On Friday afternoon most protagonists swiftly joined the action early on, including world champion Verstappen, who normally has a tendency of joining the fray later than most.
Verstappen clocked a 1m21.235s after five minutes of the one-hour session on a toasty Hungaroring, ahead of Ferrari’s Sainz and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Times took a fresh tumble in subsequent runs when the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc went top with a 1m20.225s on soft tyres, which was just 0.018s quicker than Verstappen’s new personal best on the same compound.
Sainz briefly jumped his teammate to take the lead after 15 minutes, before Leclerc responded with a 1m19.863s and Verstappen’s next lap was just 0.009s shy of Leclerc’s time. A subsequent effort of 1m19.426s put more daylight between leading Leclerc and his title rival.
The Red Bulls and Ferraris were the only teams sampling Pirelli’s softest tyre compound while other outfits stuck to mediums or hards in the opening stages, as Sergio Perez in fourth put distance on the midfield runners led by Ricciardo.
That picture changed after the traditional mid-session lull when more teams started sampling Pirelli’s finest wares.
With 20 minutes left on the clock Sainz momentarily grabbed the lead with a 1m19.262s, heralding a new salvo of fast laps. Verstappen came through next with a 1m18.800s lap, courtesy of purple first and third sectors.
Leclerc couldn’t match the Dutchman and remained one and a half tenth behind, but Sainz did. The Spaniard, who had been the quickest in sector two throughout, took a tenth out of Verstappen’s time to lead with a 1m18.750s.
Behind the trio McLaren’s Lando Norris was fourth, setting a promising time of 1m19.299s despite joining the session late.
In the second Red Bull, Perez couldn’t find a clean lap and remained stuck in sixth, in between Mercedes duo Russell and Hamilton.
Haas duo Kevin…