pace rankings, behind Alpine and McLaren, with the W13 Silver Arrow struggling significantly in the slow and medium corners. In the slow stuff, only Williams and Alfa Romeo were worse off.
4. McLaren punching at the top of the midfield
This was a very strong day for McLaren, with Lando Norris finishing second and Daniel Ricciardo fifth in second practice. Maintaining that form is unrealistic heading into the weekend, but there’s evidence to suggest they have made a step forward in Hungary and are getting a better handle on their upgrade.
Ricciardo had arguably his best Friday of the season while Norris was pleased with the way the car performed throughout the day, too. They’re third in the qualifying simulation charts, nearly 0.2s quicker than Alpine.
They drop to fourth when it comes to race pace but are a little over a tenth behind. If they can carry this speed into a wet qualifying, this could be a very good weekend for the papaya cars and help them in their tense fight with Alpine for P4 in the constructors’ championship.
5. Jury out on huge Haas upgrade – but Aston Martin’s new package shines
On paper, Haas’s performance on Friday was rather disappointing. They ended up eighth in the qualifying simulation charts and ninth when it comes to race pace.
But Haas have rarely looked good on Fridays this year, the American team stepping it up when the weekend begins, which gives some credence to boss Guenther Steiner assessment that the sizeable upgrade they have brought to the track – the first of the season – looks “promising”.
Their rivals Aston Martin’s upgrade did appear to show something encouraging in terms of pure lap time, though, and as that hasn’t always been the case this year, it’s an encouraging step for the team on the weekend Sebastian Vettel announced he will retire at the end of the season.
While the four-time world champion admitted the car is tricky to drive, he said the long runs look good – and our data puts them sixth overall, which is a good step up. They’re sixth in the qualifying pace rankings, too, so that puts them in with a reasonable shout of points.