Budapest, July 27, 2012 – Following rain-affected free practice sessions in Britain and Germany, there was rain on Friday afternoon in Hungary as well, where the P Zero White medium tyre and P Zero Yellow soft have been nominated this weekend. With no experimental tyres brought by Pirelli to the Hungaroring, the teams had their usual allocation of 11 slick tyres available – six of the harder compound and five of the softer compound – that can be used at any point from Friday onwards. As the afternoon session was wet, the teams were also allowed an extra set of intermediate tyres, which has to be returned before tomorrow’s final free practice session.
With ambient temperatures of 29 degrees centigrade at the start of free practice two and 45 degrees of track temperature, the drivers took the opportunity to assess the performance and degradation levels on both tyres, using a variety of fuel loads. This information is vital when it comes to formulating race strategy, which will be even more crucial than usual in Hungary, as it is very difficult to overtake on the tight and narrow track. With the circuit not used extensively during the year, and some new asphalt in the final sector, the surface evolved considerably over the course of the day as more rubber was laid down. Intermittent cloud cover and rain also affected track temperatures, which dropped towards the end of the second session. Despite the variable weather conditions, there was plenty of on-track action using all the different compounds.
All the drivers started free practice two on the medium tyre, before moving onto the soft tyre. Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was first to make the switch, with the teams anxious to get in some running on the soft before the predicted rain arrived. Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne was the first to sample the Cinturato Blue full wet, while Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher tried the Cinturato Green intermediate – and went off on a patch of standing water. Once the rain had eased, all the drivers completed the hour and a half session on the intermediate.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was the first man to go quickest on the soft tyre before the rain fell, followed by McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, who then took over the top spot from Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) and set the fastest time of the weekend: 1m21.995s
Hamilton was also quickest in free practice one with a time of 1m22.821s on the P Zero White medium tyres, having completed 30 laps in the morning: more than anyone else. All the drivers used the medium tyre during the first session with Hamilton’s team mate Jenson Button recording the second-fastest time.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “Although we had the same tyre nomination as Germany, the conditions were quite different – underlining the capabilities of our tyres in a wide range of weather and track conditions. The unique layout of the Hungaroring means that driving precision is key to hooking up the flowing sequence of corners, and obviously the grip from the front tyres in particular is crucial. Teams can improve turn-in by working on the set-up, but this can have a detrimental effect on tyre wear so as usual today’s running was about finding the best compromise set-up, under challenging circumstances. Once again we saw some rain during the session, but with a 50% chance of more rain on Sunday this was a valuable opportunity to learn not only about the car in these conditions but also the circuit, with some parts of the track remaining much wetter than others. The rain also meant that teams did not get the opportunity to complete long runs on full fuel with the soft tyre, which will affect their strategic preparations for the race and now becomes a priority for the final free practice session tomorrow. We’re expecting a difference of about 0.8s per lap between the soft and the medium tyres in dry conditions but with so many variables we seem set for another unpredictable race, following what should be a dry qualifying session tomorrow.”