Morning After: Welcome to the fray Red Bull

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Sure, it may be eleven races overdue, but judging by their pace on Friday, it looks like they’ve finally entered race-winning contention. Hopefully means a three-way fight come Sunday.

Of course, Friday results are as ironclad in their predictive power as Eddie Jordan is, but it’s very hard to deny that with the upgrades debuted here, the RB13 has made some serious progress.

Daniel Ricciardo’s 0.183 of a second advantage over P2 Sebastian Vettel was the largest between any of the top six drivers, with the Australian having exceptional confidence to attack the particularly twisty Hungaroring. It’s also the first time Red Bull has topped Friday practice since Monaco 2016, which was the last time Red Bull had a similar aero advantage.

Conversely, a return to a Monaco-esque circuit seems to have pegged the recent Mercedes advantage back, if only temporarily. Much as they were around the winding confines of the principality, the combination of a lessened emphasis on engine power and the Silver Arrows’ longer wheelbase has helped their rivals catch up.

Still, there is some good news, with their best FP2 effort here being just 0.201s off the pace, as opposed to 1.153s off this year in Monaco. Assuming there’s more wick to be turned up on Saturday they’ll be right amongst it, but if you’ve got no particular dog in this fight a Red Bull-Ferrari-Mercedes-Ferrari-Mercedes-Red Bull finish to FP2 is still reason to get excited.

Palmer does himself no favours

It seems like everyone these days is anticipating Robert Kubica’s return to F1 after the summer break – everyone but Jolyon Palmer, that is.

How else can you explain another dismal day for Palmer in the Renault? Now more than ever, he needs to raise his game if he wants to keep his seat, yet the Brit was as woeful as ever on Friday.

First there was the slight mistake in FP1 that cost him his front wing, then in FP2 he managed to exceed himself by plowing into the barriers at the outside of turn 14. Concerning in its own right, but considering the reaction from Renault reported by NBC’s Will Buxton, perhaps the beginning of the end.

Whether it’s next race or next year, the axe is swinging increasingly close to Palmer. If he is capable of turning it around, now would be a good time to start.

Quick Hits

  • Happy birthday to Fernando Alonso, who turned 36 on Friday. I wonder what he wished for.
  • A particularly poor day for Haas, who finished second-to-last, only beating the Saubers. On the bright side, that meant we didn’t have to worry about missing out on another exasperated Romain Grosjean radio message.
  • With Felipe Massa taken to hospital yesterday after an undisclosed illness, rumours abound he could be unavailable for Saturday. Already covering for Martin Brundle on commentary this weekend, Williams’ third driver Paul di Resta could find himself with a race seat. Talk about a super-sub.

Big Question: Have Red Bull found genuine pace or are Ferrari and Mercedes keeping their powder dry?