2011 Hungarian Grand Prix (Rd 11, Free Practice Sessions, July 29-30, TV Notes)

As I was based in Spa-Francorchamps last weekend for the seventh round of the British Formula 3 Series (not forgetting the Spa 24 Hour Race), I completely missed all of the Hungarian Grand Prix coverage.
With a few days off and several large pots of tea to hand, I finally managed to squeeze in the entire GP weekend into a couple of measly evenings.


Hungaroring. © Creative Commons / Will Pittenger

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton proved himself to be quickest in two of the three Free Practice sessions in Hungary.

The 2008 World Champion topped both ninety-minute practices on Friday, with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel firing back on Saturday morning.

It was certainly a smooth start for a McLaren squad boasting new aerodynamic and exhaust upgrades, while Vettel actually reverted to an old front wing in an effort to lift himself back to the head of the time sheets.

Indeed Hamilton was the first to find advantage, pipping Vettel in FP1 and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in FP2 (both occasions by just over two-tenths), while Vettel proved quickest by three-tenths over Alonso in FP3.
Alonso was certainly the busiest of the leading trio, notching up 82 laps in the available time, despite missing part of FP1 due to a small fire at the rear of his Ferrari.

Neither Vettel nor Hamilton had such dramas, as the duo registered 72 and 62 laps respectively, although the McLaren driver endured a shorter stint in FP3 due to suspected brake trouble.
Red Bull, worried about numerous set-up problems on Vettel’s RB7, broke the curfew for the first time this year to work on the car during late night hours. Come Saturday, it appeared any outstanding problems had been nailed.

Practice proved to be less rosy for the “other” drivers in the top three outfits. Mark Webber crashed on Friday morning at turn nine, destroying one front wing and damaging several suspension pieces. The Australian claimed 4th place in all three sessions, constantly wavering around four-tenths off the quickest pace.

Felipe Massa (Ferrari) struggled for a quick time during the practices – a factor he laid at the feet of tyre testing; however it is unlikely the Brazilian was helped by several spins and off-track excursions during the running.
McLaren’s Jenson Button continued much set-up and update work for the British team, while mostly hanging around the top five, often three to four tenths adrift.

Mercedes proved to be “best of the rest” for much of practice, although a return of high tyre wear at their rear end worried the silver and turquoise team.
Both Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher limply hung around one second off the leading pace – well shy of the front group, but also distant from the chasing few.

Behind Mercedes, the timing screens produced a tense mixed up both, as Renault, Force India and Sauber squabbled just ahead of the Toro Rosso and Williams’ machines.
On Friday morning, Bruno Senna sat in for the under-pressure Nick Heidfeld at Renault, eventually getting to within eight-tenths of teammate Vitaly Petrov. The Russian complained of tyre temperature and floor issues, as the team struggled to find grip around the Hungaroring’s dusty surface.

It was a complaint that also rang true at Sauber, who found great difficulty getting heat into the soft tyres; however there were fewer issues at Force India, as the British squad worked on their Nurburgring updates. It was a sole dim light for a bright day at Sauber – prior to practice, it had been announced that all three drivers (Kamui Kobayashi, Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez) are to be retained for 2012.
There was still little to choose from the three squads as the chequered flag waved – qualifying would surely see a mishmash of the six drivers.

There is no doubt that Toro Rosso and Williams are not quite in that pack. As the little Italian team continue to close, the great British squad fall further toward the rear and are now surely the weakest of the established teams.
Admittedly, Williams have not been helped by further balance issues at the front end of the FW33, despite several aerodynamic upgrades in recent Grand Prix. Toro Rosso, meanwhile continue to adapt to the design progress that they have made so far this year, although there is now nearly exclusively with Williams.

There was no surprise at the rear of the pack, as Lotus once again trounced the “newer teams”, yet remain a long way short of the main pack.
For this race, Jarno Trulli received his upgraded power steering package, immediately reporting a much better feel from his steering wheel; however the veteran now needs to turn this upgrade into finer results.
The pace of neither Virgin nor Hispania was encouraging, with both squads potentially tiptoeing around the 107% rule come qualifying.

