Hungarian GP F1: Hamilton passes Verstappen in final practice
while Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen was 0.25 seconds clear of his one-time title rival.
With the introduction of the alternative tire split for this round, limiting teams from 13 sets of tires at the weekend to 11, teams tried to use FP3 as preparation for each stage of qualifying.
This gave versatile timing across the full range of compounds, rather than just being buttoned down as hot lap prep.
Track temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius and above also made it more difficult for drivers to initially beat their FP2s when the track surface had cooled from earlier rain, although an overnight rain had stripped the Hungaroring’s surface of the laid rubber on Friday.
Daniel Ricciardo set the first timed lap of the session, but his sight was quickly eclipsed by Kevin Magnussen’s 1m20.454s, which in turn was usurped by Sergio Perez’s first lap in a set of used mediums.
Verstappen then dispatched his team-mate with a 1m18.478s, having fielded a new set of mediums after the Dutchman ran on soft tires in FP2 on Friday.
This withstood a number of runs on soft tyres, as Oscar Piastri’s 1m18.949 was not enough to beat either Red Bull, despite setting up a better middle sector.
Piastri’s run was completed on new software, while subsequent laps by teammate Lando Norris and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were already used sets.
Continuing his impressive pace from FP2, Alfa Romeo duo Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu then split the two Red Bulls at fresh buttons, Bottas coming within 0.011s of Verstappen’s benchmark after the opening third of the session time was completed.
Norris then found a little more life in his used buttons to pass Perez for fourth after the Mexican complained he was struggling to cool the tires on the soggy track.
While Verstappen had been leading for more than half an hour, Fernando Alonso relieved him with a lap in new livery and roared to the line with a 1m18.350s, just 0.128s off the reigning champion’s time.
The Spaniard was given more than five minutes in the lead until Norris used a new set of intermediates and beat Alonso’s time by 0.268 seconds, wagging the tail of his McLaren MCL60 as he pulled along the line.
As the session entered its final quarter, the Mercedes duo began their run on the soft tyre. George Russell’s effort was punctuated by a couple of free moments and went into third, but Hamilton climbed into a set of purple sectors and went on top with a 1m17.811s.
Verstappen then tried to beat his 2021 title rival on new soft tyres, but was a quarter of a second off Hamilton’s benchmark – and complained of a lack of control while still in second place. Perez then moved up to third, 0.013 seconds behind his teammate.
The Ferrari pair, who had spent most of the session sitting at the bottom of the timesheets after focusing on long medium runs, then tried to break into the lead – but lost time beyond their first strong sectors and slipped to sixth and seventh.
Nico Hulkenberg then beat both Ferraris to move up to fourth, while Magnussen’s best first sector was not enough to propel him into the top half of the timesheets.
Perez attempted a late effort to try to break away from Hamilton and Verstappen at the top, but was 0.006 shy of his team-mate’s time to finish third ahead of Hulkenberg.
Norris’ earlier effort was good enough for fifth, ahead of Russell, Leclerc and Sainz in the top eight. Alonso’s earlier charge took him to ninth overall, beating Bottas’ time while Lance Stroll split the Alfa Romeos into 11th, ahead of Zhou.
The top 16 all dropped within a second, with Logan Sargeant just 0.003 seconds off that margin in 17th.
Ricciardo outscored teammate Yuki Tsunoda by three tenths, with the two separated at the bottom of the timesheets by Ocon.