In what came as a little surprise to anyone, Ferrari set the benchmark in the two practices in Hungary with Carlos Sainz leading the first, before Charles Leclerc topping the second session.

Leclerc, who crashed while leading the previous race pole position, lapped in 1 minute 18.445 seconds after Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz led the first session in 1:18.750.

This prompted championship leader Max Verstappen to admit that the Scuderia would be hard to beat at this track unless rain has its say.

Rain is forecast for the weekend at the Hungaroring outside Budapest.

Verstappen, 63 points clear of the Monegasque at the top of the standings after 12 races, was second and fourth respectively with McLaren’s Lando Norris second in the later practice after finishing fourth earlier.

Verstappen was 0.130 off Sainz’s pace while Norris was 0.217 slower than Leclerc.

Norris’s teammate and 2014 Hungarian GP winner Daniel Ricciardo was fifth in practice two.

Meanwhile, Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was sixth and ninth in the two sessions respectively.

Defending constructors champions, Mercedes, had another difficult day, with seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton predicting a tough weekend.

Hamilton, a record eight times winner in Hungary, was seventh initially and 0.960 off Sainz’s time before ending session two 11th and 1.102 slower than Leclerc.

Aston Martin with a new-looking rear wing helped Sebastian Vettel to 11th and seventh, a day after the four times world champion announced his retirement at the end of the season.

Sunday’s race in Hungary, the 13th of 22 this season, is one of the last chances for Ferrari and Leclerc to catch up to Red Bull and Verstappen.

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