Although the majority of the field spent the first third of the session in their garages, the Haas pair headed out immediately – with Nikita Mazepin on the mediums and Mick Schumacher on the softs, a split that was replicated across the few cars that soon joined them.
Mazepin established the first place benchmark at a 1m25.419s with his opening lap, which Schumacher immediately bettered with a 1m22.804s.
After Schumacher improved on his next lap to a 1m21.898s, Yuki Tsunoda, Kimi Raikkonen and Carlos Sainz Jr all enjoyed brief moments at the head of the times – the Alfa Romeo running the softs with the AlphaTauri and Ferrari on the mediums.
Just after Raikkonen had retaken first place with a 1m19.267s just before the 15-minute mark, Hamilton headed on for his opening run on the softs.
The world champion duly went quickest on a 1m18.587s, but he struggled with a badly oversteering car all around the lap – including Hamilton having to get fully off the power to correct a slide at the last corner – and he immediately pitted when he spotted a pin embedded in his right-front tyre, which Mercedes quickly removed.
As the rest of the runners headed out after 20 minutes had passed, Hamilton lowered the first place benchmark to a 1m18.204s but was deposed by Verstappen running just behind him on the track.
The Red Bull driver’s opening lap on the softs swept him to first place on a 1m17.510s, which put him 0.694s clear of his title rival and with the fastest times in all three sectors at that stage.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
But when Valtteri Bottas came through to complete his first flying lap of FP3, the second practice pacesetter put Mercedes back on top with a 1m17.428s – the Finn toppling Verstappen’s best segment times in sectors two and three as he gained ground as the lap went on.
After a lull in action ahead of the final 20 minutes, Bottas reappeared on another set of softs to improve the fastest time to a 1m17.055s, just before the session was red flagged when Schumacher crashed at the fast, 90-degree right of Turn 11 at the end of the second sector.
The rookie lost the rear of his Haas mid-corner and he spun off backwards at high-speed, with the car snapping back to the left and hitting the barriers side-on as a result.
The session was suspended for seven minutes before the pack head out for a final set of runs in the closing minutes.
Verstappen gained 0.3s on Bottas’s best time in the first sector on his final flying lap, which he held in the second segment and then lost time in the last sector, even though he ended up moving back to the top spot on a 1m16.914s.
But Hamilton restored Mercedes’ place at the head of the times as he ran just behind Verstappen on his final push lap, going faster as the lap went on to end up quickest in the final two sectors and overall with a 1m16.826s.
Bottas held onto third despite a late moment locking up and going off at the Turns 6/7 chicane, with Sainz – who had jumped up the order with a fast lap just before the red flag – fourth for Ferrari.
Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12
Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images
Charles Leclerc finished fifth ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, while Sergio Perez could only take seventh fastest in the second Red Bull.
Daniel Ricciardo was eighth ahead of Fernando Alonso, with Lance Stroll rounding out the top 10.
Stroll was involved in a bizarre and nearly very dangerous moment as the cars returned to the track after the red flag, when he drove down the pitlane and was clipped by Antonio Giovinazzi’s front wing as the Alfa Romeo emerged, at very low speed, from its garage.
The incident is being investigated ahead of qualifying, with Giovinazzi, who finished 18th in the final order, only ahead of the Haas duo, also getting involved in a second late incident with Pierre Gasly.
In that moment in the final minutes that is also being investigated by the stewards, Gasly, who ended up 11th in FP3, had to shoot around Giovinazzi’s outside and nearly go into the pitlane as the Alfa toured slowly ahead of a final flying effort, while the AlphaTauri was already on a fast lap that was ruined in the incident.
F1 Hungarian Grand Prix – FP3 results