Saturday 25 November 2017

Vettel ups heat on Ferrari

David Tremayne at Hungaroring

ferrari's difficult week got a little better yesterday in practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix but it was Red Bull who most enjoyed proceedings.

As controversy continues to swirl about the Italian team's victory at the German Grand Prix last week, Fernando Alonso had to settle for second and team-mate Felipe Massa fourth as Sebastian Vettel emphatically dominated practice here.

"That was pretty good -- we got through everything we wanted," the German said. "The car ran faultlessly and the guys did a good job. But this afternoon it was tighter. The Ferraris seem very quick again here, on both the long and short runs.

"They will be quick again tomorrow and we also shouldn't forget the McLarens: they have proven many times this year that they can make a step forward from Friday to Saturday."

Down at McLaren, however, there was an air of resignation. The team are getting to grips with their blown diffuser, but the latest technological 'must have' is now a flexible front wing.


This droops over either end of the wing and generates a degree of extra downforce which further enhances grip and increases performance. Ferrari and Red Bull ran them yesterday.

McLaren design engineer Paddy Lowe recently admitted that the team have yet to understand and master the technique for replicating such a device.

Here their pioneering F-duct, which stalls the rear wing on the straights and helps to reduce drag and increase straight-line speed, is much less useful than at, say, Sepang in Malaysia or Barcelona. Both Red Bull and Ferrari have taken theirs off this weekend, leaving McLaren, Sauber and Williams to use the devices.

"The car just isn't fast enough," Lewis Hamilton said.

The problems that the championship leaders have this weekend are manifold. Of course Red Bull and Ferrari are on fire, and Vettel, his team-mate Mark Webber, Alonso and Massa will probably carve up the majority of the points on offer.

But such is their lack of pace that McLaren could also be threatened by Renault and Williams. If any of them can separate McLaren from Ferrari and Red Bull, the leading championship positions could change dramatically yet again.

After running almost 1.3 seconds off Vettel's pace, and only sixth fastest overall, Hamilton admitted: "We're massively down -- almost a whole second -- in the middle sector, and then a couple of tenths in the first sector and I think the last sector's almost half a second -- We are pushing, and we're doing the best job we can.

"With the package we have, we're getting around the optimum from it. We're just trying to dial in the set-up, but there's only a couple of tenths in it.

"We've got a lot of work to do and I guess this weekend's just about scoring as many points as we can and hoping that the guys ahead have troubles. We'll just try and edge out as much as we can. I think being in the top five could be tricky this weekend."

"The car is the best I've ever had it around this track, and that's still not good enough. It feels great around the corners, and then you start to push more to try and close the gap to these guys, and then the car starts to be really on the ragged edge. But I think it's just the overall lack of downforce."

Team-mate Jenson Button was 1.6 seconds off Vettel, and was equally unhappy in only ninth place.

"It's going to be very tricky," he said. "The Red Bull is just so fast. They did a 1min 20.0sec. We didn't get near the low 1min 21s. The car doesn't feel so good on the softer tyre.

"On the harder tyre, it feels good. I don't know where that time is. I feel reasonably happy with the balance of the car.

"There's still more to improve, but we're never going to find a second. We'll do the best that we can with what we have here.

"The guys are all working flat out to improve this car, as we need to at the moment, and I've got belief in them. But if we can get into the top five in qualifying, we should be very happy with that." (© Independent News Service)

Hungarian GP, live, tomorrow, Setanta 1, BBC1, 12.45

Irish Independent

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