After a return to form in Germany, McLaren sent out a warning to the rest of the Formula One field by dominating first practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest. Lewis Hamilton led Jenson Button by a tenth of a second with his teammate the only driver to get within half a second off him this morning.
The notoriously dusty Hungaroring circuit took some time to clean up, leaving us to wait over twenty minutes for anybody to complete a timed lap. That's not to say that cars weren't on track with Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen carrying out aero testing. The Ferrari squad were evaluating a new front wing while Lotus continued to gather data from their 'Double DRS' system.
Raikkonen was one of the first to set a time and comfortably led Heikki Kovalainen in the Caterham but just after the half hour mark, McLaren sent their drivers out and promptly raised the bar. Jenson Button set a 1:24.137 on his second flying lap to outpace the Lotus by almost a second but Hamilton quickly established superiority over his teammate, breaking into the 1:23s.
As the track continued to rubber in, the times kept tumbling and Hamilton found another three tenths to clock a 1:23.522. Button's initial response was a quarter of a second slower but the 32 year old made no mistake next time around, improving to a 1:23.199. Unfortunately for Jenson though, Lewis was busy lighting up the timing screens himself and became the first driver to lap in the 1:22s, pulling three tenths clear again.
The MP4-27s headed back for the pits but there was action elsewhere as Pastor Maldonado explored the turn ten gravel trap in his Williams. The Venezuelan driver appeared to be on a hot lap when he came across a touring Heikki Kovalainen on the racing line, leaving him nowhere to go but off the road. Both drivers made it back to the pits unscathed.
Button rejoined the race track and cut the gap to Hamilton to just 0.101s while the action was hotting up to finish best of the rest. Nico Rosberg moved up to third with just under half an hour remaining but was coming under threat from Fernando Alonso who was steadily upping the pace in the Ferrari. The championship leader won that particular duel with a 1:23.397 ten minutes from time but he couldn't get anywhere near the pacesetting McLarens.
Romain Grosjean made his way up to fifth with Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa pushing his teammate down to eighth. Raikkonen's lap in the very early stages would turn out to be his fastest and one would imagine he has plenty of time in his pocket. Encouragingly for the Finn, Lotus seemed happy with their new upgrades as they communicated with Kimi over the radio.
Valtteri Bottas finished an excellent ninth for Williams in place of Bruno Senna with Sergio Perez between him and Pastor Maldonado. Kamui Kobayashi was twelfth with Mark Webber the fastest of the Red Bulls in thirteenth, two places ahead of Sebastian Vettel. The world champions lack of morning pace is almost certainly down to their choice of FP1 programme although it remains to be seen how the change in engine mapping affects them as the weekend unfolds.