Lewis Hamilton has taken eight pole positions and eight wins at the Hungaroring. But the seven-time champion was left to reflect on a tough Friday of the 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, after finishing Free Practice 2 in 11th, as George Russell could only manage P8.
FP1 saw Russell take a more promising P5 and Hamilton P7, albeit that Russell was 0.856s off Carlos Sainz’s leading pace for Ferrari. But in FP2, the two drivers slid down the order, Russell ending up 0.910s off Charles Leclerc’s pace – Ferrari sweeping Friday’s practice sessions – as Hamilton was over a second adrift, with drivers from Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Alpine and Aston Martin all ahead.
“The car’s a bit of a struggle today,” said Hamilton. “It’s crazy how it swings so much from track to track. But just head up, just trying to figure out how we can get the car working at the moment. At the moment it’s a little bit loose and it’s not doing what we want it to do. So, a difficult day.
“Nothing’s changed on the car since last week. Same driver this week as I was last week! But for some reason, this track, it’s not working as well, but I think once we get it right, the gap’s about the same as last week, so around a second.”
Lewis Hamilton predicting ‘tough weekend’ for Mercedes
There was more bad news for Hamilton – fresh from finishing second in France last Sunday – after he suffered damage that prevented him from carrying out meaningful long runs in FP2.
“I didn’t get to do a run at the end because I had some damage,” said Hamilton, who was seen running wide twice at Turn 4 during FP2. “Sustained some damage on my floor so lost a lot of downforce, and after that it was pretty tricky for the long-run pace. So it’s going to be a tough weekend that’s for sure. We’ll give it everything and see what we’ve got.”
Russell, too, had a hard time of it, complaining about having to lift-and-coast over team radio, while he also reported not being able to round Turn 1 without locking up at one point.
But the Briton was more reflective at the end of FP2, calling Mercedes’ Friday a “test session”.
“Definitely not our smoothest Friday so far,” he said. “But a bit of a strange one because we think it’s going to be wet tomorrow for quali, conditions for Sunday are going to be drastically different, so we were trying quite a few things with the car.
George Russell: ‘Definitely not the smoothest Friday for Mercedes
“It was a bit of a test session, because to be honest, you can try and optimise everything for today, but there’s no use for that; it’s all for the rest of the weekend. So even though it was a very tough day, I think it’s probably a productive one.”
Asked if he’d therefore been experimenting with wet set-ups on his W13, Russell replied: “No, no, I wouldn’t say so, but more in the sense of just trying things to learn more things about the car, at the expense of maximising, or trying to get the most out of the lap time today. Just trying to gather the information to help us longer term.
“But we were definitely a little bit further away than we would have expected, a couple of issues here and there, but I think tomorrow’s going to be a totally new day, and Sunday will also be a very different day, so it’s not all lost yet.”