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Hungarian GP: Lewis Hamilton edges Nico Rosberg in final practice

Lewis Hamilton, Hungarian Grand Prix, Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton cemented his status as favourite for pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix by topping Saturday morning free practice.

The Mercedes driver had a quiet start to the session, not going for laptimes on his early laps on the slower medium-compound Pirellis.

Hamilton was down in 18th place when he went out for his third run, still on the mediums, jumping to eighth fastest on his 14th lap on the rubber and then knocking Fernando Alonso's Ferrari off top spot by almost three-tenths of a second on his 16th lap.

But with a big step in performance between the medium and the soft-compound Pirellis, the fastest laps were always going to be set on that rubber.

Hamilton had slipped to seventh by the time he started his qualifying simulation, but he set the fastest times in the first two sectors of the lap and then a personal best in the final one to knock team-mate Nico Rosberg off top spot with four minutes remaining.

Rosberg subsequently improved on his second attempt after a cool-down lap, closing the deficit to Hamilton from 0.453s to 0.229s. He then improved again, cutting the deficit to just 47-thousandths.

FORM GUIDE: Hamilton not as safe as he looks

Sebastian Vettel then went third fastest on his qualifying simulation, four-tenths off the pace, with Valtteri Bottas just shaded to fourth fastest by the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.

Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, who had been the first of the frontrunners to go out on the soft Pirellis with 10 minutes remaining were briefly first and second after lapping just 49-thousandths apart.

But they eventually slid to sixth and seventh in the final reckoning, just ahead of Kevin Magnussen's McLaren.

Scuderia Toro Rosso proved it would be a threat for Q3 this afternoon, with Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat ninth and 10th ahead of Felipe Massa and Jenson Button.

Force India drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were down in 17th and 18th place behind the Saubers and the two Lotus entries, both unable to extract a competitive laptime from the soft rubber.

Kamui Kobayashi continued Caterham's improved weekend by outpacing the Marussias of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi, with team-mate Marcus Ericsson 21st after a brief spin at Turn 13.

Pos Driver             Team                  Time       Gap     Laps
 1. Lewis Hamilton     Mercedes              1m24.048s           21
 2. Nico Rosberg       Mercedes              1m24.095s  +0.047s  24
 3. Sebastian Vettel   Red Bull-Renault      1m24.455s  +0.407s  16
 4. Daniel Ricciardo   Red Bull-Renault      1m24.678s  +0.630s  15
 5. Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes     1m24.685s  +0.637s  21
 6. Fernando Alonso    Ferrari               1m24.769s  +0.721s  11
 7. Kimi Raikkonen     Ferrari               1m24.818s  +0.770s  19
 8. Kevin Magnussen    McLaren-Mercedes      1m24.867s  +0.819s  21
 9. Jean-Eric Vergne   Toro Rosso-Renault    1m25.162s  +1.114s  17
10. Daniil Kvyat       Toro Rosso-Renault    1m25.170s  +1.122s  19
11. Felipe Massa       Williams-Mercedes     1m25.231s  +1.183s  18
12. Jenson Button      McLaren-Mercedes      1m25.468s  +1.420s  14
13. Pastor Maldonado   Lotus-Renault         1m25.829s  +1.781s  22
14. Romain Grosjean    Lotus-Renault         1m25.859s  +1.811s  19
15. Adrian Sutil       Sauber-Ferrari        1m25.934s  +1.886s  21
16. Esteban Gutierrez  Sauber-Ferrari        1m26.023s  +1.975s  23
17. Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes  1m26.035s  +1.987s  19
18. Sergio Perez       Force India-Mercedes  1m26.142s  +2.094s  17
19. Kamui Kobayashi    Caterham-Renault      1m27.560s  +3.512s  23
20. Max Chilton        Marussia-Ferrari      1m28.083s  +4.035s  17
21. Marcus Ericsson    Caterham-Renault      1m28.605s  +4.557s  22
22. Jules Bianchi      Marussia-Ferrari      1m28.821s  +4.773s  14
Daytona Competition
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