Daniel Ricciardo sets the opening pace at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Two red flags, a flying front wing and a Red Bull on top during first free practice at the Hungarian Grand Prix. A session topped by Daniel Ricciardo from Kimi Raikkonen, whose Ferrari team will continue to supply Sauber in 2018 and beyond after the Swiss outfit pulled the plug on a potential Honda supply.
Practice at the Hungaroring begun with a steady flow of drivers hitting the track early on. Helping to remove the top layer of dust that sat across the circuit.
One of the early runners included Max Verstappen as the Red Bull racer broke the silence. While last to join the action were Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perz, with all drivers venturing out inside the first five minutes of the 90-minute session.
Early running for Fernando Alonso revealed a small technical glitch for his McLaren with his dashboard showing he had a puncture. Although the team calmed their driver by informing the Spaniard that it was only a dashboard error.
But for how much longer will Fernando be a McLaren driver? For the Spaniard’s future at the Woking outfit is still not confirmed and after publicly stating McLaren could not stick with Honda unless they improved, McLaren are now more than likely to remain with the Japanese firm after their alternative options in Ferrari and Mercedes look closed off with neither keen on supplying one of their possible rivals.
With Ferrari and Mercedes locked out, the only other destination would be to move to Renault. However, that would not form the step forward the team desire from splitting from their lucrative deal with Honda.
Should McLaren remain a Honda powered team, they would go on as the only Honda outfit once more after Sauber’s new team principal, Fred Vasseur announced the Swiss team would not take up their contract with Honda led by their ex-team principal, Monisha Kaltenborn.
Instead, Sauber will continue with Ferrari power in a multi-year deal, that will likely see the team receive the latest specification of power units rather than year old units like used this year in another deal led by Monisha Kaltenborn. A deal that has hampered Sauber’s possible results thus far in 2017.
In the meantime, Sauber will continue with the 2016 Ferrari power units that cannot be developed mid-season. While teams up and down the grid bring updates to all aspects of their cars, including Red Bull running a new front wing with Daniel Ricciardo.
With the latest spec Red Bull front wing, Ricciardo posted the first time of the session with a 1:22.421 that he soon lowered to a 1:21.212. Red Bull then soon pulled their driver into the pits to change his front wing from the new multi-element design to the previous specification.
While in the pits, Ricciardo’s crew also cleaned the flow-vis paint from the Australian’s rear wing as Red Bull looks into energising the rear wing via the monkey seat, which is a winglet that sits above the rear crash structure and exhaust.
Also running new parts in FP1 was Jolyon Palmer, who was adopting the new Renault floor as the Briton continues to search for his first points of the season.
Palmer’s form comes amidst growing pressure on his future and Renault handing an in-season test chance to Robert Kubica, as the Polish ace continues his recovery from the arm injury that has kept him out of F1 since 2011 when he was involved in a serious crash at the Ronde di Andora rally.
With the new floor, Palmer was among the first to break a brief lull in the session. But any running was soon interrupted by a relatively harmless spin by Vandoorne at Turn 2 but also claimed the engine seemed to just stop.
Soon after, Romain Grosjean become the next driver to have a moment as he had a larger spin at Turn 9. Clipping the barrier with his rear wing and soon reported “something [is] wrong on the rear of the car”. That something was a damaged rear wing that he soon pitted to have fixed.
Continued running meanwhile saw the supersoft tyres begin to hit the track with most teams heavily favouring the red-branded Pirelli compound with their selections for the weekend.
With the fastest available tyre fitted, Raikkonen and Vettel moved Ferrari ahead of the field and Ricciardo’s early time by 1.2-seconds. Marginally slower than Valtteri Bottas soon after, as he improved to demote his fellow Finn by two-hundredths of a second.
Also lapping faster than Ricciardo’s opener was Fernando Alonso as the Spaniard lapped just six-tenths down on the pace.
Meanwhile, Turn-9 claimed another victim in the form of the championship leader, Sebastian Vettel, who unlike Grosjean came to a halt prior to contact with the barrier.
While Vettel may have continued, however, the red flag soon waved as Antonio Giovinazzi found the tyre wall at Turn 11 after carrying too much speed into the corner. Causing Magnussen’s Haas to slide wide and nestle in the barrier with broken front left suspension.
After stepping in for Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber during the opening two rounds, and Sauber confirming their new deal with Ferrari, the Swiss outfit could be a potential destination for a race seat in 2018 for the Scuderia backed Italian.
Also contending for the seat, however, is current Formula 2 championship leader and the reigning GP3 series winner, Charles Leclerc. Who may be more preferable to Sauber after witnessing Giovinazzi crash during his time with the team and in practice with Haas.
Any Ferrari-backed driver coming in could see a potential end to the Mercedes-backed Wehrlein’s time at Sauber, rather than Marcus Ericsson given the rumoured links between Marcus’ financial backers and Longbow Finance, the owners of the team.
After improving on his earlier top-time to drop into the 1:19s, Bottas emerged back on track with a fresh set of supersoft tyres following the red flag. Improving further with a new fastest first and middle sector, although failing to improve in sector three.
Hamilton, meanwhile, also improved on his previous best but remained behind his team-mate. Leading to the Briton chasing a one-point margin to Vettel ask his pitwall where he could improve in sector one. Breaking at Turn 1 and entry to Turn 2 came the reply, and Hamilton responded with a new overall best sector time to go fastest, one-tenth up on Bottas.
Hamilton continued to lap and lower his pace to be the first of the day inside 1:18 as he created a near 4-tenths lead over his team-mate in P2. However, that order later changed as Ricciardo charged on a fresh set of supersofts to split the Mercedes at first, before improving again to nudge his nose across the line just six-thousandths of a second faster.
Daniel, like Lewis, then continued to improve and move clear of the Silver Arrows on a 1:18.486. Followed soon by Kimi Raikkonen as the Finn moved into P2, two-tenths down on the Red Bull.
Kimi’s improvement was the last change at the top of the field for the opening session of the weekend as a last second red flag emerged when Jolyon Palmer shattered his front wing at Turn 4.
Palmer had run wide at the crest of the hill, leading the Briton to return to the track via the furthest rumble strip. Which, unfortunately, destroyed the front wing of the Renault, that Jolyon soon parked with a puncture due to his own debris.
|1||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||31||1’18.486|
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||27||1’19.162||0.676|
|12||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||23||1’20.574||2.088|
|13||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||Renault||27||1’20.780||2.294|
|14||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Renault||25||1’20.917||2.431|
|17||Alfonso Celis Jr.||Force India||Mercedes||24||1’21.602||3.116|