So Mercedes may look to have the edge on the field once again, and while I hear you neutrals – or fans of any team bar Mercedes for that matter – bemoaning another season of dull continuity, it might still be too early to call.
Hamilton may have been half a second clear of the field today, but with the Englishman surely desperate to unsettle the newbee on the other side of the garage early on, and with Vettel indicating that Ferrari have plenty more performance up their sleeve, I’m not ready to declare Hamilton the 2017 World Champion just yet.
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.
With Mercedes dominance predicted on a circuit which should favour the characteristics of the W06, the man most likely to spoil Lewis Hamilton’s home-coming is his teammate Nico Rosberg. This race marks the latest chapter in their duel and on the basis of today, Nico has the upper-hand. Albeit a challenging day for Rosberg, including a truncated FP1 due to a hydraulic leak, the German appears far more comfortable in the car than Hamilton, who struggled to just fourth on the timesheet in FP2, while posting long run times well down on his championship rival. By his own admission, Lewis needs “a lot more pace,” if he is to give the home crowd something to cheer about.
It may only be a Friday, but such is Mercedes’ dominance and reliability this season, Sebastian Vettel topping the FP2 timesheet is somewhat of a talking point – particularly given the German’s reliability issues which curtailed in first session and truncated his second. However, Vettel’s messy day summed up today’s running up and down the field, as countless drivers not only found the limit but exceeded it, on the small but mighty circuit filled with challenges. Lewis Hamilton in particular was one of those who regularly took to the run-off area, with the most costly occasion coming when the Briton was one corner away from recording a representative qualifying simulation run.
A fortnight on from the Monaco debacle which cost him a race victory, Lewis Hamilton has arrived in Canada with intent. The Briton attacked the circuit today, topping the timesheet in both sessions and experiencing a handful of excursions along the way. In what was a truncated FP2 session – rain effected for the second race weekend in succession – Mercedes were the only team to take a gamble on the wet track and with Hamilton’s day ending in the Turn Eight barriers, their rivals decision to remain in the garage was somewhat vindicated.
Not only on account of the fact that both FP1 and FP2 took place in the unique-to-Monaco spot of Thursday, but the track action itself made for a rather peculiar first day of running. The weekend in Monaco is a story of unrelenting track evolution, but the rubber laid down in today’s opening session was soon replaced by puddles, as FP2 was riddled by showers which kept the majority of drivers in the confines of the garage for a full hour. Rain, therefore, doing the work which is usually done by Thursday and Friday evening’s parties at Monaco’s social hotspots. Just like those enjoying the perks of attending this particular weekend, Lewis Hamilton will be sporting a smile heading into the heart of the weekend, as the Briton topped the timesheet’s in both of today’s sessions.
The first sessions of the fledgling European season saw familiar names at the top of the timesheet. Ferrari may have bolted an ambitious 16 individual upgrades onto the car, reforming much of their aero package, but it was Mercedes who controlled day one of the event, with Rosberg and Hamilton sharing top honors and displaying impressive race pace to compliment their ever-present short run credentials. With plenty of comparatively unfamiliar faces taking advantage of track time at a venue that everyone knows so well, today had more talking points than I can possibly plough through in under 1000 words – but let’s make an attempt…