Valtteri Bottas topped the FP3 leaderboard at the Hungarian Grand Prix while Red Bull Racing continued to struggle with setup just hours before qualifying.
The unbalanced Bulls left the way open for Racing Point to slot in as Mercedes’s closest challenger, with Sergio Perez marking himself as pole candidate.
Bottas’s best time, a 1m15.437s, was enough to edge out teammate Lewis Hamilton by just 0.042s, the Briton requiring a second lap to find himself enough clear space on the traffic-packed track to log a representative time.
Perez was close behind, though, his best effort only 0.161s off the pace. The Mexican was quicker in the first sector than either Mercedes driver all morning, losing time principally in the middle sector, though which the German marque looked untouchable.
Charles Leclerc was an impressive fourth and just 0.344s off the benchmark time, finally providing some validation for the upgrades Ferrari brought to the Styrian Grand Prix last weekend. He was 0.2s quicker than Lance Stroll in the second Racing Point machine in fifth.
Red Bull Racing expected to be more competitive at the downforce-sensitive Hungaroring, but from Friday the car has looked unsettled, forcing the team to break curfew overnight to search for solutions. Although the changes made appeared to improve matters on Saturday, both Max Verstappen and Alex Albon had complaints throughout Saturday morning, and a spin by the Dutchman early in the session was enough to send him back to his garage for suspension changes. The tweaks were an improvement, powering him to sixth in the order, but he remained 0.647s off the pace and reported problems with gear sync for good measure.
Albon was markedly less happy, half a second further back in 12th and mystified by vibrations coming from the left-front corner of his car at the start of each lap.
Lando Norris was seventh for McLaren, 0.1s behind Verstappen, keeping himself ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari.
Pierre Gasly got his first decent stint in the car of the weekend after losing FP1 to a power unit problem and FP2 to rain. Though the Frenchman complained of a loss of power during the session, his 20-lap total was among the more productive tallies of the field.
Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10 for Renault a touch more than a second behind Bottas. Carlos Sainz followed ahead of Albon and Esteban Ocon in the sister Renault.
George Russell’s pace promised the potential for another Q2 appearance, beating both Haas drivers to 14th, with Romain Grosjean leading Kevin Magnussen.
Daniil Kvyat led the Alfa Romeo pair, with rookie Nicholas Latifi at the foot of the time sheet.