Leclerc leads Norris in dry second practice in Hungary

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-23. 21.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, Practice Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images
© XPB 

Charles Leclerc pipped Lando Norris to the top spot in second practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix, the Ferrari's best lap of 1:17.686s proving a mere 0.015s quicker than that of the McLaren.

There were seven different teams in the top eight, with Alpine's Pierre Gasly in P3 and Esteban Ocon in P5 the only 'repeat' performers and Haas' Nico Hulkenberg and Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas quicker than Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso in P8.

Even though the weather was much brighter than earlier with only a brief late sprinkle of rain, the final order was strangely mixed with Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell all finishing outside the top ten.

It had been a soggy start to the Hungarian GP weekend, with only 11 drivers setting timed laps in a largely wet first practice. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton had been among those not to trouble the timing screens, but Mercedes' George Russell had pipped McLaren's Lando Norris to the top spot. It had been a bad start to the weekend for Sergio Perez who has crashed his Red Bull into the barrier within minutes of the session started after straying onto the grass, while Ferrari's Carlos Sainz had triggered a second red flag half an hour later when he glanced the barrier and ended up in the gravel at the same spot. The good news was that both cars were fully repaired and ready to go, with the drivers keen for second practice to get underway.

Conditions were much drier for the start of FP2, the wind having blown the rain through and past the circuit during the intermission, but it was unusually cool for the Hungaroring at just 22C air temperature when normally it more closely resembled a scorching dustbowl. Most of the field was eager to get out and about with Alex Albon and Fernando Alonso first among equals, but there was certainly no hurry for Max Verstappen who was happy to let others lay down some rubber on the 'green' track before stirring

Albon set the first time of the session with a lap of 1:19.660s on soft tyres, but he was soon ousted from the top by his Williams team mate Logan Sargeant on the same compound. Then it was the turn of Norris to go quicker with 1:19.044s on the medium compound, half a second ahead of his similarly-shot team mate Oscar Piastri who had slotted into third between Sargeant and Albon.

Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A523 and Lance Stroll (CDN) Aston Martin F1 Team AMR23.
21.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, Practice Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images

Sargeant's next lap popped him back into P1 with a lap of 1:18.836s to put him ahead of Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas, who was now four thousandths quicker than Norris. However the big hitters - Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari - had yet to come out and join the party in the first ten minutes. Russell was the first of that group to head out, and he had a sedate first tour to get up to speed before going just P10 on his second effort, with Hamilton similarly only 14th on his initial run. It left Sargeant continuing to occupy the top spot ahead of improved offerings from Norris (despite reporting 'bottoming'), Albon and Alonso.

With Ferrari now on the move, Charles Leclerc made his bow in P7 until he was pushed down by Perez making a more successful start to this session than he had the last, popping into sixth on softs. Verstappen was also finally on the move and also on the softs, going second but still 0.075s away from Sargeant's early benchmark, now a thousandth ahead of Norris. Hamilton was also on the move and up to fourth, a tenth behind Sargeant's time. The American was finally deposed by his team mate Albon laying down a lap of 1:18.377s, both Williams having now switched to the medium tyre. Given that the team had been adamant that the circuit wouldn't suit the FW45, this was a good start from them.

Running on the soft tyres, Lance Stroll then put Aston Martin at the top by half a tenth, but his reign was short before Nico Hulkenberg showed what the Haas could do. Then it was Yuki Tsunoda's turn in the spotlight with a time of 1:17.934s - a second and a half quicker than his new AlphaTauri team mate Daniel Ricciardo had managed to date, although the returnee was yet to take on a set of softs unlike all those who had moved into the top five with just over half the hour remaining. Norris was also on the red walled tyres, and he duly followed the trend and went top with new effort of 1:17.701s. He was once again using a lot of kerbs to help slide the car around almost as a throwback to his karting days; Piastri's efforts to do the same saw him sustain damage to the floor of his MCL60, which cost time back in the garage for repairs and left him near the bottom of the timings.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14.
21.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, Practice Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

Esteban Ocon's first time on the softs was good enough to put him third, but he was pipped by his team mate Pierre Gasly going second two tenths off Norris' time, a good effort given that both Alpines lacked much track time in FP1. Having finally switched to the soft compound, Ricciardo had still been only tenth quickest and four tenths slower than Tsunoda, while Perez was struggling again after locking up badly and wrecking his soft tyres. That was a definite problem on a weekend when allocations are at a premium ahead of the new tyre usage rules for tomorrow's qualifying.

A committed lap from Leclerc saw him snatch the top spot from Norris by 0.015s, but Verstappen's run on a new set of softs curiously failed to get the Dutch driver into the top ten. Perez was no more successful on mediums. Elsewhere drivers were turning to long distance work rather than qualifying times, meaning there was little chance for the timesheets to register much in the way of change even before reports of light rain in sector 2 with ten minutes remaining until the chequered flag.

It meant Leclerc's lap of 1:17.686s remained the best time ahead of Norris, Gasly, Tsunoda, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Alonso, Zhou Guanyu and Carlos Sainz. The fact that Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez were all outside the top ten - and Russell slowest of all - emphasised that this was very much not a normal practice session and that some game theory was likely at work, meaning we'll have to wait until Saturday to get a better read on how everyone is faring this weekend.

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter