Russell leads Mercedes 1-2, Verstappen struggles

Russell leads Mercedes 1-2, Verstappen struggles
Russell leads Mercedes 1-2, Verstappen struggles

The pair of Flèches d’Argent prided themselves on being a little deceived by starting on soft tires in the last 15 minutes of the session to feel the benefit of the evolution of the track and duly climb to the top.

Progress by Budapest poleman and team-mate Lewis Hamilton propelled Carlos Sainz to third while Lando Norris led Daniel Ricciardo as the McLarens got rid of Charles Leclerc.

The Aston Martins came out first in a frenetic opening of the hour as all the bars Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly emerged, and only Fernando Alonso opted against the hard tyres.

Unsurprisingly, on the faster medium Alonso quickly set the pace with a 1m17.662s before Verstappen found another four tenths on the slower white-walled rubber moments later.

After Mick Schumacher locked out the front right through the Turn 11 chicane to make a career on the gravel despite a very slow entry speed, the leaders suffered a similar misfortune.

Alonso was another to overcook Turn 11 before Verstappen stopped with car trouble.

Barely had Verstappen topped the standings with his 1m14.714s effort on hard tyres, only to sit just over half a second behind with his RB18 coming to a halt.

The double-wave yellows turned into a virtual safety car and then a full red flag after 10 minutes when the gearbox appeared to fail on the exit of Turn 2 with a puff of smoke.

The local hero stopped on the exit of Turn 4 before exiting the car that had gained a new power unit for the Belgian Grand Prix last time, which Verstappen won.

Notably, Red Bull mechanics had been cleared to break a seal to change the mainshaft locking insert on Verstappen’s gearbox earlier on Friday morning.

It took almost 10 minutes for the session to resume but in the interval Schumacher was questioned and cleared for leaving the pit lane under red flag.

With 40 minutes left on the clock, Hamilton – using an older powertrain while the engine from his Spa accident with Alonso is salvaged – switched to softs and led the pack again.

But while he was 15th with a 1m16.937s on the new rubber, Alonso got back to the top on the red-walled Pirellis thanks to a flyer of 1m13.635s before Norris fell to 1m12.929s.

The McLaren papaya briefly enjoyed its time in the sun before, with 33 minutes remaining, Sainz rocketed to the top in his F1-75, the Spaniard lowering the benchmark to 1m12.845s.

As the majority of the peloton switched to heavier fuel runs, the Mercedes emerged with a series of setup tweaks and used the equally downforce-dependent lap pace enjoyed in Budapest to run the faster.

Russell was the first to run on softs, the Hungarian GP poleman buzzing across the timing line in 1m12.455s to set what would be the fastest time of the session.

Hamilton left shortly after Mercedes finished tuning their W13, and the seven-time champion ran 09.24 seconds behind his stablemate thanks to his personal best 1m12.695s.

Hamilton did not endear himself to several of his rivals, the Briton reported holding Kevin Magnussen in Turn 1 and then Leclerc for much of the first sector.

After their complaints went back and forth, Hamilton was then called out by Sainz – the Ferrari driver accusing the Silver Arrows driver of holding him up as he approached the final corner.

Similarly, Norris and Sebastian Vettel raced wheel to wheel arguing for track position late on, but all of those incidents went without investigation from the stewards.

With little late improvement, Russell sat above Hamilton when the checkered flag emerged as Sainz ended up leading the Ferrari switch, despite the British GP winner being four tenths behind the Mercedes .

Norris, meanwhile, led a competitive front at McLaren with a fourth-place finish in 1m12.929s, edging team-mate Ricciardo by a tenth and a half.

Leclerc, meanwhile, was a moderate sixth ahead of Sergio Perez. The Red Bull rider spun in a messy session, locked out and raced through the famous banked Turn 3.

He was then lucky to keep the RB18 off the wall, with the Mexican running wide into Turn 9 and sliding over the gravel to come within inches of the billboard.

Alonso led Esteban Ocon for Alpine as Albon completed the top 10 ahead of Schumacher, Lance Stroll, Magnussen and Gasly.

Vettel finished 15th ahead of Zhou Guanyu, the Alfa Romeo driver who remained in the garage for much of the hour as the team used the red flag to change their setup.

Yuki Tsunoda raced to 17th ahead of Valtteri Bottas, while Verstappen was relegated to 19th ahead of Nicholas Latifi.

. Russell leads Mercedes Verstappen meets of problems

. Russell leads Mercedes Verstappen struggles

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