After resurrecting his world championship challenge with back-to-back wins at Silverstone and Hockenheim, Lewis Hamilton continued to suggest he will be the man to beat with fastest time of the day at the Hungaroring
Having seen Ferrari rivals Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen pace the opening 90 minutes on track, Hamilton took charge of the second session, using the slightly grippier surface to post a 1min 20.554secs best as he tried out two different front end treatments on his MP4-23. Despite the latest wing developments being to hand, however, the Briton posted the benchmark with a similar set-up to recent races.
A McLaren 1-2 appeared to be on the cards as Heikki Kovalainen, third in the opening session, backed Hamilton up for almost the entire time, but the Finn, who was rewarded with a contract extension prior to the weekend, saw his best effort pipped by Nelson Piquet Jr just as the chequered flag was being prepared. The Brazilian, his confidence clearly restored somewhat by his fortuitous second place in Germany, slotted between the silver cars to lie just 0.194secs off Hamilton and 0.012secs ahead of Kovalainen - before blotting his copybook trying to go faster still.
With Ferrari sticking to its usual Friday programme, Piquet's team-mate, Fernando Alonso, was also able to move ahead of the red cars, taking fourth place as final driver to duck below 1min 21secs in the session, although Massa had done likewise first time around. The Spaniard edged Raikkonen by less than a tenth, with Massa 'only' able to muster a 1min 21.010secs effort as the F2008s were split by a thousandth of a second.
BMW Sauber filled the next two spots, with Nick Heidfeld turning the tables on Robert Kubica to claim seventh by a couple of tenths, while Jarno Trulli and Nico Rosberg rounded out the top ten for Toyota and Toyota-powered Williams respectively. Timo Glock made it a hat-trick of Japanese-powered runners in eleventh - Kazuki Nakajima unable to make it four after running off the road - while Mark Webber and David Coulthard again proved hard to split by filling places twelve and 13.
While Glock and, further down, Rubens Barrichello conceded places in the order between sessions, neither could have been as unhappy as Sebastian Vettel who, having managed just four laps before an engine failure stopped him in the morning session, managed just one more after lunch before deja vu
struck and his Toro Rosso ground to a halt in exactly the same place on the track. Needless to say, the German again propped up the timesheets - with a remarkably similar gap separating him from the next driver in the list...