Daniel Ricciardo emerged as an early contender for the Hungarian Grand Prix after setting the fastest time in opening practice on Friday.
Ricciardo’s Red Bull team have a number of updates on their car here at the Hungaroring for the final round of the championship before the sport’s now traditional four-week summer break.
And the early signs appeared promising for the former world champions after Ricciardo, a winner at last month’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, soared to the top of the time sheets.
The Australian finished 0.234 seconds faster than Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen with Lewis Hamilton third in the order. Hamilton’s title rival Sebastian Vettel, whom he trails by just one point, was only sixth.
Vettel’s championship lead all but evaporated at the British Grand Prix a fortnight ago after a penultimate-lap puncture saw him limp over the line in seventh.
And the German struggled in opening practice on Friday, falling off the circuit on two occasions, and finishing more than one second slower than Ricciardo. Max Verstappen was fourth for Red Bull with Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas fifth.
British driver Jolyon Palmer is in need of a strong weekend as he bids to score his first point of the season.
The 26-year-old finished an encouraging 10th, one place and three tenths of a second adrift of his Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.
But Palmer, whose campaign has been blighted by a series of technical issues, broke his front wing in the closing moments of the 90-minute session after he ran off the circuit and over the kerbs at Turn Four.
Palmer was forced to stop on track, abandon his Renault, and with debris littering the asphalt, the resulting red flags brought a premature end to opening practice.
Ferrari reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi was handed a run-out for Haas, but he was left red-faced after crashing into the barriers at Turn 11.
Fernando Alonso was seventh for McLaren with his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne eighth.