The rain played spoilsport during F1 Hungarian GP practice day but Red Bull Racing and McLaren seems to be on the backfoot as first COVID-19 positive case has been confirmed by the FIA.

While Friday would later prove to be an unorthodox day at the Hungaroring, with a heavily-rain-affected afternoon, the morning was anything but, as Lewis Hamilton stormed to the top of the time sheets in FP1 – the sole session in which he properly contested.

Of the day, Hamilton – who set the fastest overall time of the two sessions – said that he was happy with the car in the morning, as he added that qualifying should be closer in F1 Hungarian GP than it was in Austria – a bold statement given that Mercedes once again had a commanding one-two.

He also revealed that all the planned programmes were completed in the first F1 session, explaining why he only did one installation lap. “We got everything done that we needed to in the first session,” said Hamilton. “The car felt good out there in FP1 although there was still some work to do, so we made some changes for the second session – then it rained, so we’ve still got learning to do. The wet conditions in FP2 didn’t really leave us with a lot to do, so we just completed an installation lap on the Intermediate tyres.

“This is such a great track to drive in the dry, but it’s very tricky in the wet and it felt quite low grip out there. Looking ahead to Qualifying, I think it is going to be a lot closer as it’s not such a power-dependent circuit. I’m hoping for a tighter pack, it’d be great to see the Renaults doing well, the McLarens are doing a fantastic job, as are the Racing Points, it’s really exciting to see.

“We also expect Red Bull to be strong, so I anticipate a tough battle with them,” said Hamilton, whose Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was right there behind him in the morning. The Finn, too, was happy with the balance of his car, as was evident by his second-place standing on the timesheets for the day. He noted that some more running time in the latter practice session would have been nice.

Further down the field, the outfit projected to have been Mercedes’ biggest adversary – Red Bull – had a disappointing day. The team’s lead driver Max Verstappen was behind the Mercedes’, the Racing Point’s, the Ferrari’s, and one Renault, despite being on the softest compound of tyre for his fastest lap.

His struggles in the cockpit of the RB16 were made apparent by a host of lock-ups, and the Dutchman stated that the team have work to do to get the car in a better position ahead of qualifying. He also revealed that some tweaks had already been made prior to FP2, but not properly evaluated. “FP1 was not what we wanted and we have a lot to look into,” said Verstappen.

“It’s a shame that it was raining this afternoon for FP2 because we already had a few things to change and we could have had a good comparison to work from. Luckily, we have overnight to look at the data and for sure we will make some changes and try to improve the overall balance. There are strong areas to our car but we still have work to do to match Mercedes.

“The weather looks like it could be a bit like today for the rest of the weekend and we don’t know how much rain will come yet, but that is the same for everyone. It’s still early days and we haven’t done much running, so there is no point in making any guesses about how the rest of the weekend will look yet.”

His teammate Alexander Albon relayed a similar message, stating that the weather severely disadvantaged the team who intended to get a better understanding of the car’s behaviour in FP2 – an opportunity that they never got.

In contrast, Racing Point were thrilled with their performance on the day. They were the sole team within one second of Mercedes, as Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll finished a strong third and fourth, but even this performance was not the highlight of the day. Rather, Mexican was happiest with their afternoon running, which showed promise after a poor showing in the wet last week.

He feels it shows progress on the understanding of the car – something far more important than lap times in a practice session. “It was good opportunity to prove that we had found improvements in wet conditions compared to Austria,” said Perez. “That gives me confidence – regardless of the conditions.

“I think we can target a place in Q3 and build from there. Everyone was on different programmes today and there was only the one practice session in ideal conditions, but I think we’ve made a good step in further understanding our car.” Stroll added that it was a ‘useful day’ for the team, and one too that they were able to learn a lot from.

For Ferrari, the day was a strong one, as they appeared more competitive than they did at the Red Bull Ring, with a 6-7 finish in FP1 for Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel respectively. The former of the pair put their performance down to the nature of the Hungaroring suiting their car, as the Monegasque explained it to be a ‘positive’ day.

“It went better than we expected,” said Leclerc. “We arrived here with basically the same car we had in Austria but it seems to suit this track better, which is good to see. There are fewer straights here compared to the last race venue and here, we are quick around the corners. This afternoon, in the rain, we struggled a bit as we were trying out a few things and I wasn’t very happy as I was lacking a bit of confidence in the wet, but we’ve seen some positive signs this morning.

“In my first run on extreme wet tyres I only did two laps, which is not really representative, but looking at Seb’s lap time on the same tyre, he did a great job and there’s probably something positive to take from that. I am really looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully we can convert these positive signs in free practice into a positive result in quali and in the race but there’s still quite a lot of work to do on my side.”

McLaren, meanwhile, had a mixed day, with one of the outfit’s drivers – Lando Norris – saying that they don’t feel quite as strong as they did in Austria, or even here last year. He did, however, add that weather could play into their hands, as they seemed quick in the wet. “It was quite tricky,” said the Brit. “We’re in a very different situation to Austria in terms of car balance and what we’re suffering with.

“This was a good track for us last F1 season, but after the feeling this morning it wasn’t looking quite as good. We’ve got some work to do if it’s going to be dry. I think the weather conditions tomorrow are still a bit unknown, so it’s all still to play for. I think we can probably make some progress,” said Norris, as Sainz added that the team were unable to run a programme specific to honing in set-up and bettering performance in the dry – something he feels will make tomorrow’s running more difficult if it is dry.

Behind them, both of the Renault F1 drivers were happy with their mornings, with Esteban Ocon stating that they have a ‘fairly quick’ car after finishing within the top ten in FP1, and deciding not to set a time in FP2. Daniel Ricciardo added that he found a good ‘base set-up’ from the off, similarly to how he did in Austria.

Friday, meanwhile, left something to be desired for AlphaTauri, as Pierre Gasly missed all of the morning running due to sensor issue. As such, he explained that he’ll be using his teammate’s data from the dry, as Daniil Kvyat noted that there was room for improvement.

Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen similarly missed morning running, giving his seat time instead to Robert Kubica. The Pole described the day as busy, while Antonio Giovinazzi said that there was room for improvement as they fight the AlphaTauri and Haas F1 drivers.

Haas had a good day in Hungary, as both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were happy with the car, with the latter also glowing after the first day of running at such a ‘fun F1 track’ as the Hungaroring. Likewise, Williams were happy after a day in which they laid strong foundations for the weekend ahead, with both drivers saying that they spent much of the day experimenting with different set-ups.

Outside of the track action, there was a weekly update related to COVID-19, as F1 recorded its first positive cases of the virus in two individuals – both of whom were not present at the last two events at the Red Bull Ring. They noted that these people have been isolated and contact traced as a safety measure.

They undertook 4,997 tests at Hungaroring and only two came positive, while taking into account the numbers from Austria, it is nearly 15000 tests. While no details of the personnel were given but could gather who they were. Considering the FIA has decided to keep it under wraps, we wish to do the same but we can specify that no from the teams and or officials were found positive.

“The FIA and F1 can today confirm that between Friday 10th July  and Thursday 16th July, 4,997 tests for COVID-19 have been performed on drivers, teams and personnel. Of these, two people have tested positive. The individuals were not present in Austria, with the affected people removed from operations and isolated. Tracing of close contacts completed and isolated,” the statement said.

Here’s how FP1 of F1 Hungarian GP went

Here’s how F1 Hungarian GP FP2 panned out