Leclerc sets the pace for Ferrari in Hungary

Leclerc sets the pace for Ferrari in Hungary

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in action during a practice session in Budapest, Hungary July 29, 2022. ― Reuters pic

Saturday, 30 Jul 2022 9:49 AM MYT

BUDAPEST, July 30 ― Red Bull’s Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen predicted Ferrari would be hard to beat in Hungary, unless rain mixes things up, after title rival Charles Leclerc was fastest for the Italian team in Friday practice.

Leclerc, who crashed while leading the previous race in France from pole position, lapped in one minute 18.445 seconds after Ferrari team mate Carlos Sainz led the first session in 1:18.750.

Verstappen, 63 points clear of the Monegasque at the top of the standings after 12 races, was second and fourth respectively in the dry sessions with McLaren’s Lando Norris second in the later practice.

Verstappen was 0.130 off Sainz’s pace while Norris was 0.217 slower than Leclerc.

“I think the Ferraris will be ahead of us this weekend and it will be hard to beat them,” said Verstappen.

“In the dry we might struggle to compete, but it could be a different story in the rain.” Rain is forecast for the weekend at the Hungaroring outside Budapest.

Sainz said his car felt good right away but second practice was trickier.

“We tried a couple of changes in the set-up to evaluate which direction is best to take for tomorrow and the race. We lost the feeling a bit, but we are in a good place in terms of car balance and pace,” said the Spaniard.

Norris, fourth fastest in the first session while Australian team mate and 2014 Hungarian GP winner Daniel Ricciardo was fifth in practice two, was not getting carried away.

““It seems to be suiting this track a little bit more but we’re always a little bit quicker in FP2 than we end up being normally,” said Norris.

“I’m not expecting to be fighting for pole or anything.”

Alonso’s birthday

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, the double world champion celebrating his 41st birthday at the track where he took his first win with Renault in 2003, was sixth in the later session.

Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez, who complained over the radio of “a bit of an allergy” after suffering a very public sneezing fit at speed early on, was sixth and ninth respectively.

Struggling champions Mercedes had a difficult day, with seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton predicting a tough weekend.

“We came in wanting to do some experiments with the car and I think the ones we did in FP2 with both (drivers) have taken us backwards,” Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin told Sky Sports television.

“There’s a couple of things I’m pretty certain we’re going to be undoing overnight because it didn’t look great.” Hamilton, a record eight times winner in Hungary, was seventh initially and 0.960 off Sainz’s time before ending session two11th and 1.102 slower than Leclerc.

“The car was a bit of a struggle today,” said Hamilton, who was second in France. “It’s crazy how it swings so much from track to track.”

Aston Martin experimented with an eye-catching new rear wing, and had Sebastian Vettel 11th and seventh, a day after the four times world champion announced his retirement at the end of the season.

Haas also rolled out an updated car for Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen with some striking aerodynamic similarities to the Ferrari.

Sunday’s race is the 13th of 22 this season and last before the August break. ― Reuters