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The race weekend has commenced at the Hungaroring, with two free practice sessions on Friday. Despite rain affecting the morning session, there is still plenty to talk about and a lot to learn, so let’s get into the Hungarian GP practice analysis!
Perez under pressure
Sergio Perez comes into the eleventh race weekend of the season with plenty of pressure on his shoulders and his Friday performance did little to alleviate that. A crash just three minutes into Free Practice 1 is the big story of the day, on a day that saw the return of Daniel Ricciardo as well.
Free Practice 2 saw neither of the Red Bulls produce fast lap times. The RB19 features plenty of upgrades, but Max Verstappen ended the session in eleventh, with Sergio Perez eighteenth.
Red Bull probably tested with a lot of fuel onboard the car though, so the speed should be there for both drivers. What remains to be seen is whether Perez in particular can translate it into a good result.
Will Aston Martin rebound at the Hungaroring?
Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin have claimed six podiums in this season’s ten races, but the last two races have not gone according to plan. Despite not getting involved in any incidents or having any sort of misfortune, fifth and seventh were not what we’ve come to expect from the British squad and the Spaniard.
This was put down to the track layouts at the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone not suiting the AMR03. But the Hungaroring is vastly different and the slow corners should be more suitable to the car’s characteristics, which has been very strong in traction zones.
Add to this the fact that Alonso has excelled at the circuit throughout his career. He claimed his maiden victory in this circuit twenty years ago, dominated the event before an unfortunate retirement in 2006 and has not finished worse than eighth since 2010, despite not driving the best machinery in that timespan. He was eighth in Free Practice 2 today, although a bit more was available given that he made a small error on his fastest lap.
Contrasting fortunes for the McLaren drivers
McLaren’s form as of late has been a shock, considering how much the team struggled early in the season. Lando Norris was fourth in the Red Bull Ring and second in Silverstone, while Oscar Piastri only lost his maiden podium last time out because of a safety car intervention.
As Formula 1 heads to the Hungaroring, the car’s performance remains a question mark, given how different the layout of the circuit is. However, Norris showed the car has plenty of speed in the twisty circuit, as he ended Free Practice 2 in second position, just fifteen thousandths of a second behind the top time, set by Charles Leclerc.
Piastri had a more difficult session, which he ended in nineteenth. That however came as a result of an error by the Australian, who damaged the floor of his car on a kerb. The floor needed to be changed and the rookie lost plenty of track time.
Mercedes having difficulties
Mercedes may have stepped on the podium in Silverstone, with Lewis Hamilton third on Sunday, but the team was only fourth in pace, behind Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. And things are not looking better in Hungary.
Ever since the team brought the upgrades that revamped the W14, Hamilton identified slow-speed corners as one of the weaknesses of the car. The Hungaroring is a track that features plenty of them, so do not expect plenty from either Hamilton or Russell. Both drivers have excelled at the track though, so that could be a saving grace for the team.
Sixteenth and twentieth in Free Practice 2 are indications of the weaknesses of the car being exposed, but keep in mind that both drivers set their laptimes with the medium compound, so the situation is not as bad as it seems, although the seven-time champion complained about a lack of grip.
Ricciardo versus Tsunoda
Daniel Ricciardo is back in Formula 1 this weekend, replacing Nyck de Vries at Alpha Tauri. One of the most anticipated battles up and down the pitlane is the battle between the teammates at the Faenza squad.
Of course, the Australian has to adapt back to Formula 1, as he has only spent one day on track since his disappointing stint with McLaren came to an end last year. That day came after the British Grand Prix, when he drove the Red Bull RB19 at Silverstone.
For Yuki Tsunoda, this will be a prime opportunity to prove his progress and speed alongside the eight-time Grand Prix winner. This battle of course could have more implications, especially in the case Red Bull decide to drop Sergio Perez, who is in the midst of a bad run of form at the moment.
With the first free practice session essentially washed out, Ricciardo has less time to adapt to the Alpha Tauri car. This weekend, at the Hungaroring should end up with Tsunoda coming out on top and Free Practice 2 was an indication of that, with the Japanese driver ending the session in fourth, four tenths and ten positions ahead of his Australian teammate.
An adjusted qualifying format
This weekend, we will see a slightly different qualifying format, as teams will be mandated to use hard tyres in Q1, medium tyres in Q2 and soft tyres in Q3. This could affect a few teams and even a surprising elimination would not be out of the question.
One of the teams that could be affected by this change is Haas. The American team has thrived in qualifying so far this season, especially with Nico Hulkenberg. This success comes as a result of the team being able to fire up the soft tyres quickly and being able to produce in one-lap pace. With hard tyres in Q1, this could prove to be more difficult, so this could be an obstacle.
It will also be interesting to see the teams’ strategies, especially in Q1, but Q2 as well. A few may opt to fuel their cars for a few laps and go for multiple timed efforts to bring the tyres up to temperature, while others can elect to go for one all-out effort at the end.
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