Practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix took place today at the Hungaroring on the outskirts of Budapest, and unsurprisingly, we once again saw Mercedes dominate proceedings.
Lewis Hamilton made a perfect start to his bid for an unprecedented fifth victory in Hungary by doubling up in practice and finishing both sessions as the fastest driver. Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg trailed him in both sessions by about two-tenths of a second, but the Briton was not 100% happy with his car, bemoaning a lack of grip on Friday.
Further back, we have quite an interesting battle for the final podium position developing between Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams. All four teams look capable of being best of the rest in Budapest, and it will be a close battle in qualifying tomorrow.
Off track, talk turned to the upcoming Russian Grand Prix and some of the problems in Formula 1 at the moment, with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner lashing out at journalists for focusing on the negative points in the sport. More on that in my Thoughts from the Track.
Here’s the full round-up from the Hungarian GP paddock today.
- FP1 saw Lewis Hamilton finish fastest ahead of Nico Rosberg, with Kimi Raikkonen finishing in third place for Ferrari.
- FP2 was a near copy: Hamilton again fastest ahead of Rosberg, but it was Sebastian Vettel who put Red Bull up into the top three ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK
- American F1 hopeful Alexander Rossi has set his sights on taking part in most of the practice sessions to the end of the season with Marussia, who he joined just yesterday.
- Mexican driver Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez spoke about their delight following the news that Mexico would be returning to the F1 calendar in 2015.
- Will Buxton brings you the latest news and interviews from Hungary in Paddock Pass (VIDEO).
- Lewis Hamilton is paying little attention to rumors linking Sebastian Vettel with a move to Mercedes.
- F1 is set to venture to Azerbaijan in 2016 for the Grand Prix of Europe.
- Silly season is just getting underway in F1, with McLaren being the missing piece in the puzzle.
- Jenson Button has switched back to his Pink for Papa helmet for the Hungarian GP, as it would have been his father’s birthday on Sunday.
- Mercedes and Brembo have confirmed that they are yet to diagnose the cause of Lewis Hamilton’s brake failure in Germany.
- Both Hamilton and Rosberg admitted to struggles during practice, but Nico is still feeling positive.
- Sebastian Vettel believes that Red Bull may be a step closer to Mercedes this weekend.
THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK
If Lewis and Nico did really have struggles during practice today, they certainly didn’t show it. Both drivers looked at ease during practice when you go by the timesheets, yet their actual on-track form was a little more difficult. Hamilton complained of more brake problems during FP2, whilst Rosberg cried over the radio: “I need advice!” “For what, traffic?” “No, driving!” Isn’t that what you’re paid to do, Nico?
It’s pretty clear that the Silver Arrows will be juking it out at the front of the field once again, but the battle behind is a little bit more complex. Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams all appear to be in contention for a podium finish, with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel finishing third in FP1 and FP2 respectively. Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas confirmed that they expected to struggle more here, so to see them down towards the bottom of the top ten is hardly surprising. Spa and Monza should see the British team bounce back.
Instead, Red Bull and Ferrari will be making the most of this not being an engine-reliant circuit. The RB10 is well suited to this track, and if we can see another great fight between Fernando, Seb and Dan this weekend, that would be just swell.
Regarding silly season: it’s all smoke in mirrors. Marko says one thing, Vettel says another, Christian Horner and Niki Lauda give their pennyworth – and we still don’t know what’s going on. In truth, Seb doesn’t appear to be on the move.
If anyone is, it’s Alonso. The stories linking him with McLaren refuse to die down, and as Jenson Button continues to postpone any decision or talks about his future, the speculation will only continue to circulate.
Now for the political side of things. The team principals’ press conference was icy to say the least. Before, it has been dominated by concerns over the F1 Strategy Group, its work and its membership. This time around, things were a little more relevant to the ‘real world’ as concerns over the Russian Grand Prix came to the fore.
It was very difficult for any of the representatives in the press conference to take a stand on the matter. However, Christian Horner went on quite a rant about the attitude of the journalists in the press conference, saying how it was wrong that the focus was not in the good in Formula 1: the great racing of late; the championship tussle afoot; the emergence of some young stars. Why are we not focusing on that?
Let’s turn that around. Why, if F1 is in such a good place, are we bothering with double points? Or standing restarts in 2015? Or bemoaning the fact that only 52,000 came through Hockenheim’s gates last weekend? It seems to be a trait of the team principals that a difficult question can be avoided by turning it around on the journalist. We’re not promoting the bad aspects of the sport with these questions; we’re looking for answers. It was a quite uncomfortable atmosphere in the room following Horner’s tirade.
Horner said that we should be putting these questions to the two big power players in the sport: Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone. Why don’t we ask them? Well, access is limited. These press conferences present a real chance to talk to the team bosses, who ultimately are in charge of the drivers, who in turn put on the show for us. These matters may be uncomfortable to talk about, but we mustn’t avoid them.
The on-track action returns tomorrow; perhaps we’ll get some more answers then in the fight to finish behind Mercedes. We can hope for another great race to put the attention on that instead of the off-track dilemmas and dramas, and with Lewis and Nico battling at the front, a superb Hungarian Grand Prix may be in store.
Saturday TV Times
FP3 – Live Extra from 5am ET
Qualifying – CNBC and Live Extra from 8am ET