Lewis Hamilton may claim to have been impeded by traffic on a number of his runs during free practice for this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest, but that still did not prevent the world championship leader from leaving the Ferraris trailing – and everyone else too, for that matter.
Though the two McLaren-Mercedes' sat just third and fourth on the timesheets at the end of the first 90-minute session around the twisty and technical Hungaroring – Heikki Kovalainen a little more than a tenth of a second ahead of his team-mate – Hamilton saw off all comers later on in the day, by lopping practically a whole second off his earlier best effort to soar to the top of the timing screens.
What's more, that lap was over half a second faster than either of his two Ferrari title rivals could muster, and with Kovalainen backing the Briton up with the third-quickest time at the close of play – barely two tenths adrift – and the Silver Arrows' new aerodynamic package clearly paying dividends, it would seem to be advantage McLaren once more.
“The track was very dusty this morning,” Hamilton related, “so we took our time before starting our run programme. Once again, the car felt good, even though I encountered quite a lot of traffic during both sessions.
“This afternoon, I also got to try the revised aero package for the first time; it definitely seemed to make the car better balanced, which is very encouraging.”
“Another positive day for us,” concurred Kovalainen. “The car started the day pretty strongly, but we were able to keep improving it throughout both sessions. This afternoon, I was able to find a particularly good balance and focussed on conserving the tyres rather than going for a lap time. I had a little bit of graining, but things look very promising for tomorrow.”
The Woking-based outfit's team principal Ron Dennis and Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug professed themselves similarly pleased with progress, as McLaren bids to close the 19-point gap currently separating the team from Ferrari in the constructors' title standings.
“Today we ran two more-or-less trouble-free sessions,” Dennis affirmed, “save for a few traffic issues this morning, which aren't unusual on this circuit. Having said that, those traffic issues weren't sufficient to disrupt our programme unduly.
“The aero package we've developed for this race appears to have delivered the predicted results, and the performance of the car is encouraging so far.”
“A good and constructive start to the weekend,” concluded Haug. “We simulated race conditions, and both Lewis and Heikki posted fast and consistent lap times. With more rubber on the asphalt, the conditions will change tomorrow, so it is too early to judge precisely where we are compared to the competition.”