Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel was quickest in both practice sessions of the Hungarian Grand Prix on Friday.
The three-time defending F1 champion finished comfortably ahead of teammate Mark Webber both times as Red Bull recorded an impressive 1-2.
Vettel left it quite late before doing a timed lap in the morning but was quickly into his stride to set a time of 1 minute, 22.723 seconds, and in searing afternoon temperatures he was comfortably faster than that, clocking 1 minute, 21.264 seconds.
Lotus will also be confident for Saturday’s qualifying.
Kimi Raikkonen was third best in the morning and Frenchman Romain Grosjean matched him in the afternoon.
Vettel has never won in Hungary. He is looking to extend his overall lead over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who was fourth in both sessions.
On this form, the German will be strongly tipped to secure his fourth pole position. He has won four races so far this season, including two of the past three.
Webber finished .44 behind him, Grosjean was .153 back, and Alonso trailed by .162.
It is the first practice day since F1 tire manufacturer Pirelli buckled under intense pressure to modify its tires. Pirelli provided medium and soft tires for the Hungaroring and drivers looked comfortable all day.
Raikkonen switched to soft for another timed run late on but he had to abort after being held up by Jenson Button’s McLaren.
The track temperature rose to 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) on a meltingly hot afternoon on the 4.381-kilometer (2.7- mile circuit) the third shortest in F1 after Monaco and Canada.
With 14 corners and short straights, it is the second most difficult track to overtake on after Monaco, and it will be hard to stop Vettel from getting another win if he starts from pole.
Three weeks ago, he extended his lead over Alonso with a victory at his home GP and he leads the Spaniard by 34 points in the last race before the midseason summer break.
Ten years ago, Alonso became F1’s youngest winner with his victory in Hungary aged 22 years and 26 days. His record was beaten by Vettel five years later.
Raikkonen still has an outside shot of winning his second F1 title, sitting 41 points behind Vettel overall in third.
Last week, teams held in-season testing sessions at Silverstone to assess new tires provided by Pirelli, after several spectacular blowouts on the same circuit at the British Grand Prix in June prompted a furious response and even a boycott threat from drivers.
Pirelli decided that from this race until the end of the season, it will revert to last year’s tires combined with the current compounds from this season.
Meanwhile, Alonso badly needs a win, his last coming at the Spanish GP in May.
A year ago the two-time former F1 champ left Hungary atop the standings and with a 42-point lead over Vettel.
“It will be good for the motivation of the team and our focus if we can close the gap with Sebastian a little,” Alonso said. “If this gap increases, it will be a very stressful summer break for all of us.”
Ferrari has struggled recently in qualifying and Alonso has been outside of the top five on the grid for the past four races leaving him too much to do in races.
“For the four years I have been at Ferrari qualifying has been missing,” Alonso said.
Ferrari is expected to bring a significant upgrade to the car for the second part of the season.
“We think we know what the problem is and hope that after the summer we will be closer,” Alonso said.
Both Lotus cars featured the Galician flag on their rear wing end plates as a sign of respect for the 80 people who died in Wednesday’s high-speed train crash near a station in Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Galicia.