Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2019

Verstappen suspects Mercedes are ahead as rain masks Friday pace

2019 Hungarian Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix gave a perfect demonstration of the importance of qualifying well at the Hockenheimring.

Mercedes hadn’t led a single session until Q3; when it rained in qualifying Lewis Hamilton parked his W09 on pole position. With Valtteri Bottas joining him on the front row, that allowed Mercedes to form an effective roadblock to the clearly faster Ferraris.

More rain tomorrow could lead to a repeat. However Friday’s rain has made the competitive order trickier to determine in the first place. Who is in the positions Ferrari were 12 months ago?

In a reversal of last year’s form it appears to be Mercedes. This was predicted by the competition. In Germany Red Bull team principal Christian Horner talked up the slow-corner pace of the W10 as “mighty”.

But Horner’s team is the rising power among the front runners. Last year Red Bull were 0.8% off the pace at Silverstone, Hockenheim and the Hungaroring. So far this year the equivalent figures are 0.2% and 0.4% for Silverstone and Hockenheim respectively. Will they be closer again here? We only really have the first practice figures to go on, which indicate they will.

“I think Mercedes are still a little bit ahead so we still have a little bit of work to do,” said Max Verstappen after practice. “But it was also not bad at all. We are competitive this weekend but let’s wait and see tomorrow.”

What was clear in Germany is that the RB15 and Verstappen like the rain. The team surprisingly struggled in the wet conditions at this track 12 months ago, but seems to have put those problems behind it.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2019
Slow-corner performance has been a Ferrari weakness
Mercedes’ preparations were compromised by more than just the rain. Valtteri Bottas suffered an electrical problem in first practice and had to drive back in limp-home mode without setting a time. He got out in time for second practice – when the rain arrived.

Ferrari’s potential is even less obvious than their front-running rivals’. The team has made clear steps in recent races, but slow-corner performance has been a weakness of the SF90 up until now. that said, their first practice lap time was encouraging.

Forecasts vary as to the extent of rain which can be expected tomorrow. Some predict it will dry up after the final hour of practice, others expect it will settle in for the afternoon. Mercedes’ rivals will surely be hoping for the latter.

The midfield picture is similarly unclear. McLaren, who’ve been consistently the most competitive team behind the top three, feel their car performs less well in slow corners and have had concerns about coming to the Hungaroring. Renault’s chassis seems opposite in its traits to their customer rivals, a perception underlined by Friday’s practice results.

Meanwhile Haas is still running different cars for Romain Grosjean (old spec) and Kevin Magnussen (new). The latter had a strong run in first practice. “The Melbourne-spec car doesn’t like cold temperatures”, explained Grosjean, who may have to wait until Sunday for it to warm up.

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Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’17.2331’17.99556
2Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’17.3981’17.90940
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’17.3991’19.25449
4Pierre GaslyRed Bull-Honda1’17.6821’17.85441
5Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’17.9421’19.17852
6Valtteri BottasMercedes1’18.18420
7Charles LeclercFerrari1’18.1881’18.85250
8Nico HulkenbergRenault1’18.4171’18.89245
9Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’18.5311’20.40140
10Daniel RicciardoRenault1’18.8941’18.59743
11Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’18.7871’18.68257
12Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’18.7021’19.39845
13Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’19.4881’18.90949
14Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Honda1’18.9821’18.95755
15Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’18.9731’19.14951
16Alexander AlbonToro Rosso-Honda1’19.22330
17Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’19.3251’19.72133
18George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’19.6491’19.88947
19Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’19.7221’19.77448
20Robert KubicaWilliams-Mercedes1’20.3221’20.43945

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2019 Hungarian Grand Prix

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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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3 comments on “Verstappen suspects Mercedes are ahead as rain masks Friday pace”

  1. Pretty obvious that merc is ahead.

  2. Interestingly, the normal comparison of pace difference to Merc, as shared by Scarbs on twitter, has RB faster in all but two aspects, and faster in slow and medium corners. Don’t doubt that Merc will hit the front come Q2 and Q3, but I don’t think this is a done race.

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