Facing a tyre conundrum ahead of the tweaked qualifying format at the Hungaroring, Lewis Hamilton bounced back from his Friday woes to top the timesheet in Saturday’s final practice.
The Mercedes driver laid down a 1:17.811 to beat Max Verstappen by a quarter of a second with Sergio Perez third.
With the track temperature 45’C and climbing, the returning Daniel Ricciardo was the only immediate taker as FP3 began at the Hungaroring, but it wasn’t long before he had company including his rival for the Red Bull seat, Perez.
Tyre management dominates FP3 at the Hungarian Grand Prix
Unlike on Friday when he crashed at the start of the day, Perez’s Saturday got off to a better start with a P1 of 1:18.5. That didn’t stay top of the timesheet for long with Verstappen flying through a tenth of a second quicker while Charles Leclerc was third in the early running.
Running the medium tyres with the Red Bull team-mates wanting to hold onto softs for Q3 and potentially also for tomorrow’s race, Esteban Ocon closed the gap with his red-marked Pirellis but was still nine-tenths down on Verstappen’s best with George Russell up to fifth place.
Oscar Piastri, running a new floor after breaking his first in Friday’s practice, jumped up to third place on the soft tyres with rumours Mercedes fear that McLaren’s surge at Silverstone wasn’t a one-off. His team-mate Lando Norris gave credence to that he went P4.
Halfway through the session Verstappen’s earlier 1:18.4 remained the time to beat while Alfa Romeo, having opted for an early qualifying simulation, were second and third with Valtteri Bottas ahead of Zhou Guanyu.
As Verstappen continued on his mediums the Red Bull driver complained his rear tyres were feeling a “bit weird”. That was most likely due to the track temperature climbing a few degrees and strong gusts of wind at Turn 2. His team-mate Perez reported that his “tyres are not cooling down”.
The first 40 minutes of the final hour of practice posed an interesting conundrum for the teams given that later in day in qualifying they have to run a set of hards, Q1, a set of mediums, Q2, and a set of softs, Q3. That meant there was a mix of new and old tyres on the track while many of those running new rubber were having to nurse them on their out-laps.
Swapping to the soft tyres, Fernando Alonso hit the front but that was beaten by Norris who, on the mediums, went a quarter of a second faster. With more drivers putting new rubber on their cars, Lewis Hamilton was the next up in P1 before Verstappen also made the swap.
He, however, lost time in the middle sector with the reigning World Champion 0.250s slower than the Mercedes driver. “No grip, it’s unbelievable,” said Verstappen.
The session ended with Hamilton quickest of all ahead of the Red Bull team-mates while Nico Hulkenberg put in a late effort to go fourth ahead of Norris. Ricciardo was P18, three-tenths up on Yuki Tsunoda.
1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes 1:17.811
2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +0.250
3 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.256
4 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +0.266
5 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.271
6 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.308
7 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.379
8 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.423
9 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.539
10 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +0.678
11 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.725
12 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +0.733
13 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.781
14 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.787
15 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +0.838
16 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.965
17 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.003
18 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri +1.017
19 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.168
20 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.345