Lewis Hamilton topped the final practice session for the 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix, with Red Bull duo, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in the chase.
Hamilton set his fastest lap towards the end of the session on new set of Soft tyres, as Verstappen was just behind him on a flying lap of his own.
And while Verstappen posted a faster first sector than Hamilton, his challenge faded in sectors two and three as his tyres overheated and he lost the grip. As such, second was the best he could muster.
Perez, in the other Red Bull RB19 bounced back after a tough Friday, when he crashed at the start of FP1, and posted the third fastest lap time of the session.
Worth noting that the conditions were much hotter than Friday, as the track temperatures rose by more than ten degree at the start of FP3.
McLaren’s Lando Norris also caught the attention as he set some competitive lap times on the Medium tyres which were good enough to mix it up with front runners.
This should all set up the scene for an interesting Qualifying later today.
Buildup towards FP3
Following what was one of the strangest Formula 1 Fridays in some times, thanks to the rain hitting in FP1 then the limited tyre allocation in FP2, we were not able to extract an initial idea about the teams’ relative performances.
In the second practice session, the running programs varied from team to team, and the times were as inconclusive as ever, despite Verstappen looking menacing on his long runs in used Soft tyres, while Charles Leclerc clocked the fastest time of the session.
On the other hand, the drivers were clearly not very fond of the new Qualifying format trialed this weekend in Budapest, which meant some of them were limited to one tyre set in practice to avoid being compromised in Qualifying and the Grand Prix on Sunday.
As a reminder, each driver gets 11 sets of tyres: Three Hards, four Mediums, and four Softs.
Hamilton told Sky Sports F1: “We only had one tyre that we were going to use this session. Not really a great format this change that they made for this weekend, it just means we get less running.
“Not ideal, and there’s a lot of wet tyres I think they throw away after every weekend, like a lot, maybe they should look at something like that rather than taking time on track away from the fans,” he added.
Verstappen added on the topic: “With this new format, you are super limited with the tyres you can use and I didn’t want to use them today to at least have better preparation tomorrow.
“It’s a shame. There are so many people around and you basically don’t run a lot so we will have to see what we can do to improve that. We are literally just saving tyres which I think is not the correct thing,” he concluded.
In all cases it would be interesting to see how Qualifying pans out, but first let’s see of FP3 provides any insights on the pecking order in Hungary.
Hungary FP3 session highlights
FP3 kicked off in sunny conditions, with track temperatures considerably higher than Friday, 44C while the ambient temperature was 24C.
The drivers wasted no time to get out on track and make use of the clear conditions to do some useful running ahead of Qualifying and the Grand Prix .
Early on Carlos Sainz reported to the Ferrari pit wall that he was struggling with the wind, as he fought his SF-23 at Turns 2 and 3.
On the other hand, Perez in his RB19 was complaining about the tyres overheating; he told his team: “The tyres are not cooling down.”
The answer the Mexican got: “This is what we are going to have to live with in Qualifying.”
Verstappen, having been on Softs on Friday, was using the Medium compound in FP3, and after an initial run that put him at the top of the timing screens early on, he soon set out on doing high fuel runs on the yellow-banded tyres.
Leclerc also running Medium tyres, had a moment at Turn 14, briefly losing the rear of his SF-23, but keeping it pointed in the right direction. That was after a nine-lap stint on those tyres, indicating the Scuderia are still struggling with tyre wear.
Just before that, Hamilton had a moment at Turns 6 and 7, his Mercedes refusing to turn in, as he understeered and had to short cut the chicane.
Verstappen also reported “randomly” losing the rear of his RB19 at Turn 2, and after that radioed the team for clarification; he asked: “Is everything ok with the rear? Bit weird.”
VER 📻: “Is everything ok with the rear? Bit weird”
The Dutchman was informed all was good and instructed to change some settings on his steering to stabilize the car on corner entry.
At the 40-minute mark, Leclerc reported lack of traction on his Ferrari, just as Norris was setting the fastest time in the McLaren, on Mediums.
Norris beat the time set by Fernando Alonso earlier. However, the Spaniard set his time on the Softs. Impressive from the #4 McLaren.
Soon several drivers set out on new Soft tyre to do some Qualifying runs, namely George Russell, Hamilton and Verstappen.
Hamilton went straight to the top on his first timed lap on the Softs, while Verstappen was 0.250s slower than his rival, soon reporting “no grip” over the team radio, as the RB19’s tyres seem to be overheating towards the end of the lap.
Lewis Hamilton leads Verstappen with a lap time of 1:17.811 ⏱️