HUNGARORING -- Daniel Ricciardo set the pace in the opening practice session for the Hungarian Grand Prix as Red Bull and Ferrari both outpaced Mercedes.
Ricciardo's time of 1:18.486 stands as a new lap record for the current layout of the Hungaroring, with times expected to fall further as the weekend progresses. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was second fastest, 0.234s off Ricciardo and 0.138s quicker than Lewis Hamilton in the fastest Mercedes.
Hamilton had held the fastest time before Ricciardo's low-fuel super-soft tyre lap and was 0.390s faster than Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in fourth. Both Mercedes drivers set their fastest times earlier in the session when track conditions may not have been quite as good, but Red Bull's pace looks genuine and was backed up by an advantage of roughly 0.5s over a small sample of long run laps at the end of the session.
Max Verstappen was fifth fastest in the second Red Bull and finished the session 0.849s off teammate Ricciardo's pace. Despite the significant gap to the front, he was still quicker than championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who appeared to be struggling with the balance of his Ferrari and had to settle for sixth. However, Vettel's in lap at the end of his low fuel runs suggests there is plenty more time to be found from his Ferrari after he set personal bests in sectors one and two.
McLaren-Honda received a welcome confidence boost after Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne finished the session seventh and eighth. The team is expecting to be competitive this weekend on a track that is not as power sensitive as the last four venues, and with times quicker than rivals Renault, Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso the early signs are good.
Renault finished the session ninth and tenth, but only after a red flag in the final minute caused by Jolyon Palmer running wide and decimating his front wing as he returned to the track. Palmer, who is under pressure to score his first points of the season this weekend, ran wide at Turn 4 and as he rejoined over the grass his front wing snagged on the surface change and ripped the whole assembly clean off his car.
It was the second red flag of the afternoon after Antonio Giovinazzi crashed his Haas at Turn 12 after 45 minutes. The Ferrari reserve driver was subbing in for Kevin Magnussen at Haas on Friday morning but failed to cover himself in glory after destroying much of the left hand side of the car in the accident. It was a difficult session for Haas after Romain Grosjean also collided with the barriers at Turn 12, resulting in a long period in the garage before he returned to the track to set the 16th fastest time using the soft tyres.
Alfonso Celis was substituting for Esteban Ocon at Force India during the session and finished down in 17th, over a second off the pace of teammate Sergio Perez. Daniil Kvyat, Carlos Sainz, Lance Stroll and Grosjean all managed to fit into the second gap between the Force Indias, although the midfield battle is expected to get tighter as the weekend progresses.