Lewis Hamilton, the illustrious seven-times world champion, made a remarkable statement in the final practice session for the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday. Despite referring to his car as the “worst” just a day before, the British driver showcased his prowess by topping the timesheets at the Hungaroring.
Setting a scorching pace, Hamilton clocked an impressive time of one minute and 17.811 seconds, reaffirming his status as the king of Hungary with a record eight victories at the circuit. His closest rival, Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen, trailed by a mere 0.250 seconds. Verstappen, however, voiced concerns about a lack of grip on the track.
Sergio Perez, Hamilton’s teammate at Red Bull, secured the third position, while the surprise of the day was Nico Hulkenberg, claiming an unexpected fourth spot for Haas, both on soft tires. The fifth spot was taken by McLaren’s Lando Norris, who impressively set his fastest time on medium tires.
George Russell, temporarily driving for Mercedes in place of the injured Valtteri Bottas, demonstrated his talent by securing the sixth position. Behind him, the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz grabbed the seventh and eighth spots, respectively, with some drivers struggling to handle the challenging gusty winds.
Hungary has been a happy hunting ground for Hamilton throughout his career, with his first Mercedes win at the circuit a decade ago, adding to his previous triumphs with McLaren in 2007, 2009, and 2012. Additionally, Hamilton holds the record for the most pole positions in Hungary, an astonishing eight times.
The weekend’s tire format, dubbed “Alternative Tyre Allocation,” introduced by Formula One with fewer available sets, presented teams with an intriguing challenge. Mercedes’ team principal, Toto Wolff, acknowledged the complexity of the new format, but the team made crucial overnight changes that paid off handsomely. Despite Red Bull’s dominance on medium tires, they seemed to struggle on the softer compounds, providing a glimmer of hope for Mercedes.
As anticipation builds for the Hungarian Grand Prix, fans await an epic battle between the dominant Red Bull and the resurgent Mercedes, setting the stage for a thrilling race day.