Verstappen leads Mercedes pair in Hungarian GP first practice

Max Verstappen topped Friday’s FP1 at the Hungaroring, the Red Bull charger pumping in a lap on the soft tyre late in the session to edge Valtteri Bottas by 0.061s while Lewis Hamilton was third just 0.167s adrift.

Save for a red flag triggered by AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in the second half of the session following a spin by the Japanese driver, it was an uneventful opening practice at the twisty 4.3-km track.

    Hungarian Grand Prix Free Practice 1 – Results

Teams are bracing for a hot weekend in Budapest, and that may prove to be the case in more ways than just scorching temperatures.

As everyone swiftly got down to business at the outset – including Robert Kubica who was running in this third FP1 of the year for Alfa Romeo, the focus in the Red Bull camp was on Verstappen’s power unit, with Honda monitoring the engine’s health as it was the unit bolted onto the RB16B that was written off at Silverstone following the Dutchman’s clash with Hamilton.

The action rapidly grew to a full circuit of cars, with teams evaluating their template of high downforce settings suited to the twisty circuit, often called “Monaco without walls”.

As positions rotated at the top of the timesheet in the early part of the session, Mercedes’ chargers were the first among the front-runners to dial in some speed, with Bottas edging Hamilton by a tenth of a second – with both drivers running on the soft tyre – while Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly followed within half a second.

The first half of the session unfolded without any incidents to report, but Yuki Tsunoda livened up the proceedings when an off-track excursion led the rookie into the barriers and triggered a red flag.

Damage appeared limited but the angle of the impact implied a risk to the AlphaTauri’s rear end and gearbox.

With just 10 minutes left on the clock, a soft shod Verstappen pumped in a 1m17.555s that duly placed the Red Bull driver on top, 0.061s clear of Bottas.

Despite a busy final minutes, the session thus concluded with the championship leader drawing first blood, in front of his Mercedes rivals.

Sainz and Gasly rounded off the top five, followed by Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll who bookended the top ten.

Further behind, Ocon, Tsunoda, Vettel, Ricciardo, Russell, Latifi, Schumacher, Kubica, Mazepin and Giovinazzi completed the second half of the field.

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