NEWS
07/29/2011 11:12 EDT | Updated 09/28/2011 05:12 EDT

Mixed weather helps Hamilton to fastest Hungarian GP lap; Vettel fifth

BUDAPEST, Hungary - Unseasonable weather helped Lewis Hamilton top Friday's practice sessions for the Hungarian Grand Prix, while Formula One leader Sebastian Vettel was only fifth quickest.

Hamilton shaved more than two seconds off his pace-setting morning session lap after going around the Hungaroring circuit in one minute 21.018 seconds in the second stint. The McLaren driver, a two-time winner in Budapest, was more than two-tenths of a second quicker than Ferrari's Fernando Alonso as cool weather gave way to warmer conditions.

"It's a great feeling to already start on a high — it wasn't really expected (but) the climate is working for us, it's not quite as hot as it usually is here," said Hamilton, who is coming off a German GP triumph. "It's early to say what's going to happen but we can compete with the guys in the front."

Jenson Button of McLaren was third. Red Bull pair Mark Webber and Vettel were about half a second behind Hamilton.

McLaren and Ferrari continued to close the gap on constructors' leader Red Bull, which dominated the championship with seven wins in the first eight GPs but has seen its main rivals share the last two victories.

McLaren can be optimistic after winning three of the past four Hungarian GPs, while climbing temperatures would also help Ferrari. Rain is expected to hold off Saturday when Red Bull's perfect grip on qualifying will come up against its sternest test. The Austrian team has started from pole position in each race this year and 25 of the last 29 races.

"We won't know (if we have the pace) until tomorrow. It's going to be tough — every time we get into qualifying they pull something out," Hamilton said. "I think we have the same pace as we did last week. We do have a positive buzz in the team."

Vettel, the defending F1 champion coming off a season-low fourth place at the Nuerburgring, leads the championship with 216 points. Webber is second with 139, Hamilton has 134 and Alonso 130. Button remains on 109 points after retiring from the past two races.

"It seems to be very tight. McLaren and Ferrari are very quick so I think we need to raise our game to make sure that we will find ourselves at the top as well," Vettel said.

Webber's car lost its front wing and nose following a run-off in the morning session but was repaired in time to race in the afternoon.

"It was my mistake," said Webber, who won in Budapest last year. "I clipped the Astroturf and hit the barrier but fortunately it was only the nose that was damaged. We recovered pretty well this afternoon and got a lot of mileage in."

Felipe Massa of Ferrari led the rest of the field after the main contenders, with the Brazilian clocking 1:22.09 in front of Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. Force India's Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil completed the top 10.

Brazilian driver Bruno Senna was 15th in the first session when he replaced Nick Heidfeld for Renault.