As drivers, teams and fans were forced to cope with sweltering conditions at the Hungaroring, it was Lewis Hamilton who topped the timesheet in both sessions, on a day when grip was at a premium. Undoubtedly amplified by the track temperature which rarely fell below 50 degrees, a number of drivers found themselves struggling to find a balance, with Sebastian Vettel enduring a particularly challenging Friday, with two spins in FP2 following a slow start to FP1 due to an electrical connector issue. While Ferrari have work to do overnight, it is Red Bull who, on the basis of today, will be the best of the rest behind the class-leaders this weekend, as both Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat recorded impressive short and long run times.
Defying The Form Guide
Rather than start with the battle for supremacy within Mercedes, it was those outfits which have struggled to live up to expectations so far in 2015 which made the headlines today.
Certainly, Red Bull will be pleased with their day’s work, as the Hungaroring has seemingly brought the best of the RB11 to the fore. Daniil Kvyat ended FP2 second on the timesheet, and while a mistake in the first sector of his lap meant that Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes was left rooted in a below-par fourth, it was an impressive lap from the Russian regardless. Daniel Ricciardo’s best was not far behind that of his teammate, as the Aussie ended the day third and ensured that both Red Bull’s were within half a second adrift of Hamilton’s benchmark.
Their short run pace, combined with a metronomic race run from Ricciardo which eclipsed that of his rivals including the Mercedes, proved to soften the blow when his Renault engine spectacularly announced its retirement towards the end of FP2. While the Aussie does have one allocated unit remaining, today’s failure now means that Ricciardo is one more engine drama away from another damaging grid penalty.
However, this weekend could see Red Bull secure their first podium of 2015, with Williams expected to be unable to match their performance shown in Silverstone and Ferrari enduring a tough Friday.
Meanwhile, McLaren enjoyed a similarly promising day, as both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button seem capable of challenging for a so often elusive Q3 spot. As the Hungaroring’s characteristics downplay a powertrain deficit, the strength of the MP4-30’s chassis has more opportunity to shine through this weekend and as Mark Hughes reported for Sky Sports F1 this morning, the car appears to be the most well balanced between the medium speed turns eight and nine.
Trials and Tribulations
While other midfield folk found the Hungary Friday experience to be a tasty one, Lotus and Force India endured a challenging day at the office.
In what was a bizarre start to proceedings for the Enstone squad, FP1 was somewhat of a non-event for Pastor Maldonado and Friday-driver Jolyon Palmer, as the team were required to make a payment to Pirelli before the Italian manufacturer would release their allocation of tyres. When they eventually purchased their rubber, they needed to be heated in the tyre blankets – a process which ate into their track time and reduced their mileage to a mere handful of laps.
While they fared much better in FP2, Force India were forced to effectively withdraw from the session after a frightening accident for Sergio Perez in FP1, where he was pitched into the barrier on the exit of turn eleven, following a curious right-rear suspension failure. The fact that he emerged unscathed, is testament to the safety of the cars. With the team concerned that a similar issue could potentially effect Nico Hulkenberg, they took the decision to keep the German in the garage until the issue was discovered.
Losing an entire FP2 session as a team, is unquestionably damaging to their chances of a successful weekend. They will head into the race with last year’s data as one of few barometers. Given that last year saw the team face a double retirement in Hungary, it seems that Force India may have found their bogey track.