Hungarian Grand Prix: Mercedes and Racing Point the form horses after Friday free practice

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton laid down an ominous statement of intent following yet another dominant 1-2 in free practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Reigning world champion and seven-time Hungarian GP winner Hamilton is hoping to match the great Michael Schumacher’s tally of eight F1 victories around the Hungaroring on Sunday, and the Englishman was again on song as a time of 1m16.003s was 0.086s quicker than teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Ominously for the opposition, Hamilton’s fastest lap time was set on the hardest compound tyre, the Racing Point duo of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll over half a second adrift, yet their quick times set on the softest red-banded Pirelli rubber.

Next on the timesheets was the in-form Daniel Ricciardo, proving Renault are continuing to make strides forward, the Australian finishing ahead of the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc as Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon rounded out the top ten.

After Hamilton’s dominant pole position at the Styrian Grand Prix, set in torrential conditions, the forecast rain hit the Hungaroring for the second free-practice session. Such was the champion’s confidence, he didn’t even venture out in FP2, possibly to guard against any misfortune.

“It was a great first session and everything we needed to do,” said Hamilton afterward. “It’s a shame it has rained today and strange to think we’re in summer yet we’re faced with this weather every weekend, or last two weekends, so didn’t really leave a lot for us to do in that session.

“Don’t take too much from it. Everyone is doing something different, different programmes out there in terms of wing and fuel, and engine and all these kind of things. But we got through all we wanted to get through, it was feeling okay, but I think it’s going to be closer when we get to P3 and through to qualifying.”

As it was, it was the Ferrari of the outgoing Vettel who topped the wet qualifying session from Bottas’ Mercedes and Sainz’s McLaren. There was yet more encouragement for the Racing Point team, who look bang in the mix, as Stroll and Perez were fourth and fifth.

And that pace may be alarming for the fancied Red Bull team, Verstappen only managing 7th on the FP2 timesheets as Alexander Albon remained in the pits.

“Not so good so plenty to look into,” said a flummoxed Verstappen. “A little bit of a shame that it was raining in the second session otherwise already I think we could have had a look, but a lot of work to do. Not so happy, but luckily we have a night to look at it, make some changes and try to do better for tomorrow.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.