No sweat as Hamilton sets pace in Hungary

Lewis Hamilton sits in his car ahead of the first practice session at the Hungaroring. (AFP pic)

BUDAPEST: A heavily perspiring Lewis Hamilton declared himself to be well on the mend Friday after his best lap in morning practice proved to be the quickest of the day ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

Heavy afternoon rain curtailed the second session at the Hungaroring after Pierre Gasly topped the times ahead of his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen in the opening half hour.

Hamilton was third, one-tenth off Gasly’s pace, ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton’s morning lap in one minute and 17.233 seconds was six-tenths quicker than Gasly’s later in the day when a slippery track and wet conditions prevailed and Alex Albon crashed his Toro Rosso to cause a red-flagged stoppage for five minutes.

“I was feeling a million times better getting back in the car this morning, and even this afternoon,” said Hamilton, whose German Grand Prix last weekend saw him after suffering from a sore throat.

“I’m still sweating a lot so I’m obviously still sweating out whatever bug that I had, but that’s a good thing.”

Hamilton, who leads the title race by 41 points, pending the outcome of an appeal by Alfa Romeo against their penalties at Hockenheim, added that he did not see much point in running in the wet conditions.

“This afternoon, we got a slight run on the harder tyre,” he said. “I got a couple of laps and that was about it.

“There’s really not much point going out in the wet. Nowadays, if you know Sunday is going to be wet, and Saturday is going to be wet, and it will be a completely wet weekend, you can make subtle changes to help with the wet balance.

“But it’s kind of irrelevant now, when you know the race is going to be mostly dry. You just focus on getting the best set-up in the dry and then you deal with it in the wet.”

Bottas used a fresh engine after changing units following a misfire that prevented him taking part in the morning.

Daniel Ricciardo was fifth for Renault ahead of Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo, Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, Nico Hulkenberg in the second Renault and Antonio Giovinazzi in the second Alfa. Daniil Kvyat was 10th for Toro Rosso.

“Not much to learn from that,” said Gasly.

“We were strong in both sessions in wet and dry conditions and I am happy with the car and what we achieved. It’s good to have done this much work in such unpredictable conditions.”

The Frenchman’s cautious assessment may have hidden their car’s potential, as noted by Hamilton, who said he believed that Red Bull now had more power than Mercedes at some circuits.

Hamilton added that Verstappen, who has won two of the last three races, was an emergent threat.

“I think Singapore will be strong for them,” he said. “When we get to the longer places, like Monza, it could be different now they have a new power unit

“They’re not lower than us in power. In some, they’ve got more power than us so it’ll be interesting to see how they go.”