The Hungaroring is little used as a motorsport venue and as the first free practice session started few drivers were willing to venture out onto the dusty track. Once drivers did start to clean the racing and put some rubber down the times started...
The Hungaroring is little used as a motorsport venue and as the first free practice session started few drivers were willing to venture out onto the dusty track. Once drivers did start to clean the racing and put some rubber down the times started to fall. And by the end of the second session David Coulthard's fastest lap of 1m18.792s was just over half a second off of last year's pole time.
Neither of the McLarens ran in the morning session, but both Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen were instantly on the pace in the afternoon, and by the end of the day they were first and second fastest. Hakkinen's best lap was a 1m18.943.
The Ferrari's of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello topped the timesheets in first free practice, but the Italian cars were unable to match the pace of the McLarens later on. Schumacher was just three tenths down on Coulthard with a time of 1m19.138s. Barrichello struggled and was over a second off the pace.
An excellent third fastest in the morning session was Jaguar Racing's Eddie Irvine, and the R1 clearly works well on the twisty Hungarian circuit. Eddie improved his time to a 1m20.713s, but dropped a few places as other cars made bigger gains. However, tenth place was still an encouraging position.
Johnny Herbert in contrast has another difficult day. From 11th in the morning session, Johnny dropped to 20th as limited running meant he was unable to better a time of 1m22.015s. Coulthard set the pace in free practice
As usual the battle behind McLaren and Ferrari was incredibly close. Jarno Trulli eventually ended the day in fifth place, but only two tenths covered the next four drivers. Giancarlo Fisichella underlined the Benetton's potential on slow circuits by setting the sixth quickest time, and after a couple of disappointing races Williams did well to get both Ralf Schumacher and Jenson Button in the top ten. Heinz-Harald Frentzen was ninth quickest in the second Jordan.
After clear sunny weather in the morning, Budapest became slightly overcast in the afternoon and this allowed the times to tumble. However, the track was still very dirty of line and Eddie Irvine was one of a number of drivers to spin. Both Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta lost the back end of their BARs, and Pedro de la Rosa spun his Arrows into a gravel trap.
As expected the Arrows struggled on a track that requires high downforce and after looking so competitive in Germany, de la Rosa and team-mate Jos Verstappen found themselves down in 17th and 18th position. The Prosts went better than expected, with Nick Heidfeld again out-pacing Jean Alesi on his way to a highly commendable 11th place.
However, free practice times count for nothing and it is foolish to read too much into the performance on a Friday. But if any conclusions can be drawn from today's session it's that McLaren appears to have a slight advantage over its main rival Ferrari.