HUNGARORING, July 25, 2014 9F1plus/Graham Keilloh).- Rather in line with expectations the Hungarian Grand Prix looks once again like it will be a private Mercedes battle over first place. And in the meeting’s opening practice session today Lewis Hamilton was able to pip his team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg in that very private battle for P1.
That the Mercedes was once again on another level to the rest was clear almost from the start. In the earliest stages of the practice session in a spell that almost seemed to sum up the season the two silver cars circulated alone – all others sat gingerly in the garage – and repeatedly took tenths off each other’s best marks. Eventually the rest joined them but struggled even to get within a second of the Mercs’ quickest lap times.
A handful did in the end, and the rest were headed by Kimi Raikkonen, who actually split the Mercs for a while and ended the session in P3 and thus first in the non-Merc class, six tenths adrift of Hamilton’s pace. His team mate Fernando Alonso was next up in P4, four tenths shy of his stable mate, after a session with a few lairy moments in it.
Impressive-looking times from Ferrari on Friday are nothing new of course, and it remains to be seen if this merely is another of its Friday ‘specials’. For Kimi however he looked a bit happier than he has in a while, it’s a track on which he has a good record and he reckoned yesterday that this could be the weekend wherein finally things come together for him. Early days though of course.
As for the Mercs, when Rosberg emerged for his second run he shaved his mark down to 1.6 seconds under Hamilton’s, but then Hamilton had his own second try which resulted in a best of 1m 25.814; 0.183 seconds better than Rosberg’s. And that’s how it ended.
Behind this top four, Sebastian Vettel was next up with a time 1.4 seconds off Hamilton’s pace, while Daniel Ricciardo was P8 a half second further back. McLaren continued its improved form of Hockenheim with Kevin Magnussen in P6, a second and a half off the top, and Jenson Button P9 four tenths off the young Dane.
Jean-Eric Vergne also was high up in P7 for Toro Rosso, around 1.9 seconds off the pace. Daniil Kvyat in the other Faenza car ended the session in P13, another around half a second off his team mate.
Williams had a subdued time of it – with Felipe Massa ending up P10 and Valtteri Bottas P15 in the final FP1 order – but it’s worth reflecting that they were equally subdued in Hockenheim’s FP1 a week ago too. As Valtteri Bottas noted then: “I think maybe sometimes some other teams are more focusing on qualifying laps in practice rather than just testing”.
Sauber showed signs of continuing its post-FRIC improvement, this time in Esteban Gutierrez’s hands who was P11 with a time 2.1 seconds off Hamilton’s; Adrian Sutil however was down in P18 3.2 seconds from the pace.
Force India also underwhelmed with Nico Hulkenberg vaulting to P12 and 2.3 seconds off the top after a late improvement, ahead of Sergio Perez who was in P16 around 2.5 seconds from the pace. Lotus had a similar struggle, with Romain Grosjean in P17 2.7 seconds off the top though a late improvement for Pastor Maldonado meant he finished up in P14, three tenths better than his team mate.
Kamui Kobayashi was the quickest in the Caterham/Marussia battle, around half a second better than team mate Marcus Ericsson and close to a second better than Jules Bianchi in the Marussia. Max Chilton however wasn’t able to set a time until very late after oil leaking onto his gearbox caused a fire on his machine early on; his late mark did beat Bianchi’s by two tenths however.
The times for the session:
|5||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:27.220||1.406||28|
|8||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:27.782||1.968||16|
|12||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:28.101||2.287||28|
|16||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:28.376||2.562||24|