By Alan Baldwin
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Ferrari’s Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel smashed the absolute track record in final practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday while title rival Lewis Hamilton remained off the pace.
The German, who leads Mercedes driver Hamilton by a single point ahead of the last race before the August break, lapped the Hungaroring in one minute 17.017 seconds on supersoft tyres.
The four-times world champion’s time was 0.475 quicker than second placed team mate Kimi Raikkonen.
Now-retired Brazilian Rubens Barrichello set the previous track record of 1:18.436 with Ferrari in 2004.
Triple world champion Hamilton, who is hoping to equal Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 68 pole positions later on Saturday, appeared to have his work cut out at a track where he was won five times before.
The Briton’s time, on the slower soft tyres, was 1.417 seconds off Vettel’s and he was only fifth fastest.
Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas was quicker, 0.897 slower than Vettel but still the quickest of Ferrari’s rivals. Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was fourth on the timesheets for Red Bull.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who was fastest in both Friday sessions, pulled over at the half hour mark with a suspected hydraulics problem.
“Everything turned off,” he said over the radio, with the team telling him not to change gear after he reported the car was stuck in fifth gear.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso celebrated his 36th birthday with the ninth fastest time for McLaren, who had both their cars in the top 10 on Friday.
Brazilian Felipe Massa started the session, after feeling unwell on Friday and being taken to hospital, but cut it short with continuing uncertainty about whether he would be able to take part in qualifying.
Williams confirmed that the veteran had wanted to stop as he was still not feeling well. British reserve Paul di Resta was on standby, if given the official go-ahead.
“I’m ready to pounce if he needs a stand in,” the Scot told Sky Sports television.
“You’re very anxious. Nervous but very excited. You go straight in the deep end. It’s a tricky little track. You have to be very committed and confident.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)