Mercedes were able to find the right setup as they improved over the two practice sessions on Friday to set the fastest laps of the day at the Hungarian GP. Valtteri Bottas led the pack at the end of FP2 with his lap time of 1:17.012 ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
Earlier in the day, Verstappen set the fastest lap during FP1 going faster than the Silver Arrows of Mercedes. Red Bull used the afternoon session to test the hard and soft compound tyres and they were fastest on both. Verstappen was back to his best and there were no negative signs of the crash from Silverstone.
Mercedes were not able to keep up on the hard compounds and were almost 0.6 seconds off Red Bull’s pace. But on the soft compounds, the difference was not much and Mercedes were able to close the gap to less than 0.2 seconds.
And it was Mercedes that improved through the day with their setup changes as they did not waste any time, setting the fastest time from the get go. Bottas was having the better day, but Hamilton was just 0.027 seconds. This time on medium compound tyres.
Mercedes’ pace came as a bit of a surprise because the team has struggled in hotter temperatures. And all the drivers were complaining of the heat throughout the day, but that is just one of the difficulties of the Hungarian GP.
The rest of the pack had mixed performances
Ferrari had a mixed day of practice as well. Carlos and Charles were in the top 10 in FP1 but were not able to improve in FP2. The focus may have been to test the car and run simulations as the lap times show that they were slower in FP2.
The Alpine drivers managed to improve over the day as Esteban Ocon went fourth fastest during FP2. His lap time improved by almost one second. Fernando Alonso, who is now a regular top 10 feature throughout the weekend, was able to gain some time after setup changes.
Aston Martin were another team to find pace with the right setup changes to the car. Both Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel were in the top 10 in FP2 after a disappointing FP1. Vettel at one point set the 2nd fastest lap before the leaders could set their laps.
McLaren continued their trend in practice sessions as they were over a second behind the leaders. There was a slight improvement in the lap times of Lando and Daniel. But it could also be a sign of the car’s performance around the Hungaroring. Cornering in the McLaren is not easy and the Hungarian GP demands a lot of accuracy in that respect.
Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly seems to have found his mojo after a disappointing weekend at Silverstone. There was not much difference in his lap times but was consistent enough to stay in the top 6 across both sessions.
It still looks pretty close in the fight for pole position on Saturday. But it will go down to the wire as it has been in the F1 season so far. Bottas could have the last laugh in all of this and that could be a good twist.