x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Vettel lays down a marker at Hungaroring

The German Red Bull driver is quickest in both free practice sessions ahead of today's qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel was quickest in both practice sessions yesterday.
Sebastian Vettel was quickest in both practice sessions yesterday.

Sebastian Vettel is not expecting an easy fight for pole position in today's qualifying session for the Hungarian Grand Prix despite dominating yesterday's practice. The German, who will be chasing his fourth pole in a row and seventh of the season, was quickest in both sessions at the Hungaroring, with a best lap of 1min 20.087secs.

Vettel, 23, is anticipating a strong challenge from Ferrari for top spot on the grid for tomorrow's race, and expects their drivers, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, to be quick in the one-hour session, and also for the McLaren-Mercedes cars to raise their game. "I think the Ferraris will be very close and I think in the long run, if you look at the pace, it was very similar," Vettel said. "So again, it looks tight, and McLaren are going to try and come back for Saturday, so you never know.

"This morning was a bit of a not-clear picture but this afternoon was much more like it, much tighter and the Ferraris seemed very quick again, not just on the short run but also on longer run. So I think they will be very quick again tomorrow as well. "And you cannot forget the McLarens, there were a lot of times this year when they made a good forward to Saturday." Mark Webber, Vettel's Australian teammate, was second-quickest in the opening session, but Alonso was Vettel's closest rival on a warm afternoon at the Hungaroring, half-a-second off the pace.

Robert Kubica of Poland, preparing for the nearest thing to a home race, was third and seventh respectively for Renault. Lewis Hamilton, the world championship leader, was sixth quickest after being only 18th fastest in the first session. But the Briton was still 1.2secs off Vettel's pace, with teammate Jenson Button a further four tenths slower as he had to be content with ninth-fastest in the second session.

Meanwhile, Eric Boullier, the Renault's team principal, has said Vitaly Petrov will be given more time to impress in his bid to keep his seat with the team for 2011. The Russian has struggled to match the pace of teammate Kubica this season. He has finished in the points only twice, in China and last weekend in Germany, and his total of seven points has left him languishing in 14th place in the standings, despite being in arguably the fifth-quickest car in the field.

"We have a lot of drivers chasing us but we will see. I want to give Vitaly the support he needs to deliver, so we will wait as long as possible," Boullier said. "If he doesn't deliver now, then maybe we will make the decision earlier. "But we trusted in him, we've brought him in and actually he did match our expectation, so why should we kill him?" Timo Glock, the Virgin-Cosworth driver, and Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion, are vying for a seat with the French team for next year, which would come at Petrov's expense; Kubica is contracted to the team until the end of the 2012 season.

But Boullier added that Petrov's performances have been relatively good compared to the more experienced Kubica, in spite of him being out-qualified by the Pole at every race this season. "If you analyse session by session, race by race, you will see that sometimes he is very close and matching the pace of Robert. He needs to build his confidence and learn Formula One as well," Boullier said. "If we see Vitaly doing well every race and if we do believe he is catching up quickly enough in terms of learning, he will be with us next year. Next year we need to have two cars scoring points."

* Agencies