Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time in Free Practice 3 for the Hungarian Grand Prix with a record laptime of 1 minute 16.170 seconds, five-hundredths of a second quicker than Valtteri Bottas.
Vettel’s Scuderia Ferrari team-mate, Kimi Räikkönen, stood third ahead of the second Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport of Lewis Hamilton. Both Mercedes cars suffered spins at the Turn 6/7 chicane on their qualifying simulation programmes, Bottas even making slight contact with the wall.
Räikkönen proved to be the early pacesetter in the first fifteen minutes on the ultra-soft tyres, before Bottas dipped into the 1:16 bracket. His joy was to be short-lived, Vettel beating the Mercedes’ time by over six-tenths of a second. Bottas improved slightly but Hamilton lagged, nearly a second away from the German, also on the ultra-soft compound.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing stood further off the pace. Whilst Daniel Ricciardo used the ultra-soft tyres for all his timed laps, Max Verstappen experimented with the soft tyres. The duo comfortably stood fifth and sixth respectively, despite Ricciardo hitting traffic on his first attempt. Verstappen also hit trouble, Charles Leclerc unwittingly blocking the Dutchman into Turn 1, irking Verstappen.
In the final 20 minutes, attention turned to qualifying runs. Bottas was the first to strike, with a 1:16.229, moving above Vettel whilst, in the background, Hamilton spun on his first fast run and compromised his rear tyres. Once again, the Finn’s time at the top didn’t last long, Vettel went faster by less than a tenth, setting a new track record at the Hungaroring.
Bottas tried to retort, but copied Hamilton’s antics at Turn 6, nudging the Armco barrier square on, causing little to no damage. Räikkönen had tried to set the first fastest time in the rush, but made an error at the penultimate corner, losing around half-a-second. Both Hamilton and the Ferrari driver did find improvements late on, but they were not match for Vettel – who looks to repeat his pole position of 12 months ago.
For the first time in the weekend, the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team were the best of the rest in seventh and eighth – Carlos Sainz Jr. topping Nico Hülkenberg. The former ‘class leaders’, the Haas F1 Team, took ninth through Romain Grosjean; the gap between Hülkenberg and the Frenchman standing at just one-thousandth of a second.
Pierre Gasly complained about a lack of space on his best run, although his time was good enough to give him tenth spot for Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda.
In a difficult morning for the Sahara Force India F1 Team, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez made no impact on the top half, ending the session fifteenth and nineteenth respectively.
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