Hungaroring, 26 July – With an uneven number of races on this year’s calendar – 19 – this tenth round of the season, the Hungarian Grand Prix, is as near as one can get to an actual halfway point. It is also the final round before the summer break, but there is certainly no sense of the holiday starting early, as there is plenty going on here on the outskirts of Budapest.
To start with, this is the first race at which Pirelli has brought its new tyres, with the 2012 construction and the 2013 compounds, having had a chance to test them with ten of the eleven teams, including the Scuderia, in Silverstone last week. It was surprisingly hot in England for the three days, but not when compared to the furnace that is the middle of land-locked Hungary in the height of summer. Therefore, for all teams, assessing the performance of the Medium and Soft compounds has been an important part of the day’s work: with a good grid position vital on this sinuous track, getting the best out of them for tomorrow’s qualifying was a priority, but one matched by the need to ensure they also work well over a long run for Sunday afternoon. Add in the usual tasks of assessing new parts and generally working on set-up and it made for hot times, in all senses of the word in the Prancing Horse garage.
Initial signs seem positive, with 56 trouble free laps each for Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, as they ended the day in fourth and fifth places on the final time sheet respectively.
Quickest in both sessions were the Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber and this afternoon, third fastest was Romain Grosjean in the Lotus. Behind the Brazilian Ferrari driver, Lewis Hamilton completed the top six for Mercedes.
The pit lane looked strangely deserted today, as a result of a new rule banning media from it during sessions, following the incident at the Nurburgring, when a wheel came off Mark Webber’s car as he pulled away from a pit stop and hit a cameraman. The rule was eventually modified, so that a select band were allowed in to send images of the garage action around the world.