Free Practice 1
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1m23.350s   	      19
 2.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1m23.564s  + 0.214   24
 3.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1m23.642s  + 0.292   29
 4.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1m23.666s  + 0.316   12
 5.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1m23.772s  + 0.422   20
 6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1m24.115s  + 0.765   25
 7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1m24.250s  + 0.900   22
 8.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1m24.369s  + 1.019   20
 9.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1m24.620s  + 1.270   24
10.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault               1m25.093s  + 1.743   22
11.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1m25.113s  + 1.763   21
12.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1m25.336s  + 1.986   22
13.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1m25.357s  + 2.007   17
14.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth     1m25.836s  + 2.486   24
15.  Bruno Senna           Renault               1m25.855s  + 2.505   25
16.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m25.890s  + 2.540   28
17.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m26.099s  + 2.749   36
18.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth     1m26.124s  + 2.774   25
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault         1m26.878s  + 3.528   26
20.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault         1m27.352s  + 4.002   21
21.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth       1m28.533s  + 5.183   30
22.  Jerome D'Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth       1m28.903s  + 5.553   22
23.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth          1m29.059s  + 5.709   24
24.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth          1m29.904s  + 6.554   26

Free Practice 2
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1m21.018s           29
 2.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1m21.259s  + 0.241  40
 3.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1m21.322s  + 0.304  34
 4.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1m21.508s  + 0.490  35
 5.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1m21.549s  + 0.531  31
 6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1m22.099s  + 1.081  40
 7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1m22.121s  + 1.103  36
 8.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1m22.440s  + 1.422  36
 9.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1m22.835s  + 1.817  40
10.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes  1m22.981s  + 1.963  37
11.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1m23.030s  + 2.012  34
12.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1m23.399s  + 2.381  37
13.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth     1m23.679s  + 2.661  34
14.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault               1m23.861s  + 2.843  28
15.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth     1m24.181s  + 3.163  39
16.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m24.182s  + 3.164  26
17.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault               1m24.546s  + 3.528  21
18.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m24.878s  + 3.860  35
19.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault         1m24.994s  + 3.976  38
20.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault         1m25.447s  + 4.429  39
21.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth       1m26.823s  + 5.805  33
22.  Jerome D'Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth       1m27.261s  + 6.243  28
23.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth          1m27.730s  + 6.712  31
24.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth          1m28.255s  + 7.237  25

Free Practice 3
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap Laps
 1.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1m21.168s            17
 2.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1m21.469s  + 0.301s  13
 3.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1m21.639s  + 0.471s  14
 4.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1m21.645s  + 0.477s  18
 5.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1m22.002s  + 0.834s  14
 6.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1m22.534s  + 1.366s  22
 7.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1m22.667s  + 1.499s  14
 8.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1m23.037s  + 1.869s  19
 9.  Vitaly Petrov       Renault               1m23.175s  + 2.007s  19
10.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  1m23.276s  + 2.108s  18
11.  Nick Heidfeld       Renault               1m23.281s  + 2.113s  13
12.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1m23.375s  + 2.207s  18
13.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1m23.626s  + 2.458s  25
14.  Rubens Barrichello  Williams-Cosworth     1m23.663s  + 2.495s  17
15.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth     1m23.894s  + 2.726s  17
16.  Adrian Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  1m23.966s  + 2.798s  18
17.  Jaime Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m23.998s  + 2.830s  15
18.  Sebastien Buemi     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m25.061s  + 3.893s  19
19.  Jarno Trulli        Lotus-Renault         1m25.141s  + 3.973s  20
20.  Heikki Kovalainen   Lotus-Renault         1m25.501s  + 4.333s  20
21.  Jerome D'Ambrosio   Virgin-Cosworth       1m26.955s  + 5.787s  20
22.  Daniel Ricciardo    HRT-Cosworth          1m26.991s  + 5.823s  19
23.  Timo Glock          Virgin-Cosworth       1m27.174s  + 6.006s  16
24.  Vitantonio Liuzzi   HRT-Cosworth          1m27.713s  + 6.545s  20

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