By Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
During for the Hungaroring unusual weather circumstances, a clouded dark sky with the threat of rain, Lewis Hamilton finished the first free practice session for the Hungarian Grand Prix in first place. The Briton had already set the pace early on in the session, and after a last-minute dice with Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso for the quickest lap, set a time of 1m23.350s.
On a circuit with still some damp patches, as it had been hit by rain on Friday night, championship leader Vettel took his Red Bull RB 07 to second position, 0.214s slower than Hamilton. Although the German had ran wide and missed the chicane earlier in the morning, he stayed ahead of Alonso who was third, 0.292s behind Hamilton, and just 0,078s behind Vettel.
Mark Webber recorded fourth fastest time after he had during his second run lost control of his car at Turn 9 on a damp patch of the track, spun and hit the barrier. The Australian was able to keep his car going, but had to cruise back to the pits with a heavily damaged front section, and thus only completed 12 laps this morning.
Jenson Button took fifth position for McLaren with a time of 1m23.772s, while Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari followed him in sixth place, the Brazilian had been testing new aerodynamic updates earlier in the morning.
Nico Rosberg was the fastest of the Mercedes pair, despite he had been struggling with oversteer all morning, and was nine-tenths of a second shy of Hamilton’s fastest time. After three runs Michael Schumacher, who also had been struggling with his Mercedes due to oversteer, took eighth position, and scored a lap time of 1m24.369s, almost one-tenth behind his colleague Rosberg.
Surprise of the morning was Mexican rookie Sergio Perez who landed ninth position after he had in total completed 24 laps on the Hungaroring. The second Sauber piloted by Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi was with a time of 1m25.113 11th, which was 0.493s slower than Perez’s time.
Vitaly Petrov took the honors for Lotus Renault by scoring tenth position using the old-style exhaust configuration, while Bruno Senna, who took over from Nick Heidfeld this morning, ended up on 15th place, albeit with a little over two and a half seconds behind the number one. Nevertheless a good time, as the Brazilian had never driven the Lotus Renault before.
Next on the list are Force India drivers Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg who took 12th and 13th position respectively. As Friday-tester, German Hulkenberg took over Adrian Sutil’s car, but spent a lot of time in the Force India garage, and by the end of the session only had completed 17 laps.
Rubens Barrichello was the quickest of the Williams driver, but was unhappy with his car and had to be satisfied with a 14th position. His team colleague Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado also wasn’t happy with his car and complained about loss of grip, and after he had finished his runs took 18th position on the time sheets.
Sebastien Buemi pipped his Toro Rosso colleague Jaime Alguersuari with 0.209s, and took 16th position, while the Spaniard who recorded a total of 36 laps, took 17th just ahead of Maldonado in the second Williams.
At the bottom of the list we find the newest teams, Finn Heikki Kovalainen once again beat Jarno Trulli who finally got his long-awaited power steering. To no avail as Kovalainen beat the Italian with almost half a second and took 18th place, while Trulli took 20th.
Timo Glock took his Marussia Virgin to 21st place, while Belgium Jerome d’ Ambrosio took 22nd with a time of 1m28.903s, which was 5.553s slower than Hamilton. HRT driver Daniel Ricciardo had been given the assignment to beat Vitantonio Liuzzi this weekend but, at least this morning, did not succeed in doing so, and finished behind the Italian in 24th and last place, 6.554s off the fastest time and 0.845s behind Liuzzi.
All drivers are now ready for the second Friday practice session, the skies above Budapest are still clouded, and rain is expected, although it will be with an expected temperature of some 24C, still be a hot day.