Ferrari's early speed gave way to that of McLaren Mercedes as Formula One teams made their annual clear off of the dusty, 2.722-mile Hungaroring, the track used once a year, for the Hungarian Grand Prix. First free practice Friday was the usual ...
Ferrari's early speed gave way to that of McLaren Mercedes as Formula One teams made their annual clear off of the dusty, 2.722-mile Hungaroring, the track used once a year, for the Hungarian Grand Prix. First free practice Friday was the usual slow-starting affair until Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen stamped ownership and prompted calls that the scuderia have bounced back from two lackluster showings. Massa was more than a half-second faster than McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, fourth fastest in first practice behind teammate Heikki Kovalainen.
By day's end McLaren reversed the order to take fast laps in second practice, Hamilton (1 minute, 554 seconds) running quickest and drawing speculation that he might bag a third successive race victory after winning in Britain and Germany.
A surprise blow to Ferrari was dealt by Renault. Fresh off second place in the German Grand Prix, Nelsinho Piquet ran a 1:20.748 late in the session that put him second-quickest to Hamilton. The Brazilian rookie then promptly slid off track. Fernando Alonso (1:20.928) followed third-quick Kovalainen (1:20.760) before Raikkonen (1:21.009) and Massa (1:21.010) appeared on afternoon time charts. Massa's 1:20.981 was the morning's only lap under 1:21.
BMW Sauber followed, Nick Heidfeld edging teammate Robert Kubica, 1:21.138-1:21.363. Jarno Trulli for Toyota (1:21.505), and Nico Rosberg for Williams (1:21.581) completed the top 10. There followed Toyota's Timo Glock (1:21.662), cleared to race by FIA medical officials Thursday in what the German driver called a quick check, Red Bull runners Mark Webber (1:21.733), and David Coulthard (1:21.837), Kazuki Nakajima for Williams (1:21.902), and Sebastien Bourdais for Scuderia Toro Rosso (1:21.955).
Honda's Jenson Button (1:22.150) ran ahead of Force India teammates Giancarlo Fisichella (1:22.197) and Adrian Sutil (1:22.358). Rubens Barrichello followed in the other Honda (1:22.448). For a second time, Sebastian Vettel's Toro Rosso rolled to a halt in Turn 5, leaving him with scant few laps. Hydraulics gremlins hit the STR3 in the first practice.
Teams take their annual summer break after this race. As drivers plan holidays, managers jockey their jobs. McLaren's announcement Thursday that Kovalainen will stay through 2009 couples with Hamilton's long-term contract. Ferrari's drivers are under contract through next season with Raikkonen saying in Thursday's news conference that he has not said he will retire when his contract expires. Fernando Alonso announced at the same ttime that he has a multiple-year contract with Renault, though teammate Piquet's future seems up in the air. Alonso remains a focus of speculation; Scuderia Toro Rosso boss Gerhard Berger indicates his decision to fill the spot to be vacated by Vettel's move to Red Bull Racing next year after David Coulthard retires could hinge on whether Alonso moves. An Alonso move could spring a veteran driver from another team. Berger said he wants a veteran-newbie pairing. Bourdais is under pressure to keep his STR spot.