BUDAPEST: Charles Leclerc was fastest overall for Ferrari in an intriguing Hungarian Grand Prix practice on Friday after Red Bull’s Sergio Perez crashed and halted the rain-hit opening session.
Leclerc lapped the Hungaroring with a best time of one minute 17.686 seconds on a dry track in practice two after the opening hour was rendered almost meaningless by a heavy downpour.
“Very different to read into today’s free practice,” commented the Monegasque. “Everybody’s trying different things…but the feeling was pretty good.”
McLaren’s Lando Norris was second, only 0.015s slower than the Monegasque, with Alpine’s Pierre Gasly third and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda fourth.
Red Bull’s runaway Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen, winner of the last six races, was only 11th but teams were carrying out an “Alternative Tyre Allocation” trial that made fewer sets available.
Verstappen did not do a low-fuel run on the soft tyres, using only one set.
“With this new format you are super limited with the tyres you can use and I didn’t want to use them today, so we could have a better preparation tomorrow,” said the Dutch driver.
“We want to be the quickest in qualifying but first we need to do a bit more running with different tyre sets to get a better understanding.”
The initial focus was on Perez after the Mexican crashed his newly upgraded car two minutes into practice and on his first quick lap.
Perez, second overall but 99 points behind Verstappen after 10 races, clipped the grass, lost control and smacked into the tyre wall at turn five.
“I cannot believe this,” he said over the team radio.
Perez was 18th in the second session after locking up and damaging a set of soft tyres.
The Mexican has failed to qualify in the top 10 in his last five races, only once standing on the podium in the same period, and the pressure is on with Red Bull reserve Daniel Ricciardo increasingly in the frame as a possible replacement.
Ricciardo, who left McLaren at the end of last year, was returning to the cockpit as replacement for axed Nyck de Vries at Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri and was 14th in the second session.
“It’s probably not too relevant at the moment,” said Ricciardo of his position. “I think it was more just for me today to feel basically where I am with the car.
“It all felt pretty familiar. Obviously there’s a lot of outside attention but once I’d put the helmet on and got in the car it all felt like I never really left.”
Mercedes’ George Russell, who took his first career pole position in Hungary last year, led first practice in 1:38.795s after the rain had eased off.
Australian Oscar Piastri was second in that session for McLaren, with Lance Stroll third for Aston Martin and Norris fourth.
Piastri missed part of the later session as mechanics checked the damaged floor of his car.
Mercedes’ seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, winner a record eight times in Hungary, set no time in session one and was 16th in the second with Russell last. Both used medium tyres.
“It wasn’t feeling good at all,” said Hamilton.
“The car is (the) worst today but we’ll work on the set-up tonight. Last year it felt terrible at the beginning and then we turned it around with some set-up changes.”
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz also brought out red flags in first practice when he beached his car at turn three with 14 minutes remaining.