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Hungarian GP: Lewis Hamilton predicts ‘tough weekend’ as Mercedes struggle in practice



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Lewis Hamilton says it was a difficult day for Mercedes on Friday at the Hungarian GP.

Lewis Hamilton says it was a difficult day for Mercedes on Friday at the Hungarian GP.

Lewis Hamilton says he is expecting a “tough weekend” at the Hungarian Grand Prix after more failed experiments left Mercedes well off the pace in Practice Two.

Following on from a first double podium of the season at the French GP last weekend, there had been optimism that the Silver Arrows could build on that momentum, but they failed to do so in the Budapest heat on Friday.

After finishing seventh, two places behind team-mate George Russell in the first session, Hamilton could only manage 11th in Practice Two, this time three places behind the younger Brit.

Hamilton’s final flying lap in FP2 was hampered by traffic, but he appeared on course only to challenge Fernando Alonso’s Alpine in sixth, meaning he would have remained behind both Ferraris, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and perhaps more concerningly McLaren duo Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.

“The car’s a bit of a struggle,” Hamilton said. “It’s crazy how much it swings from track to track but yeah, we’ve just got to figure out how to get it working.

Hamilton loses the rear at Turn 4 and tells the Mercedes garage that his car is unstable.

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Hamilton loses the rear at Turn 4 and tells the Mercedes garage that his car is unstable.

Hamilton loses the rear at Turn 4 and tells the Mercedes garage that his car is unstable.

“At the moment it’s a little bit loose and it’s not doing what we wanted to do.”

While last week’s double podium at the Paul Ricard Circuit was perhaps a little flattering, with Charles Leclerc retiring and Carlos Sainz starting from the back of the grid, Mercedes’ race-day performance in Le Castellet had appeared to maintain the team on an upward trajectory.

They have been off the pace of Ferrari and Red Bull since the start of the campaign, with only an extremely strong reliability record allowing them to pick up the majority of the podium finishes they’ve managed this season.

Ant Davidson and David Croft are at the Skypad to look at the major talking points from the opening practice sessions of the Hungarian GP.

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Ant Davidson and David Croft are at the Skypad to look at the major talking points from the opening practice sessions of the Hungarian GP.

Ant Davidson and David Croft are at the Skypad to look at the major talking points from the opening practice sessions of the Hungarian GP.

“Nothing’s changed on the car since last week and I’m the same driver this week as I was last week,” Hamilton added. “It’s just, for some reason on this track it’s not working as well. But I think once we got it right. The gap is about as same as last week – around a second.

“I didn’t get to run at the end because I had some damage. I sustained some damage on the floor so after that, it was pretty tricky for the long-run base. It’s going to be a tough weekend, that’s for sure, but we’re going to give it everything.”

‘Experiments took us backwards’

Speaking to Sky Sports F1 immediately after Practice Two, Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin admitted that, not for the first time this season, experiments on the W13 had failed.

There had appeared to be some potential in the Mercedes in the first session of the day, but the team’s decision to prioritise hard tyre running made it hard to compare their performance with Ferrari and Red Bull, who focused largely on soft tyres.

When Mercedes did go out on softs midway through the first session, Russell went second and Hamilton fifth, both within three-tenths of the leading time at that point, suggesting they had moved closer to their rivals.

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says that the experiments in FP2 took them backwards.

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Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says that the experiments in FP2 took them backwards.

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says that the experiments in FP2 took them backwards.

However, they were unable to replicate that level of competitiveness from that point onwards, most notably in the second session as both drivers repeatedly expressed frustration over team radio.

“We came in sort of wanting to do some experiments with the car and I think the ones we did in FP2 have taken us backwards,” Shovlin said.

“In the first session, we looked a bit stronger and the car was more together but there is a couple of things we are pretty certain we are going to be undoing overnight because it didn’t look great.

“Certainly in the afternoon, Lewis had picked up a bit of damage during one of his lower fuel runs. That definitely affected his high fuel.

“But as I said, I think some of the setup changes we have gone the wrong way. But we are here to learn and you don’t always get them making the car go quicker, but I think there are two of those we will be going back on overnight.”

‘Wet weather could give us bigger upside’

The most encouraging thing for Mercedes on Friday evening was that the weather forecast is predicting totally different conditions for the rest of the weekend.

After the heat and sunshine of Friday, thunderstorms are expected for both final practice and qualifying on Saturday, while there will be significantly cooler temperatures for Sunday’s race.

“In a way that makes it not too bad that we’ve had a difficult FP2, because I think we’ll be facing quite different conditions in FP3 and in qualifying, and then the race looks like it’s a lot cooler than it is today,” Shovlin added.

George Russell says it was not Mercedes' smoothest Friday, but expects the weekend to be completely different.

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George Russell says it was not Mercedes’ smoothest Friday, but expects the weekend to be completely different.

George Russell says it was not Mercedes’ smoothest Friday, but expects the weekend to be completely different.

“It’s guesswork really whether you’re going to be better or worse. Montreal, we were OK in the wet, Silverstone we were OK. Where we were today, I think we’d take a wet session just because it gives us a sort of bigger potential upside, but we’ll see. We’ll need to get running in FP3 and see what we’re dealing with.”

Russell also offered an optimistic take on the team’s difficult day.

“(It was) definitely not our smoothest Friday so far but a bit of a strange one because we think it is going to be wet tomorrow for qualifying,” he said.

Martin Brundle says there could be a lot of traffic at Turn 13 during qualifying ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

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Martin Brundle says there could be a lot of traffic at Turn 13 during qualifying ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Martin Brundle says there could be a lot of traffic at Turn 13 during qualifying ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

“The conditions on Sunday are going to be drastically different so we were trying quite a few things with the car, using it as a test session because, to be honest, you can try and optimise everything for today but there is no use for that for the rest of the weekend. So, even thought it was a very tough day I think it was a productive one.

“We were definitely a little bit further away than we probably would have expected, a couple of issues here and there.

“But I think tomorrow is going to be a totally new day and Sunday will be also be a very different day so not all is lost yet.”



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