Share story

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo boosted Red Bull’s hopes of success at this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix with the fastest times in both practice sessions on Friday.

On a circuit that reduces power output because of its tight and twisting nature, the Red Bulls should be confident of matching Ferrari and Mercedes for race speed.

Ricciardo has been in fine form, with five podium finishes in the past six races. At the British GP two weeks ago, he finished fifth after starting from 19th place on the grid.

The Australian driver was 0.183 seconds quicker than Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari and 0.201 clear of Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas in the afternoon session.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen overcame a power failure that briefly forced him off track in P2 and finished fourth quickest, ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

With the top six separated by just half a second, Saturday’s qualifying promises to be close.

Hamilton needs just one more pole position to equal seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher’s record of 68, but the British driver expects to have to work hard for it on a track where he has won five times.

“It wasn’t the easiest start to the weekend,” he said. “It’s super-tight between Ferrari, Red Bull and ourselves at the top of the leaderboard, so it’s looking like it will be an exciting weekend.”

Although Hamilton was happy with his car’s pace, he felt the balance needs to be improved — an issue that has cropped up a few times this season for Mercedes. It also affected Bottas on Friday.

“I was especially struggling with the rear end of the car,” Bottas said. “The temperatures are expected to rise tomorrow, which means that we really need to get the rear end of the car more stable. I think that will be the main area for us to focus on.”

Vettel, the championship leader, leads Hamilton by one point after 10 races .

In the morning session, Ricciardo was 0.234 seconds quicker than Raikkonen and 0.372 ahead of Hamilton on a Hungaroring circuit that proved slippery despite warm weather conditions.

The red flag came out midway through the afternoon session after Pascal Wehrlein lost control of his Sauber, swerving left across the track and into the barriers. The German driver told his team he was fine over the radio and climbed out unassisted. It took a few minutes for the crane to lift Wehrlein’s damaged car off the track.

Then, toward the end of P2, the flag came out again after British driver Jolyon Palmer mistimed his exit from the final corner, hitting the barrier side-on and damaging the right side of his Renault.

Palmer has yet to score a point this season, and his Renault seat is reportedly coming under threat as Polish driver Robert Kubica continues his F1 comeback bid.

Friday’s two sessions will have done little to reassure him, seeing as he also crashed right at the end of the morning’s first practice.

The 4.4-kilometer (2.7-mile) track nestled in rolling hills just outside of Budapest proved tricky for others, too.

Brazilian driver Felipe Massa spun his Williams car coming out on Turn 5 during P2.

Vettel had a patchy run in P1, losing control of the rear of his car and spinning on Turn 9. Haas driver Romain Grosjean had a similar blip on Turn 11.

Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi, filling in for Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, damaged his left wheel on Turn 11 and the red flag came out to briefly halt the session. Right at the end, Palmer crashed.

There is a final practice Saturday before qualifying in the afternoon.