x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Practice is not perfect for Hamilton in Hungary

The McLaren driver tops the charts for 'a really positive day' but is guarded on his updated car's chances for the weekend.

Lewis Hamilton drove the fastest in both sessions yesterday before it started raining at the Hungaroring race track.
Lewis Hamilton drove the fastest in both sessions yesterday before it started raining at the Hungaroring race track.

BUDAPEST // As Great Britain confirmed its position as centre of the universe yesterday, one of the country's favourite sporting sons enjoyed a perfect afternoon 1,500km eastward.

Lewis Hamilton, the 27 year old who famously wrapped himself in a Union Jack after winning the 2008 Formula One world championship, topped the time-sheets in both free practice sessions ahead of tomorrow's Hungarian Grand Prix.

Hamilton spent Wednesday night sat opposite Muhammad Ali at a charity event billed as the start of the Olympic Games' party season and resultantly did not arrive at the Hungaroring until Thursday morning.

Yet in changing weather, the McLaren-Mercedes driver proved he had his mind firmly focused on the task at hand.

"It's been a really positive day. I'm very happy," Hamilton said after finishing 0.185 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus F1.

"We made some good changes to the car to get it dialled in, and we're on the right path, but we've still got some work to do.

"The Red Bull looks very quick, so does the Lotus, and obviously the Ferrari as well. We're by no means feeling comfortable."

While little can be extracted from a session that was interrupted by rain showers, McLaren look to have benefited from the upgrade they installed ahead of last week's German Grand Prix.

Hamilton was forced to retire from Sunday's race at Hockenheim, but teammate Jenson Button finished third, although he was later promoted to second following Sebastian Vettel's 20-second penalty for passing him while off the track, in what was his best result in seven races. Hamilton is quietly confident.

"I'm on it and I'm happy to be on it," he said. "I feel like I've been on it all year, but I feel a lot of support from the fans, the car feels great - as it did in the last race - and it's all in one piece at the moment."

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who has won two of the previous three grands prix, was fifth fastest in the afternoon, behind teammate Felipe Massa.

The Spaniard said "it is always difficult to hypothesise on how things will go in qualifying or the race," but added that grid position will be crucial this weekend. "It is vital to go into every little detail to be as well prepared as possible."

Hamilton said his updated car feels more comfortable, but was reluctant to read too much into practice results and admitted he fully expects Alonso to find pace overnight.

"I feel good in the car, but practice is completely different to qualifying. When we get into qualifying, I have no doubts that Fernando will all of a sudden find half a second and the Red Bulls will have all of a sudden found a chunk of time. But, we're not in a bad position."

Certainly a better position than that of Michael Schumacher, who careered his Mercedes-GP into a tyre barrier after taking to the track during a heavy downpour midway through the second session.

It was the second time in as many races that the seven-time world champion has lost control of his car during free practice. A "little crash," was how the German described it, adding that only the front wing is beyond repair.

"It was the kind of incident that happens when suddenly a shower hits the dry track," he said. "The car felt OK until then."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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