With an end of term feel in the air and teams dreaming of that sun lounger on a secluded beach somewhere, Formula 1 can only be going to the Hungaroring for the Hungarian Grand Prix, the final race before the summer break officially kicks off. But despite the end of term feel, teams are still out to prove something to one another.
This was evident in Free Practice One, when the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo topped the timesheets with a 1:18.486, offering up an encouraging sign that we could be on for a three-way fight for supremacy at the Hungaroring this weekend. Ricciardo’s lap time was over two tenths of a second quicker than the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen in second, and nearly four tenths quicker than the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton in third.
While it is worth noting the conditions experienced in FP1 are not expected to be that representative of what we will likely see in qualifying and for the race on Sunday, it is still an encouraging sign for Red Bull, who came to Hungary with their much-anticipated upgrade package on the RB13. The car itself has had a raft of significant upgrades to make it more competitive, as Red Bull look to close down the gap to Ferrari and Mercedes. One thing that will play into the hands of Milton Keynes based team throughout this weekend is the fact the Hungaroring is not a power-sensitive circuit, meaning their Renault engine deficit does not hinder them as badly here.
Ricciardo’s team mate Max Verstappen could only manage fourth place, well over six tenths of a second off of his team mates time, while the sister Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was fifth. It was a difficult session for the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, who spun off early in the session. He complained a lot over team radio about oversteer problems he was having with the car, and at one point even lost a part of his car after riding the kerbs. Sixth place was the best he could manage in the first session.
Red Bull were not the only team to benefit from the lack of emphasis on engine power round the tight and twisty track, as both McLarens were in the top ten. Fernando Alonso finished the session in seventh, with his team mate Stoffel Vandoorne a fraction of a second behind him in eighth. The result confirms McLaren were right to take several penalties at the British Grand Prix in order to have new components for this race for Alonso in particular. It also confirms McLaren expectations that this weekend is one of their best chances of the year to score points and climb clear of the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship.
The final two positions in the top ten were taken up by the Renault’s of Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer, with Hulkenberg finishing ahead of Palmer respectively. Renault didn’t have it all their own way however as Palmer managed to shred his front-wing after running wide at Turn Four to bring proceedings to an early end.
Free Practice One was briefly under red flags at one point after Antonio Giovinazzi, who was standing in for Kevin Magnussen at Haas in one of his pre-arranged FP1 sessions, crashed into the barriers. It was a rather discouraging and badly-timed mistake by the Ferrari young driver, especially considering Sauber announced they will continue to stay with a Ferrari engine for 2018. This has prompted may to suggest Giovinazzi will likely be in a fight against F2 title leader Charles Leclerc to partner Marcus Ericsson at the Swiss-based outfit next year.
Free Practice Two was a similar story as Ricciardo once again topped the time sheets in his Red Bull ahead of Ferrari and Mercedes. Though the session was disturbed by several red flag periods at crucial times when teams were about to start Qualifying simulation runs, meaning some drivers did not get to show off their pace during the session.
Ricciardo’s fastest lap, a 1:18.455, was almost two tenths of a second faster than the Ferrari of Vettel in second, and the Mercedes of Bottas in third. Though far from celebrating a double header, Ricciardo seemed focused on the threat both Mercedes and Ferrari posed to him.
“You don’t know what Ferrari and Mercedes are going to come up with and it looked like Ferrari found a bit more pace this afternoon but we’re still ahead. We’ll see tomorrow, but definitely a positive day,” said Ricciardo.
Raikkonen was fourth fastest in his Ferrari in the second session, while Hamilton trailed home in fifth place. He was one of the drivers caught out by the red flags, after he had to box immediately just as he was about to start his flying lap of the session on new supersoft tyres. The result was he failed to set a competitive time on the supersoft tyres. However, it’s not all bad news for Hamilton, as he was able to set the fastest time on soft tyres in the early running during the session.
Once again, the Red Bull of Verstappen was off the pace of his team mate by some five tenths of a second, resulting in him finishing the session in sixth place. There was almost a second gap between Verstappen and seventh placed Hulkenberg, who once again managed another impressive showing in his Renault.
All eyes however were on yet another top ten finish for both McLarens, with Alonso in eighth and Vandoorne tenth, split by the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz in ninth. The result shows that the McLaren performance in Free Practice One was not just a flash in the pan, and that the team really do have a good chance round here this weekend to pick up some points. Though it will be hard for them to keep their top ten positions tomorrow in qualifying when everyone turns their engines up.
The session was red flagged twice though at critical points. The first Red Flag came as a result of the Sauber of Pascal Wehrlein, who suffered a double hit into the barriers at Turn Eleven. The young German described the crash as “massive” over team radio and was subsequently taken to the medical centre for a check-up. He was released later on and gave a thumbs up signifying everything was okay.
The crash Wehrlein crash came as teams were switching over to qualifying simulation runs, though if teams thought they would get the chance to run a simulation once the track went green again they were sorely mistaken. The Renault of Palmer brought out the second red flag of the session, after the Englishman crashed out in spectacular but car-ruinous fashion in the final corner.
With a three way battle on the card for tomorrow for Qualifying and the race, as well as teams wanting to settle scores up and down the grid to give them the best send off into summer break, this could once again shape up into a classic Hungarian Grand Prix.
Hungarian Grand Prix Free Practice One Results
1) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull: 1:18.486
2) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: + 0.234
3) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: + 0.372
4) Max Verstappen, Red Bull: + 0.676
5) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes: + 0.762
6) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari: + 1.077
7) Fernando Alonso, McLaren: + 1.501
8) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren: + 1.519
9) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault: + 1.664
10) Jolyon Palmer, Renault: + 1.975
11) Felipe Massa, Williams: + 2.054
12) Sergio Perez, Force India: + 2.088
13) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso: + 2.294
14) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso: + 2.431
15) Lance Stroll, Williams: + 2.488
16) Romain Grosjean, Haas: + 2.827
17) Alfonso Celis, Force India: + 3.116
18) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber: + 3.299
19) Antonio Giovinazzi, Haas: + 3.765
20) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber: + 4.004
Hungarian Grand Prix Free Practice Two Results
1) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull: 1.18.455
2) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari: + 0.183
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes: + 0.201
4) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: + 0.300
5) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: + 0.324
6) Max Verstappen, Red Bull: + 0.496
7) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault: + 1.259
8) Fernando Alonso, McLaren: + 1.360
9) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso: + 1.379
10) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren: + 1.454
11) Esteban Ocon, Force India: + 1.671
12) Sergio Perez, Force India: + 1.811
13) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso: + 2.122
14) Lance Stroll, Williams: + 2.336
15) Felipe Massa, Williams: + 2.414
16) Jolyon Palmer, Renault : + 2.720
17) Kevin Magnussen, Haas: + 2.890
18) Romain Grosjean, Haas: + 3.049
19) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber: + 3.104
20) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber: + 3.267
Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Racing Press Release