George Russell topped the times for Mercedes ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri in Friday’s rain-hit opening practice for this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
In a wet session punctuated by crashes – including one by Red Bull’s under-pressure Sergio Perez – and red flags, Briton Russell clocked a best lap of 1min 38.795sec to outpace Australian rookie Piastri by three tenths of a second.
The Aston Martin of Lance Stroll was third quickest ahead of Lando Norris in the second McLaren, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas.
Defending champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes both chose not to run in the risky conditions.
Perez had earlier crashed on his opening installation lap, severely damaging the front of this car.
On a bright, but overcast day, the session began with an intense focus on Daniel Ricciardo’s return to action with Alpha Tauri and the reaction of under-pressure Perez at Red Bull.
The Australian’s big beaming smile was apparent in the early seconds of broadcasting as Russell led the pack out of the pit lane only for an immediate red flag as the luckless Perez lost control and crashed at Turn Five.
On his first installation lap, he dropped two wheels on the grass and spun off into the barriers, damaging the front quarter of his car and destroying the front wing.
“I cannot believe this,” said Perez, who is bidding this weekend to end a run of poor qualifying peformances dating back five races to the Miami Grand Prix.
After a nine-minute delay, the session resumed with rain falling heavily and forcing the teams to pit their cars and wait for the storm to pass.
Hamilton made a brief foray to test the conditions on intermediates, followed by Ocon, but only for one lap each before Norris and Piastri, in the two McLarens also went out – and the rain intensified.
As the rain eased, with 16 minutes remaining, Valtteri Bottas went out to provide brief entertainment and clock a lap time of 1:47.787 in his Alfa Romeo. It put him alone at the top.
Verstappen followed him, but within a minute Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz went off to bring another red flag stoppage, the Spaniard glancing the barriers after spinning out of Turn Three where his car was ‘beached’ before marshals pushed him back to action.
The session resumed with 10 minutes remaining and Logan Sargeant and his Williams teammate Alex Albon topping the times, having lapped just before the stoppage.
Their lofty position was soon lost when Nico Hulkenberg and then Alonso went top for Haas and Aston Martin respectively ahead of the arrival of Ferrari’s Leclerc as times tumbled in the final minutes.
– with AFP