Lewis Hamilton quickest in Hungarian Grand Prix practice

Hungarian Grand Prix

Venue:
Hungaroring
Date:
29-31 July
Saturday 30 July:
Third practice: 0955-1105, BBC Red Button/BBC Radio 5 live sports extra/online; Qualifying: 1210-1420, BBC One/BBC Radio 5 live/online
Sunday 31 July:
Grand Prix live: 1205-1525, BBC One/BBC Radio 5 live/online; F1 forum: 1525-1625, BBC Red Button/online; Highlights: 1900-2000, BBC Three/Red Button
Felipe Massa

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton set the pace during Friday's practice sessions for the Hungarian Grand Prix to suggest he could continue his good form after winning the last race in Germany.

The 2008 world champion clocked a best lap of one minute 21.259, 0.241 seconds ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull was fifth fastest, half a second off the pace.

Jenson Button was third for McLaren ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber.

After Hamilton won a thrilling battle between McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull at the last race in Germany, the teams were anticipating another close fight at the Hungaroring.

As in first practice, the top five drivers were separated by just over half a second in the second session to suggest Red Bull may not be able to run away with the race as they did last year.

The second session was relatively straightforward for the drivers as the threat of rain failed to materialise.

Alonso and Button took turns at the top of the timesheets in the first half of the session, as they outshone championship leaders Red Bull, before Hamilton, who was quickest in first practice, went fastest again on his first run on the super-soft tyres with 30 minutes remaining.

From then on, the teams switched their focus to longer runs and analysis of tyre degradation of the Pirelli super-soft tyres leaving Hamilton's time unchallenged.

"It's a great feeling to start on a high," said Hamilton who lies 82-points behind championship leader Vettel. "It's too early to say what's going to happen but I think we can compete with the guys at the front.

"I do feel we can challenge the Ferraris and the Red Bulls which is exciting."

Team-mate Button, who finished 0.304secs behind Hamilton added: "It was a trouble-free day, which is nice. We're definitely in the hunt so I'm very happy with the direction we've gone with the car and the feeling of the car."

Vettel, who finished off the podium for the first time this season at his home race in Germany, switched back to the old front wing in this session but failed to trouble the McLarens and Ferraris at the top of the timesheets.

Despite that, Vettel and Webber's pace on the longer runs suggests they'll be in the mix with the McLarens and Ferraris in the race.

However, Hamilton's race-simulation run on the super-soft tyre was very impressive, and implied he may have a pace advantage over the Red Bulls, although Friday practice times are notoriously difficult to read.

Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes spent the final part of the session completing long runs on the super-softs to test how long they would last in race conditions.

"The performance is very close between the prime and the option so that'll push the teams towards the super-soft tyre in qualifying for pole position," said BBC 5 live analyst Anthony Davidson.

"They'll be confident they can do 12-15 laps of the race on the super-soft."

Scot Paul di Resta, who is looking to win his first points since the Malaysia GP, was ninth fastest for Force India, 0.1secs quicker than team-mate Adrian Sutil.

A new power steering system for Team Lotus looks to have cured Jarno Trulli's season-long problems.

The Italian, who was replaced by the team's reserve driver Karun Chandhok at last weekend's German Grand Prix, has been outqualified 9-1 by team-mate Heikki Kovalainen this season as he struggled with the car's handling.

But Trulli was back on form in Hungary, finishing over 0.4secs quicker than Kovalainen in second practice.

"I'm very happy," said Trulli. "I want to thank the whole team, everyone at the factory and in the race team because they have all been patient with me and have worked hard to give me the new power steering system and a car that I can really feel.

"As soon as I pulled out this morning it felt so much better than before so I've been able to start rebuilding my confidence in the car."

Earlier in the day, first practice got off to a slow start because of damp patches around the track following overnight rain, and was relatively straightforward but for incidents for Alonso and Webber.

The Spaniard, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Friday, had a small drama when his session was interrupted by a fire, while Webber damaged the front of his Red Bull in a crash towards the end of the session.

The Australian crashed heavily into the barriers at Turn Nine but managed to keep the engine running and limp back to the pits with a puncture and without his front wing.

The circuit 12 miles outside Budapest is a mighty challenge for the Formula 1 field to get their teeth into before the August vacation.

The Hungaroring is comparable with Monaco's street circuit and its low-speed, high-downforce nature can make it tricky for drivers to get into a rhythm.

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