A change of circuit seems to have done little to disrupt the Formula 1 pecking order, with Mercedes retaining their commanding advantage in first practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Friday.
As was the case Sunday in Austria, Lewis Hamilton was once again on top, with his best time of 1:16.003 putting him 0.086 seconds clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas. However, the real story was the gap behind them. his weekend.
Despite the Black Arrows setting their times on the hard tyre, third- and fourth-placed Racing Points of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll were 0.527s and 0.964s off respectively, suggesting that it will take a miraculous amount of progress for any team to challenge the front runners.
Indeed, the only team given a shot coming into the weekend was Red Bull, but those hopes took a serious hit with Max Verstappen’s team-best effort of 1:17.435 only earning him eighth, although team boss Christian Horner indicated afterwards that they were prioritising the testing of new parts.
As for the rest of the grid, Daniel Ricciardo was a solid P5 with a 1:17.200, 0.233s behind Stroll and 0.038s ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who was himself 0.166s ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc.
Behind Verstappen, Lando Norris was ninth for McLaren with a 1:17.523, with Esteban Ocon rounding-out the top ten just 0.092s further back.
Norris’ teammate Carlos Sainz’s best time of 1:17.675 saw him P11, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen enjoying a positive session to finish alongside him in 12th.
Alexander Albon will be unhappy with his final position of 13th, although his time was only 0.292s behind teammate Verstappen, which is a positive start to a weekend where he needs to close the gap in pace to the Dutchman.
Romain Grosjean was 14th, ahead of Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, who enjoyed the best session yet of his short F1 career to finish 15.
Daniil Kvyat was 16th in a tough session for AlphaTauri, although it was similarly difficult for Alfa Romeo and Antonio Giovinazzi in 17th.
George Russell and guest-participant Robert Kubica were the last of the drivers to set a time, as Pierre Gasly failed to leave the garage with an issue on his Honda engine.