Wednesday 22 November 2017

F1: Hamilton proves master of elements

Simon Arron in Budapest

Rain has been Formula One's constant companion this season and it struck again yesterday during free practice for tomorrow's Hungarian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton withdrew as inclemency beckoned, but not before he had set the pace in both sessions. Fridays can be fairly meaningless, but McLaren's recently updated chassis looks just as effective here as it did a week ago in Germany.

"It has been a really positive day and I'm very happy," said Hamilton.

"There wasn't much point going out at the end, because conditions were too mixed -- some corners were almost dry while others were really wet, so it would have been a waste of time.

"The team made some good changes to get the car dialled in. We're on the right path, but the Ferraris, Lotuses and Red Bulls look quick and are sure to find a chunk of time in qualifying tomorrow. I feel good in the car, but we've still got work to do."

Second in the morning and sixth in the afternoon session, Hamilton's team-mate Jenson Button is chasing his third victory in Hungary.

"This race always feels special to me," he said. "I scored my first F1 victory here, in 2006, and then won again last year.

"Some people think the circuit is a bit Mickey Mouse, but it has a nice flow. Overtaking can be a bit difficult, but there are possibilities."

adrift

Kimi Raikkonen finished up second for Lotus in the afternoon session, his best lap still 0.185 seconds adrift of Hamilton's time, but ahead of Williams' Bruno Senna. The Brazilian is sorely in need of a strong finish after a run of poor results, and third represented a good effort.

As is customary, he stood down during the morning to give Williams' highly rated Finnish tyro Valtteri Bottas some seat time.

The Ferraris of Felipe Massa and championship leader Fernando Alonso were fourth and fifth, but it was a low-key day for the customarily competitive Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

The team have been the centre of attention for the past two days, after they were obliged to revise their engine mapping by F1's governing body, the FIA.

Supplier Renault insisted the alterations will make a difference that amounts to "no more than hundredths" and Red Bull will probably show their full hand today.

There was no mistaking Vettel's mood, however. Turn Five is one of the Hungaroring's best barometers of commitment -- a fast, sweeping, uphill right-hander -- and the German was as good to watch through there as anyone, constantly taunting the laws of physics as he thumped across the kerbs.

Michael Schumacher showed a little less control in his Mercedes. For the second time in as many Fridays, he crashed.

"I locked up and ran out of road," he said. "I lost the front wing, but other than that the car was undamaged." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Hungarian Grand Prix,

Live, tomorrow, Sky F1/Setanta Ire, 1.0

Irish Independent

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