Friday practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix was dominated by one topic, as high temperatures made for challenging conditions for everyone as Valtteri Bottas set the pace.
The Finn was quickest in FP2 as track temperatures reached 59C (138F) at the Hungaroring, meaning tires were overheating from the out laps even as drivers went particularly slowly when leaving the pits. Bottas had an unusual comparison for the conditions but says the relative competitiveness was encouraging for Mercedes.
“Honestly, it feels like being in a Finnish sauna,” Bottas said. “It’s a good comparison — especially when you stop between the runs, you get the heat soak, and it really is like way more than 60 degrees, 70 degrees (140-158 F) in the cockpit.
“It’s sweaty — out on track at least you get a bit of air. But it makes it quite tricky with the tires, obviously, overheating. But honestly, it didn’t look or feel too bad compared to the others. So, I don’t think it’s a bad start for us today.
“It is hard to predict. I think lately we’ve been making improvements when it’s hot. It’s not so bad. Today is proof. I don’t think we’re in a bad place. But you never see all the cards from other teams on Friday.”
Bottas led teammate Lewis Hamilton in the second session, who says the conditions were so tough he lost a significant amount of weight across the two hours of practice.
“It was roasting today!” Hamilton said. “Obviously lost a lot of weight today. I think I’ve probably lost three kilos today between the sessions. A good amount of weight loss.
“Just melting the tires out there. It’s quite hard to get the balance. Quite different to the last race we were at where a lot of people have been struggling — I think everyone’s been struggling with the front tires. They’re a different beast this year, and it’s different each race you go to. So that’s been an interesting process, trying to understand those better.”
Hamilton is confident Mercedes is in a good place given how well its car dealt with the temperatures on Friday.
“Considering it doesn’t really feel great out there in terms of the grip is poor — there’s a lot of sliding around, I guess because we’re just overheating already, as soon as we leave the pit lane. But everyone is in the same boat there.
“To see Valtteri and I just on the front row pace-wise, I think that’s great for the team, and we’ll only improve on that. We’ve got some work to do tonight to try and see how we can finesse the car a little bit more, but it’s a good start.
“I’m quite optimistic with the extreme temperatures right now, because I think we can definitely improve the car balance-wise. And if we can do that, it puts us in a better position for the race as well. But of course, it’s much nicer to drive when it’s cooler. These tires are not happy, most of the time anyways, so they definitely don’t like this temperature.”
Despite Mercedes’ confidence, Max Verstappen was not concerned to slip from first to third by the end of the day’s running.
“Just a few adjustments we were trying from FP1 to FP2, so just need to look into which things worked, which things didn’t,” Verstappen said. “The track was also very hot, so it’s never easy like that, but we’ll see.
“I mean (the gap) is nothing too big to overcome, just in general not an easy day with track temperatures like this, so we’ll analyze everything.”