Hungary practice – how quick are McLaren, and are Renault a threat?

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Lewis Hamilton ran new 'antler wings' on his McLaren in practice today

After the first two practice sessions for the Hungarian Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton, who was fastest, said McLaren could go quicker. Kimi Raikkonen, fifth, admitted he was worried about McLaren’s pace.

And Fernando Alonso, fourth, (with team mate Nelson Piquet Jnr second) was keen to keep a lid on expectations.

So how fast are McLaren, Ferrari and Renault? Here’s a look at the times so far.

Analysing practice and testing times is tricky. Just looking at the single fastest times for each driver can be misleading. But after today’s practice McLaren seem confident they are ahead and Ferrari are backing up that assessment. So what are they reading from the practice session times?

To try and understand that I produced a basic analysis of the times by Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen in the second session.

I chose the second session because that’s when the track was at its cleanest – the Hungaroring gets little use between F1 races and so is especially dusty early on the first day of a weekend. I filtered out any laps longer than 1 min 40s, which indicated time spent in the pits. Click the thumbnail on the right to see the chart in detail. You can download the data it is based on below.

The graph is a little complicated but I spotted a few things that I think are helpful.

Heikki Kovalainen’s stint from laps seven to 13 is both quick and consistent – every lap between 1’21.1 and 1’21.8. The best lap time set by either Ferrari driver was a 1’21.0, and neither could maintain anything like that pace for more than a lap or two.

It also looks like Lewis Hamilton was trying a similar stint between laps eight and 15, which were generally a few tenths quicker than Kovalainen’s, except for two slow laps which may have been mistakes, traffic or yellow flags.

This to me suggests McLaren are slightly quicker than Ferrari over a single lap, but able to lap consistently quicker over a stint – much like they were at Hockenheim.

What about Renault? In the second session Nelson Piquet Jnr was second fastest overall with a 1’20.748, less than 0.2s slower than Hamilton. Alonso was fourth with a 1’20.928.

But they like Ferrari seem unable to hit this pace as consistently as McLaren. Hamilton did four laps within half a second of his best, Kovalainen three, Alonso two, and Piquet never got within a second of his. Alonso gave an explanation for why this might be:

I think for us, for whatever reason it seems to work better the soft compounds. Canada and Monaco (with softs) were some races that we were quite good in terms of performance and we were quite happy with our car. Then races like Silverstone or Hockenheim, with the hard compounds, we were under-performing a little.

So Renault look like doing well in qualifying but could become moving chicanes in the race.

What’s your interpretation of the Friday free practice session times? You can download the breakdowns of all the laps below.

Hungarian Grand Prix practice session times (PDF downloads):

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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9 comments on “Hungary practice – how quick are McLaren, and are Renault a threat?”

  1. Keith,

    I’d love to see two things, if you have the raw
    data for it:

    i) Zoom in to yrange [80:84]. Really we’re only interested
    in laps within a couple of seconds of a top notch flying lap, and we’d see the differences in the hot laps much better with a zoom.

    ii) Do you have the corresponding for sector times.
    Over on f1insight several are suggesting Mclaren were deliberately pulling up in S3. Even one good S3 time might be indicative of this.

  2. I love the design of the Mclaren. Even the new antler wings are rounded and curved where the other teams’ are not so much.

    I wonder how much aero philosophy vs aesthetic philosophy affects each part of each team’s car.

  3. Keith,

    excellent data, thanks for posting. I can’t see how McLaren won’t make it a 1-2 this weekend. Ferrari will have to work around the clock during the summer break and attempt a comeback in Valencia.

  4. michael counsell
    2nd August 2008, 2:57

    Very interesting data. Quickly flicking through most drivers did around 10 or 11 laps maximum between stops, Alonso did 15 and Piquet did 14. Typical race stints are around 25 laps. Its not that telling but different teams approach Friday in different ways.

    Practice is practice and especially at the Hungaroring where teams haven’t tested at all its about setting up the car and relearning the track.

  5. Way to do your homework Keith- excellent data.

    When first hearing of Renault’s times, I thought perhaps Flav was throwing everyone a bone earlier this weke when talking about their engine development struggles. Now, they appear to have some speed, even if it is due to tire choice. Perhaps Alonso and Piquet can run with the top dogs a bit, but in my mind, what happens when they need to sue the hard compound…do they start on it and look for a late boost, or go with softs out of the gate and try to gain ground early?

  6. talk about serious improvementos… :)

  7. Great post and good use of the data.
    I’m not sure Renault are as good as their P2 times suggest. As I mentioned on my betting blog the time sheets are very similar to last year. Heikki was 2nd (in Renault) in p2 and then struggled in qualy and failed to make the top 10. It looks like they are just using the same set-up program they used last year. Alonso does look good but unless he uses a light fuel load I see him qualifying 5/6th. Renault tend to go backwards in the race these days but maybe the softer tyre will give them a better race pace this time.

    If you look at that data for P1 then Heikki was the most consistent.

  8. They Were Lightly Fueled

  9. Andrew “aero philosophy vs aesthetic philosophy”

    in which case the Renault should be the slowest car on the grid, it looks like a yellow version of Gonzo from muppets.

    also the Mclaren apperently has 5kph more on the clock, in comparison to the Ferrari, which coupled with its now rock solid reliability is frightening.

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