Max Verstappen said he thought it would be tough to beat Ferrari in a direct dry fight after Friday’s practice at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver’s rival Charles Leclerc was in the lead, with Verstappen fourth, 0.283 seconds behind.
Verstappen was also led by the out of position McLaren of Lando Norris and the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz.
“They are a bit ahead. It will be difficult to beat that but we will try to close the gap,” Verstappen said.
Rain is forecast for Saturday’s qualifying, which could change the competition picture.
“(We’ll see) what the weather gives us tomorrow,” Verstappen said. “In the dry we can’t compete, so maybe in the rain we can. Who knows?”
Verstappen was on pole in the final wet qualifying session in Canada last month, although Leclerc was not pictured in Montreal due to a grid penalty for using excessive engine parts .
Verstappen, who leads Leclerc by 63 points with 10 races to go after the Monegasque lost the lead in France last weekend, said he always suspected the tight and winding Hungaroring was a difficult race for Red Bull .
“A little tricky as expected here,” Verstappen said, “just trying to find a balance between high speed and low speed. Sometimes it worked a little better, sometimes a little trickier. A bit of work to TO DO.”
Leclerc had a similar margin ahead of Verstappen in qualifying and race simulations.
As befits their season so far, Ferrari’s session has not been without its problems, however.
Leclerc had to cut his race simulation short after one lap when he felt a problem with the engine at the start of it, complaining of a lack of torque in fourth gear.
He was told to go to the pits and he asked: “Is there a problem?” “We’re checking it out,” his engineer said.
But after taking to the track a few minutes later he had a significant pace advantage over Verstappen, Leclerc up to 0.3 seconds ahead on average on both medium tyres. Sainz’s first race was on the soft tires and couldn’t be compared.
Positive signs at McLaren
Norris played down the importance of being second fastest, saying McLaren had their engine in high power mode than the others.
But he said he was encouraged by the pace of the car and that it was handling better than in recent races.
“It’s good,” Norris said. “The car behaves very well from the start. I felt comfortable.
“Today is a bit of an exaggerated show of our performance because we are more present than the others.
“We are certainly not fighting for Ferrari and Red Bull positions. But we are definitely well placed.
“But it’s still only Friday and the weather is supposed to change tomorrow. Things at the moment are a bit better than they were, so that’s positive.”
Norris was 0.217s slower than Leclerc and 0.014s faster than Sainz, who edged Verstappen by 0.052s.
Mercedes seemed to be struggling. George Russell was their fastest driver in eighth place, 0.910 seconds slower than Leclerc and behind McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel.
Lewis Hamilton was even worse off, in 11th place and 1.102 seconds behind Leclerc, and complaining the car was “unstable” during his race simulation.
What’s going on at Mercedes?
Hamilton, who has won eight times in Hungary during his career, said it had been “a difficult day”.
“The car is a bit difficult,” he said. “It’s crazy how it swings so much from track to track, you just have to prepare, try to understand how we can work.
“It’s a little loose and it doesn’t do what we want it to do. For some reason that track doesn’t work very well. But once we get the hang of it, the gap (towards the before) is about the same as last week, about a second.”
But Russell said Mercedes ran a slightly different schedule than normal in trying to find out more about the car.
“It’s definitely not our best Friday yet,” Russell said. “It’s a bit strange because we think it’s going to be wet for qualifying and the conditions on Sunday are going to be drastically different, so we tried a few things with the car, using it a bit like a practice session. trials.
“But it’s no use for the rest of the weekend, so even though it was a very difficult day, I think it was probably productive.
“(We were) just trying things to learn more about the car and at the expense of trying to get the most out of the lap time, rather than trying to gather information to help us more long term.
“We were definitely a bit further than expected. A few issues here and there, but tomorrow will be a totally new day and Sunday will be a very different day as well.”
The two most intriguing upgrades were at Aston Martin and Haas.
Aston Martin introduced a design that reintroduces an endplate shape. The 2022 regulations have been drafted to prevent the use of these parts of the rear wing, replacing them with a curved transition from the sides of the wing to the downforce elements.
This was part of a package of changes aimed at reducing turbulence and allowing the cars to follow each other more easily.
The other notable upgrade was to the Haas, which features a comprehensive set of modifications and has been dubbed the “white Ferrari” for its resemblance to the car that has been the queen of qualifying this season.
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