Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel set the pace as Red Bull dominated first practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix yesterday with Pirelli’s new tires looking very much to their liking.
The German, fresh from victory in his home race at the Nuerburgring three weeks ago, lapped the slow and twisty Hungaroring circuit with a best time of one minute 22.723 seconds.
Australian team mate Mark Webber was the second fastest, lapping 0.259 slower, on a hot and cloudless morning with air temperatures of 30°and track temperatures a sizzling 44°.
Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen — who could be Vettel’s teammate next year — was third fastest with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso fourth on the timesheets.
Alonso, the German’s closest title rival with 34 points to make up after nine of the 19 races, was 0.376 slower than Vettel.
Vettel has never won in Hungary, one of only two circuits on the current calendar that has yet to see him on top of the podium, but the 26-year-old has been breaking new ground already this season.
His main rivals in qualifying on Saturday could be the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, but they were focusing on getting to grips with the new type of tire after being forced to miss a test at Silverstone last week.
That was a punishment for a “secret” test with Pirelli in Spain in May.
Since then, Pirelli have faced a wave of negative headlines after a spate of blowouts at last month’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone led them to change the tires to last year’s construction with this year’s compounds.
Rosberg was eighth fastest while Hamilton — three times triumphant in Hungary for McLaren and last year’s winner from pole — was 13th and behind both the Williams drivers, who have yet to score a point this season.
McLaren, without a win this season, looked in better shape at a circuit that has brought them six wins in the last eight seasons.
Jenson Button, a two-time winner in Hungary, was sixth fastest while Mexican teammate Sergio Perez clocked the ninth best time.
Germany’s Adrian Sutil, preparing for his 100th race for Force India, was seventh.
At the back, Venezuelan reserve driver Rodolfo Gonzalez replaced Britain’s Max Chilton for the opening session with Marussia and was the slowest by some distance.