Lewis Hamilton looks like the man to beat in Montreal this weekend after setting the fastest time in practice for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix. The McLaren driver has yet to win a race this season, despite being the fastest man on numerous occasions in qualifying. He is bidding to be the seventh different race winner this season.
The weekend looks set to be very competitive as both Ferraris were in the top three followed by Red Bull, Force India, Sauber and Mercedes. Lotus again focussed on the long runs and have yet to show their hand. The top 12 cars were separated by just 6/10ths of a second.
“Today has been positive,” said Hamilton. “But it’s definitely going to be tight this weekend – not just for qualifying, but for the race, too. Even though the Option tyre was a little quicker, I preferred running on the Prime tyre.”
Alonso was just five hundredths of a second behind Hamilton, but the Mercedes cars are expected to be the main challenge to Hamilton for pole position.
The rain stayed away in the afternoon while the cars were on track, but barely 10 minutes after the session ended it fell.
Hamilton set his time on the first flying lap on supersoft tyres, which was 2/10ths faster than his best on the soft tyre. However he did not set his fastest first sector on that lap, but rather on his third lap. He had to do the majority of the set-up and research work for McLaren as team mate Jenson Button lost most of the day to technical problems.
Hamilton was the fastest in the morning session, edging out Nico Rosberg. Twice a winner at this track, where he scored his first victory in 2007, Hamilton looked in his element in the McLaren, pushing the car close to the walls.
Bruno Senna went into the “wall of champions”, damaging the car quite significantly and bringing out the red flag, stopping the session after 50 minutes. The stoppage cost the teams 13 minutes of track time, as the clock kept ticking. Senna was on a supersoft tyre run and took too much speed into the final chicane.
But there was tremendous frustration for Jenson Button, who lost a lot of time with what started out as an oil leak, which meant that he did only 12 laps in the morning and lost most of the second session, as he needed a gearbox change. He managed to do 14 laps in the final part of the session to set ninth fastest time.
Also in bad shape – although he did get out sooner in the second session than Button – was Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen, who had a significant accident at the Turn 8/98 chicane. Alonso had a spin there in the afternoon session.
The Saubers looked competitive, with strong lap times and good straight line speed; Kobayashi was clocked at 320km/h through the speed trap, right up there among the fastest.
Both Ferrari drivers went with the new specification exhausts. Interestingly Alonso found an improvement on the third lap on his supersoft tyres.
“We managed to do everything properly,” said Felipe Massa. “I think we can be happy with the fact that the updates we have brought here worked, even if it’s hard to give an instant assessment of how much of an improvement they have produced.”
There was a worrying moment in the morning when an HRT mechanic was caught by a car during pit stop practice, but he has only bruising according to the team.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner has said that he has no problem with the outcome of the FIA clarification over the holes in its floor which has led them to change it for this race onwards,
“It’s the right way to have dealt with the issue,” he said. “In terms of the effect it will have on car performance, firstly we didn’t plan to run it here [in Canada] anyway, plus it doesn’t only affect Red Bull Racing. There were a couple of other cars that were running similar concepts.”
CANADIAN GRAND PRIX, Montreal, Friday Practice
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m15.259s 43 Laps
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m15.313s + 0.054 36
3. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m15.410s + 0.151 39
4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m15.531s + 0.272 44
5. Paul di Resta Force India 1m15.544s + 0.285 32
6. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m15.651s + 0.392 37
7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m15.697s + 0.438 32
8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m15.799s + 0.540 39
9. Jenson Button McLaren 1m15.812s + 0.553 14
10. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m15.878s + 0.619 40
11. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m15.898s + 0.639 38
12. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m15.907s + 0.648 41
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m15.987s + 0.728 39
14. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m16.360s + 1.101 29
15. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m16.562s + 1.303 33
16. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m16.981s + 1.722 24
17. Bruno Senna Williams 1m17.022s + 1.763 22
18. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m17.075s + 1.816 41
19. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m17.124s + 1.865 41
20. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m17.716s + 2.457 34
21. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m18.908s + 3.649 27
22. Timo Glock Marussia 1m19.084s + 3.825 40
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m19.378s + 4.119 21
24. Charles Pic Marussia 1m19.902s + 4.643 18