Mercedes pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton edged Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix yesterday as the two teams renewed their rivalry following their controversial collision at Silverstone.
Verstappen had been quickest in the morning session but Bottas came through a blisteringly hot afternoon to set the pace with a quickest time of 1min 17.012secs, just 0.027s ahead of Hamilton. “It feels like being in a Finnish sauna,” said Bottas.
“It’s a good comparison especially when you stop running, you get the heat. It’s way more than 60 degrees, 70 degrees in the cockpit.
“It’s sweaty but out on track at least you get a bit of air. It’s good to see that most likely we’re going to be in the fight for pole tomorrow so that’s really motivating.”
Verstappen, who appeared to be having problems with the balance of his car, was third almost three-tenths of a second behind Bottas with Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez back in fifth behind the Alpine of Esteban Ocon.
Relations between the two leading teams have been on edge since Hamilton and Verstappen collided on the opening lap of the British GP, sending Red Bull’s championship leader Verstappen careening off the course and out of the race.
Hamilton was given a 10-second penalty but went on to win the race and close the gap between the two in the title race to just eight points.
The rivalry cranked up a few more notches on Thursday when Red Bull failed to win a review into the 10-second penalty handed to Hamilton with Mercedes later accusing them of attempting to “tarnish the good name and sporting integrity of Lewis Hamilton”.
Verstappen, who was in hospital when Hamilton took the chequered flag at Silverstone, had also weighed into the argument by describing the Briton’s podium celebrations as “disrespectful”.
Hamilton denied the charge but admitted he would not hesitate to pull the same manoeuvre again.
Verstappen put in the quickest time in the morning when he switched to soft tyres but could not match the Mercedes pair later on, complaining over the radio that the car was “so understeery it’s incredible”.
When he went out again he said “all the time I try to turn I’m losing the rear”.
Hamilton, who is looking for his 100th Grand Prix win this weekend and his ninth in Hungary, might have gone quicker but for a big snap of oversteer that took him briefly off track but the Briton was pleased with the day’s work. “To see Valtteri and I both on the front row pace-wise, I think, is great for the team and we’ll only improve on that,” he said.
“We’ve got some work to do tonight to see how we can finesse the car a little bit more but it’s a good start.”
Pierre Gasly claimed sixth for AlphaTauri while Fernando Alonso, who celebrated his 40th birthday on Thursday, put in a good day’s work in the Alpine, clocking the sixth-quickest time in the morning and seventh in the afternoon.
Just behind him was the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel.
Lando Norris was ninth as the leading McLaren, ahead of the second Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.
The first practice session was briefly red-flagged after Alpha Tauri driver Yuki Tsunoda crashed at the fast Turn Four. Lengthy repairs meant he was only able to get out for a brief run with less than five minutes to go in the second session.
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