x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Practice leaves Hamilton and McLaren with 'positive buzz'

Briton tops the charts ahead of Saturday's qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton picked up yesterday where he left off in Germany last Sunday by delivering the fastest times for McLaren-Mercedes in both opening free practice sessions ahead of tomorrow's Hungarian Grand Prix.

The 26-year-old Briton, who won the world title in 2008, clocked a best lap time of one minute and 21.018 seconds, to top the speed charts and endorse the impression that he has regained top form after winning last weekend's race at the Nurburgring.

Hamilton wound up fastest ahead of the two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari with his McLaren teammate, Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, third fastest.

Having experienced near-humiliation last year when Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel won with an advantage of a second a lap, Hamilton relished his new-found speed.

"It's a great feeling to start already on a high - it wasn't really expected, [but] the climate is working for us, it's not as hot as it usually is here," he said. "It's too early to say what's going to happen, but we can compete with the guys in the front. We do have a positive buzz in the team and that's great."

Button, preparing for his 200th grands prix back at the track where he registered his first win in 2006, said: "It was a trouble-free day, which is nice. We're definitely in the hunt so I'm very happy with the direction we've gone with the car and the feeling of the car."

Mark Webber was fourth quickest for Red Bull ahead of his teammate, the defending champion and runaway championship leader Vettel, with Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari down in sixth.

Vettel, still downcast as he struggled to keep pace with the revived McLarens and Ferraris, warned his Red Bull team after the sessions that it was time they took a step forward to stay at the top.

He said: "It was pretty slippery at the beginning. Later on I felt OK in the car, but I think it is not like last year. It seems to be very tight.

"McLaren and Ferrari are very quick so I think we need to raise our game to make sure that we will find ourselves at the top as well."

Webber, who crashed in the morning session and damaged his car, said: "It was my mistake. I ran across the kerb - which has been there for a few years. Drivers still don't learn - we just go out there and push."

Alonso, on his 30th birthday, dominated the early stages of the session with successive fastest times either side of a chart-topping lap from Button.

Alonso then broke the 1:22 barrier with a lap of 1:21.259 before Hamilton cut two tenths of a second off that time.