George Russell puts Mercedes on top on final day of Hungaroring test

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BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Mercedes junior driver George Russell finished this week's in-season test at the Hungaroring at the top of the timesheets after clocking a new track record on Wednesday afternoon.

The F2 championship leader beat the record set by Antonio Giovinazzi in the Ferrari on Tuesday by 0.073s with a best time of 1:15.649. The lap was set on Pirelli's hyper-soft tyres and was enough to finish 0.074s ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who was using the same hyper-soft tyre compound on the Ferrari.

Although Russell's quick lap is unlikely to have an impact on his future in Formula One, his two solid days behind the wheel of the W09 will have boosted Mercedes' desire to find him in a race seat elsewhere on the grid in 2019. He has been linked to Force India in the past, but with recent developments around the team he now looks set to be destined for a Williams drive, especially if he claims the F2 title.

Raikkonen set his best time at the end of the session on the softest tyres and held an advantage of 1.363s over Red Bull simulator driver Jake Dennis in third place. It was Dennis' second outing in the Red Bull this year and allowed the team to stick to the regulation that requires two of the four in-season test days be completed by a driver with less than three grands prix experience.

Giovinazzi moved from Ferrari on Tuesday to Sauber on Wednesday and set the fourth fastest time with a 1:17.748 by the end of the second day. His best effort was 0.190s faster than Nikita Mazepin in the Force India, who was limited to 51 laps after stopping twice on track with technical issues during the day. Both problems were fixed in the garage and he set his best lap time on hyper-soft tyres at the end of the day.

Williams test driver Robert Kubica was back in action on Wednesday and set the sixth fastest time. After setting his fastest time in the morning using the ultra-soft, Kubica moved on to aero work in the afternoon. At the end of the test day he was running back-to-back constant speed tests with 2018- and 2019-spec wings, including a run when the entire car was doused in four different colours of aeropaint.

Lando Norris completed a second day in the McLaren and finished seventh in the standings with a 1:18.472 on soft tyres. That put him 0.024s ahead of F2 rival Artem Markelov, who made his F1 testing debut in the Renault and set his fastest time on the hyper-soft compound.

The bottom three places in the timesheets were occupied by Toro Rosso drivers as Sean Gelael focused on the team's test work in one car while a second was dedicated to Pirelli tyre testing. The Pirelli car was driven by the team's two race drivers, with Brendon Hartley testing 2019 compounds and constructions in the morning and Pierre Gasly in the afternoon.

Times at close

1. Russell - Mercedes - 1:15.575 - 116 laps (Hyper-soft)
2. Raikkonen - Ferrari - 1:15.649 - 131 laps (Hyper-soft)
3. Dennis - Red Bull - 1:17.012 - 131 laps (Hyper-soft)
4. Giovinazzi - Sauber - 1:17.558 - 120 laps (Hyper-soft)
5. Mazepin - Force India - 1:17.748 - 51 laps (Hyper-soft)
6. Kubica - Williams - 1:18.451 - 103 laps (Ultra-soft)
7. Norris - McLaren - 1:18.472 - 73 laps (Soft)
8. Markelov - Renault - 1:18.496 - 108 laps (Hyper-soft)
9. Gelael - Toro Rosso - 1:19.790 - 122 laps (Hyper-soft)
10. Gasly - Toro Rosso - 1:19.790 - 75 laps (2019 tyre)
11. Hartley - Toro Rosso - 1:20.221 - 67 laps (2019 tyre)