Conditions were mixed in the two practice sessions ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton was fastest by a tenth and a half over Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the first practice, while Verstappen outpaced teammate Pierre Gasly in second practice,
This weekend we were expecting this as we have said since last weekend, Red Bull are going to be Mercedes biggest challenges. Hamilton was a tenth and half faster, which was surprising as given the nature of the circuit, but we know the Englishman is strong here.
Confidence should be with Red Bull, we know this is an aero and downforce circuit where they are on paper stronger than the Mercedes. But we also saw in FP1 that the top cars were covered by a tenth and a half, we will need to see what happens when Mercedes turn it up in FP3.
Verstappen wasn’t comfortable with the car either, he had two spins in practice as the team tried set up changes, complaining over the radio that the rear of the car felt very sensitive.
Speaking at the end of the day, having finished second on the timesheets in both sessions, Verstappen said that the offs had simply been the result of some trials his team had been doing on finding a better set-up.
He said “We tried a lot of things. Some worked and some didn’t. Still, at the end of the day, I think we are competitive. We tried a few things on the car. Initially, I was happy in FP1 then we tried a few things that I was not so happy about. I had a very strong front end but was losing the rear.”
Verstappen believes that Red Bull is in the mix, his teammate Pierre Gasly agrees, saying “Mercedes look as strong as we expected, and Ferrari we don’t know so far. We know the battle will be there, fighting Ferrari, and we see what we can get.”
The unanswered questions
Budapest is normally a hot track and hard on tyres, however, we didn’t see very much dry running meaning if the weather changes to dry tomorrow qualifying could be interesting.
The track was slippery in both sessions, meaning the teams are yet to do proper low-fuel simulations, so we have to make do with their quick laps on the soft tyres in FP1 to try and draw some conclusions. Excitingly, it’s pretty close, with Mercedes leading the way and Red Bull and Ferrari just one-and-a-half tenths off the pace.
Verstappen’s set up spins
Max Verstappen says his early spins in practice were because of set up experiments that the team were trying to get the most out of the Red Bull. In the damp conditions early in the opening session, Verstappen had two separate spins as he complained over the radio that the rear of the car felt very sensitive.
Following the end on FP2, where he was second once again, the Dutchman said “We seem to be competitive but I still expect Mercedes to be a little bit ahead of us. We still have a little bit of work to do, but it was also not bad at all. We are competitive again this weekend but let’s wait and see tomorrow.”
Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly backed his teammate’s assessment that neither Mercedes or Ferrari can be discounted. He added, “Mercedes look as strong as we expected, and Ferrari we don’t know so far. We know the battle will be there, fighting Ferrari, and we see what we can get.”
Ferrari appeared to struggle a bit in the dry and wet, something we were expecting as Budapest was more a Red Bull circuit. Charles Leclerc again the lead car in both sessions, we have grown used to that I think it’s a good start after crashing at Hockenheim.
Sebastian Vettel was third in FP1, but the German dropped back in FP2 after he made a mistake at the Six/Seven chicane. With Leclerc’s mistake in Germany, you have to say there might be a weakness for the team in the wet.
Ferrari looks to be good in the first sector slightly, however, they appear to struggle in slower-speed corners appear in the final sector they lose that advantage and more, with Red Bull and Mercedes comfortably clear.
However, they hope they can fight with the Red Bull’s, having been up at the front in FP1. You have to be concerned about the teams pace in the wet as Vettel was thirteenth, and that could be a problem in the race. Its harder to over to say where the pace will come from overnight
“silly error” caused Albon crash
Alex Albon has admitted his FP2 crash was simply because of a “silly error.” The Toro Rosso driver lost control of his car when he touched the grass on the exit of the final corner, as he prepared to start his first flying lap of the session.
Albon spun and his STR14 impacted heavily against the tyre barriers, causing heavy damage to the left side of the car. The Thai driver finished at the bottom of the charts without a time set.
Asked by Motorsport.com what had happened, Albon said: “Just a misjudgement really. Of course you always swing into the corner, so it’s not always easy to find the limit, but of course, you want to be as wide as possible for the corner and I misjudged it.”
“The front didn’t go into the grass, so I had the feeling like I was fine. I didn’t feel the front drop, so the rear dropped, really. Of course, the weather didn’t help because it was raining and it was very slippery. Just a silly error, to be honest.”
Albon says that the loss of track time was not as ideal as the weather is forecast to be wet. His accident caused lots of damage to his car.
The British-Thai driver was fourteenth in FP1, but feels the team has made significant progress with its car in the afternoon despite the lack of running.
Saying “We were struggling for pace in general, but we made a really big step in FP2. Even if I crashed the pace was very strong, so it was a bit of a shame. We made some good steps and at least we got a lot of data. But we made some good steps. We still need to do some work to be ready for the heat.”
The midfield teams were close and in both sessions, we saw one of them in fifth with Kevin Magnussen in FP1 and Daniel Ricciardo in FP2. Again that Haas pace is surprising as the Dane was a lot faster than his teammate Romain Grosjean, on the new spec car. Grosjean struggled in the aero spec Haas started the season with as the team bids to get a better understanding of its race-pace problems.
However, Grosjean reported he had “everything: understeer, oversteer, it’s like Monza wings” during the session, and wound up twelfth. These experiments are going to continue, and you need to hope that answers will come over the summer break.