Hamilton tops opening practice for Hungarian Grand Prix

Fri Jul 22, 2016 6:47am EDT
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By Abhishek Takle

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton got his bid for a record fifth Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix win off to a strong start by going fastest for Mercedes in the opening practice session for Sunday's race.

The reigning triple champion, hoping to seize the championship lead for the first time this season, lapped the 4.3-kilometer long Hungaroring track in one minute 21.347 seconds in a session that in overcast conditions but ended in bright sunshine.

Nico Rosberg, fresh from having signed a two-year contract extension keeping him at Mercedes until the end of 2018, was second with a lap of one minute 21.584.

Rosberg, winner of five races this year, heads to the weekend holding a slim one-point lead over Hamilton, down from the 43-point advantage he held over the Briton after the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

Hamilton has bounced back from a difficult start to the season with four wins from the last five races and heads into Sunday’s race as favorite to seize the championship lead.

He has won four times at the Hungaroring, jointly holding the record for most wins at the track with Michael Schumacher, and another victory would be more than anyone has ever managed here.

Sebastian Vettel, winner in Hungary last year, was third for Ferrari ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. Both scarlet cars were over a second-and-a-half slower than Hamilton’s benchmark.

Daniel Ricciardo, another former winner at the Hungaroring, led Red Bull’s charge in fifth ahead of 18-year-old team-mate Max Verstappen.   Continued...

Britain Formula One - F1 - British Grand Prix 2016 - Silverstone, England - 10/7/16
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the race
REUTERS/Andrew Boyers