27.07.12

Hamilton leads the way

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton bounced back from a disappointing German Grand Prix to top the timesheets in first practice at the Hungaroring.

Hamilton’s time of 1:22.821 was one-tenth clear of team-mate Jenson Button. German Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso was third for Ferrari, half a second back, ahead of Nico Rosberg for Mercedes and Romain Grosjean for Lotus. Michael Schumacher was sixth in the second Mercedes, closely followed by Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari and Kimi Räikkönen, whose Lotus was running the experimental double-DRS today. Valtteri Bottas put in another impressive performance and was ninth for Williams, and Sergio Pérez rounded out the top ten for Sauber. 
  
With bad weather forecast to arrive this afternoon, Friday morning was an unusually busy session. As well as leading the order, Hamilton also completed the most mileage, doing 30 laps, though most drivers were close to that. Kamui Kobayashi, with 19 laps, was the least busy. 
  
Despite that the first half hour was relatively quiet. The Hungaroring is a little-used race track and therefore tends to be dirtier than the average permanent circuit. Most drivers preferred to stay in the garage and let others sweep the line. The exceptions were Kimi Räikkönen and Heikki Kovalainen – a popular decision with the large numbers of Finnish fans in Budapest for the weekend.
  
Räikkönen was unchallenged at the top of the order but soon returned to the pits with his race engineer imploring him to use a long gear, his Renault engine suffering serious cooling problems. As he crawled into the garage and mechanics swarmed all over his car, serious running from other teams got underway. The McLaren’s were immediately to the top of the timesheets with Hamilton and Button swapping P1 times. 
  
The track got gradually quicker as the session went on but no-one looked liked challenged the McLaren hegemony. Many teams have said they have new parts for this race, predominantly high-downforce packages that haven’t been required since Monaco, and so many cars were running with complicated sensor apparatus bolted to the car, or conspicuous amounts of flo-vis pain on their wings, suggesting data gathering was their primary task this morning. 
  
The track showed it was still slippery with many drivers running wide, including Pastor Maldonado who had a long trip across the gravel before making it back onto the asphalt. He finished the session 11th quickest, ahead of Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber and Mark Webber’s Red Bull. The World Champions spent a long time working on the front of Webber’s car during the session. Paul di Resta was 14th in the faster of the two Force Indias, just ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne were 16th and 17th for Toro Rosso, Jules Bianchi was 18th in the second Force India, ahead of the backmarkers. Vitaly Petrov was 19th for Caterham, one place ahead of Charles Pic, who has impressed recently. Kovalainen was 21st, Glock 22nd, De La Rosa, 23rd and Dani Clos brought up the rear in the second HRT.