Vettel loses his way after engine map controversy


Sebastian Vettel said yesterday he did not believe the FISA's ruling on his Red Bull's engine mapping had affected his car's performance, despite finishing the day's faster practice session for tomorrow's Hungarian Grand Prix in only eighth place as McLaren's Lewis Hamilton set the pace.

"If you would know what is going on in the background then you would not be too interested in all the talking and stuff that has been printed in the last few days," he said. "Fortunately tomorrow there is a new newspaper, and after tomorrow again, and especially on Monday, so we focus on the race here and then try to make some good news for Monday's paper."

The world champion, who also lost second place in Germany last week when a post-race penalty for illegal overtaking dropped him to fifth, played down the whole engine mapping story and said he did not feel much difference in his car's behaviour, while admitting it felt better with the map he had used last weekend. "It's much less than people expect," he insisted. "Surely if we had the choice then we would go back to what we had in Hockenheim but it is difficult for us to measure. And it's difficult to judge because we didn't get a crack on the soft [compound] tyres today."

Hamilton did, and lapped faster than Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, Williams' Bruno Senna, the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, team-mate Jenson Button and Force India's Paul di Resta.

"It's been a really positive day. I'm very, very happy," Hamilton said. "We made some good changes to the car to get it dialled in, and we're on the right path, but we've still got some work to do. The Red Bull looks very quick, so does the Lotus, and obviously the Ferrari as well. So we're by no means feeling comfortable.

"But I'm on it and I'm happy to be on it," he added. "I feel like I've been on it all year, but I feel a lot of support from the fans, the car feels great and I'm just focusing on trying to maximise every lap and every opportunity I get out there."

Everyone then had their plans disrupted halfway through the session by torrential rain for the third race meeting in success ion, none more so than Michael Schumacher. The veteran was one of few to venture out when conditions were at their worst and aquaplaned into a tyre wall.

"I just locked up and ran out of road," he said. "By hitting the tyres, I lost the front wing, but other than that, nothing is damaged on the car. It was the kind of incident that happens when suddenly a shower hits a dry track."

Hamilton went about a second faster on the softer compound tyres, and Vettel was about a second slower than him without them, so there is cause to believe that the two teams will be closely matched today.

"I think there is still a lot of room for improvement for us. I think we need to do better for the rest of the weekend and we'll see where we are."

Meanwhile, Alonso quietly got on with his job, intent on having as smooth and mistake-free a weekend as possible.

"What's to say, the usual Friday," he said, "at the end of which it's always difficult to hypothesise on how things will go in qualifying or the race."