Vettel quickest for Ferrari in 2nd practice for Hungarian GP
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Sebastian Vettel led second practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix as Mercedes again struggled for speed on Friday.
On a day of mourning for Ferrari, following the death this week of former president Sergio Marchionne, Vettel was faster than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
The same three drivers had also led first practice hours earlier, with Ricciardo quickest ahead of Vettel and Verstappen.
Vettel’s Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, was fourth in both sessions, while Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes colleague Valtteri Bottas twice placed fifth and sixth.
The narrow Hungaroring track is among the most difficult overtaking circuits in Formula One, and considered more favorable to cars with a strong downforce like Red Bull and Ferrari — which clinched a 1-2 last year when Vettel won ahead of Raikkonen.
“I think we can still improve the setup of the car a little bit more and be quicker ... If that will be enough for pole position I’m not sure,” said Verstappen, who has won one race this season.
″(The track) is very tight and twisty. Qualifying will be important as it’s hard to overtake here, so getting ahead early is vital.”
On the evidence of Friday, it appears Mercedes has much work to do to get its car competitive for qualifying on Saturday.
Hamilton, who won last weekend’s German GP from 14th on the grid, briefly lost control of his car in P1 and complained about his tires.
“This is a tricky circuit and the tires are overheating; looking after the rear tires is the biggest issue,” Hamilton said. “The (warm) temperature and the layout of the track — corner after corner — made it really tricky for the tires, as there’s no time for them to cool down.”
The British driver leads Vettel by 17 points after 11 of 21 races, with the four-time F1 champions winning four races apiece and retiring once each.
Vettel threw points away by crashing in the rain near the end last weekend. The German driver started from pole and was leading by nearly 10 seconds at the time of the incident.
Following Hungary, there is a four-week summer break.
Amid a somber mood, Ferrari’s garage and motorhome flew its flag at half-mast and team members wore black armbands in memory of Marchionne, who died on Wednesday at the age of 66.
Vettel and Raikkonen also had black bands attached to their cars.
Marchionne, a hugely influential and successful automobile industry leader , died after complications from surgery in Zurich.
“We are very shocked. He was a friend and ally, a great rival and competitor and will be dearly missed,” Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said.
“Sergio was a larger than life personality. In meetings and in strategy groups, and in negotiations with Formula One and the FIA, (he) had the most powerful voice. His shoes are impossible to fill ... There was only one Sergio Marchionne.”
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Jerome Pugmire is at www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire