Red Bull continue to dominate in Free Practice 2

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After closing out first practice in first and second place, Red Bull continued to dominate proceedings in Hungary this afternoon as Sebastian Vettel once again led home Mark Webber at the top of the timesheets in FP2.

The session once again took place in hot and dry conditions as the teams experimented with the soft tire for the first time this weekend, running qualifying simulation laps early on before focusing on the fuelled runs later on in the session on the medium tire.

Just as they did in the first session, Red Bull looked impressive on their low-fuel laps but the stand-out fact was that on the long runs both Vettel and Webber were in a different league to their closest rivals.

Ferrari and Lotus also continued to impress as the high temperature in Hungary appears to suit both teams. Romain Grosjean was the nearest challenger to Vettel and Webber at the top with the Lotus driver closely followed by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. Mercedes, despite being expected to struggle at the Hungaroring, came home 6th and 7th with Lewis Hamilton ahead of Nico Rosberg as the Silver Arrows look to cut into Red Bull’s lead in the constructors’ championship. However, it would be hard to best against either Vettel or Webber taking the win on Sunday judging by their practice form.

Force India and McLaren continued to fight over the final few places in the top ten with Jenson Button edging out Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta, but Toro Rosso endured a difficult session as Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo could only manage P16 and P17.

This is the second time in 2013 that Vettel has finished both Friday sessions in first place, having achieved the same feat at the Australian Grand Prix at the beginning of the season.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.