Hamilton sets searing morning pace

Hamilton Hungary 2Lewis Hamilton set a searing pace around the Hungaroring to go quickest in Saturday practice ahead of this afternoon’s crucial qualifying session.

The Briton topped the timesheets in the third and final practice session with a lap of 1:20.288, the fastest time of the weekend, after bolting on the super-soft tyres in the dying minutes of the session.

Felipe Massa was a respectable second quickest using the harder compound tyres on his final run, only a couple of tenths of a second shy of the McLaren driver. Timo Glock was an impressive third for Toyota ahead of Heikki Kovalainen in the sister McLaren.

Searing track temperatures, which reached as high as 33 degrees, placed a heavy onus on tyre management during the one and half hour session as the teams battled to optimise their cars on the sticky soft and super-soft compounds that Bridgestone have bought to the Hungaroring – necessarily because of its twisty and technical demands.

Felipe Massa, the pace setter in Friday’s morning warm up set a benchmark time of 1:21.679 on the harder tyres, which was promptly beaten by the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, also on the harder Bridgestone Potenzas.

The Brazilian re-captured the top spot half way through the session after bolting on the softer compounds, but when Lewis Hamilton did the same in the dying minutes of the session, the Ferrari driver looked unable to respond.

Given that Massa had used the super-soft compounds early in the session, but switched to the harder compound for his final assault in qualifying trim, suggests that he is still struggling to get the most out of his F2008 on the super-softs.

Kimi Raikkonen, who did opt for the soft tyres for his final run, confirmed the picture for Ferrari after managing only the ninth quickest time.

Nico Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais, and the BMW Sauber Pairing of of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica, all vied for front-row places behind the Ferrari and McLaren drivers.

But it was Piquet, the man who impressed on Friday, albeit on low fuel levels, that emerged quickest, the Renault driver winding up fifth quickest, behind Kovalainen and ahead of Nick Heidfeld and the Toro Rosso drivers.

Nico Rosberg completed the top ten.