Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg fear Mercedes will not be able to challenge Red Bull
2008 World Champ only sixth fastest on day of struggle for Mercedes
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 27/07/13 7:27am
The World Champions finished both of the day's practice sessions boasting a one-two at the top of the timesheets with reigning champion Sebastian Vettel maintaining his advantage over team-mate Mark Webber.
In sharp contrast, Mercedes endured a day of frustration, with Hamilton and Rosberg unable to match the Red Bulls' pace either on short or long runs. With the team's W04 car notoriously hard on in its tyres, the worst of Mercedes' pre-event fears were realised as Hamilton and Rosberg suffered more than most in sweltering conditions as they tried out the new Pirelli tyres for the first time following the team's ban from the Young Driver Test.
"We don't seem to have the pace that we had at the last race," admitted a forlorn-sounding Hamilton to Sky Sports News.
Such a decidedly downbeat Friday afternoon assessment has been heard before from Hamilton this season - most noticeably at Silverstone little over a month ago - only for the former World Champion to then claim pole position less than 24 hours later. But with the weather forecasters predicting even warmer temperatures over the weekend and Vettel in ominously impressive form, the mood at Mercedes is of realistic resignation ahead of Saturday's all-important qualifying hour at a circuit where overtaking is notoriously difficult.
"Red Bull seem particularly quick this weekend," conceded Hamilton. "Fuel loads play a huge part and when we get to qualifying we are generally able to pull out a little bit more. I was told that on the same laps on the long runs that Mark Webber was eight-tenths faster at some stages, so that's interesting."
Forewarned but not forearmed, Mercedes arrived in Budapest on the backfoot with their ban from the Young Driver Test ensuring they lacked three days' worth of data on the new range of Pirellis tyres hastily introduced following the blowouts which marred the British GP. Yet the effects felt by both Rosberg and Hamilton on Friday were all-too familiar as their W04s suffered acute graining during their afternoon long runs.
"We've adapted our set-up a little bit, but [there is] still tyre degradation and rear degradation, so quite similar. It's still going to be those teams which are quick in the heat who are going to be quick this weekend," reflected Rosberg.
"Red Bull look very, very quick here. They will be going for pole position, we don't have the pace this weekend."