GP3 Series title challenger Aaro Vainio set the pace in the 45-minute free practice session at the Hungaroring on Friday morning in his Lotus entry.
Vainio, who arrived in Hungary 18 points behind leader Mitch Evans of MW Arden, knows he needs a big weekend to start closing the gap with only six races remaining. First on his agenda will be getting the four points for pole position on Saturday morning.
Despite the early start to the GP3 weekend, the air temperature was already warm at the early-morning start time. Evans was the first of the big guns to go to the top of the times when he emerged with half of the session gone, setting laps of 1m39.655s then 1m38.402s.
Silverstone winner Antonio Felix da Costa then went fastest for Carlin on 1m38.136s, but Vainio soon took top spot with 1m37.698s. With a minute of the session remaining, Vainio unleashed his 1m37.396s to extend his advantage to 0.4sec.
Da Costa stayed second, ahead of the second Lotus machine of Conor Daly, who was over half a second off the fastest time. Marlon Stockinger was fourth quickest for Status GP, with Will Buller grabbing fifth with a late lap for Carlin.
Evans ended the session down in sixth, 0.775sec down on Vainio. Hockenheim pole-winner Daniel Abt (Lotus) was seventh, ahead of Tio Ellinas, Tamas Pal Kiss and Robert Visoiu.
Last weekend's wounded racers, who both required hospital check-ups after crashes at Hockenheim, were both back in action. Vicky Piria was 22nd fastest, but spun into the gravel at Turn 6 on her ninth lap, while Fabiano Machado was 20th.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Aaro Vainio Lotus 1m37.396s
2. Antonio Felix da Costa Carlin 1m37.819s + 0.423s
3. Conor Daly Lotus 1m37.934s + 0.538s
4. Marlon Stockinger Status 1m37.973s + 0.577s
5. Will Buller Carlin 1m38.135s + 0.739s
6. Mitch Evans MW Arden 1m38.171s + 0.775s
7. Daniel Abt Lotus 1m38.235s + 0.839s
8. Tio Ellinas Manor 1m38.352s + 0.956s
9. Tamas Pal Kiss Atech CRS 1m38.393s + 0.997s
10. Robert Visoiu Jenzer 1m38.397s + 1.001s
11. David Fumanelli MW Arden 1m38.516s + 1.120s
12. Patric Niederhauser Jenzer 1m38.517s + 1.121s
13. Lewis Williamson Status 1m38.673s + 1.277s
14. Alex Brundle Carlin 1m38.830s + 1.434s
15. Matias Laine MW Arden 1m38.902s + 1.506s
16. Alex Fontana Jenzer 1m39.208s + 1.812s
17. Giovanni Venturini Trident 1m39.265s + 1.869s
18. Kevin Ceccon Ocean 1m39.276s + 1.880s
19. Facu Regalia Atech CRS 1m39.715s + 2.319s
20. Fabiano Machado Manor 1m39.986s + 2.590s
21. Alice Powell Status 1m40.657s + 3.261s
22. Vicky Piria Trident 1m41.463s + 4.067s
23. Robert Cregan Ocean 1m41.785s + 4.389s
24. Dmitry Suranovich Manor 1m41.787s + 4.391s
25. Ethan Ringel Atech CRS 1m41.981s + 4.585s
26. Carmen Jorda Ocean 1m42.825s + 5.429s