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Hamilton sets the pace in Montreal
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McLaren
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Jun 2012   |  9:18 pm GMT  |  56 comments

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

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56 Comments
  1. JR says:

    Watch out the Ferraris, looks like they are improving significantly over a single lap. If they manage to do so and maintain the good race pace showed on the last couple of races (including strategy and pit stops) they are going to be hard to beat, especially on Alonso’s hands. Would be great to see a good fight for the title between Hamilton and Alonso from now on. I feel that Mercedes and Lotus are starting to fall behind the big three. Let’s see what Red Bull can do with their revised floor.

    1. oak says:

      why do you feel the mercedes are falling behind? pole and a second in the last race, and pretty consistant pace over the long runs in canada.

  2. Brian says:

    I believe it was Vettel who was second quickest in the first session.

  3. hero_was_senna says:

    I can’t believe the others are not worried by Ferrari’s continued progress.

    I know Friday times can be misleading, but if Ferrari maintain this performance through to qualifying, that’s 3 different circuits with massively different characteristics that they have been competitive at.

    Forza Alonso.

    1. DMyers says:

      I agree. Hamilton himself is quoted as saying the Ferraris look strong. Raikkonen, on the other hand, suggests that Renault are struggling.

  4. Andrew Carter says:

    Hamilton has always been very strong around this track, and every year seems to be able to take that final chicane significantly faster than anyone else. I think we might be on for our seventh winner.

    1. Manu Francis says:

      I think the mclarens are running with a larger rear wing…..they already had a good top speed so they must have decided that they need more downforce…..just hope they dont have problems with overtaking(u know the gear ratios & all).:)

      1. Christos Pallis says:

        The “Barn Door” approach my McLaren could help them out especially as the weather forcast is 50/50 for rain. Also this system will deliver better qualifying pace as you need to shed a little downforce for race conditions but need that bit extra for qualli. A larger rear wing also makes DRS more effective, if you have more downforce you also have more to stall…

        Hope this doesn’t compromise the race for them!

  5. Dave Aust says:

    Interesting to see the HRTs ahead of the Marussias in both practice sessions. Can’t imagine the owners in Russia will be amused by that.

  6. f1_m4D says:

    Does Button take a grid penalty for changing his gearbox? Or are they still allowed a ‘joker’.

    1. James Allen says:

      Not on Friday. He only takes a penalty if he changes it from Saturday onwards.

      1. SP says:

        But didn’t Hamilton have his gearbox changed prior to Saturday running in China, yet still incur the grid drop?

      2. James Allen says:

        That was because he wasn’t going to be able to do the quali and race on the box he’d used in the previous race weekends. They can use other boxes for practice. But they must make a box last for five consecutive races and he knew before that weekend that the box from the race before was a problem. The penalties only kick in from Saturday onwards.

      3. James Clayton says:

        So Button needs to revert to the old gearbox for quali or get a penalty?

      4. James Allen says:

        To be revealed. As I see it, he’ll need to run the Monaco box not to get a penalty, put it that way

  7. Richard says:

    Well Hamilton has looked fast all day, but Ferrari are also there. I have no doubt Hamilton can put his car on pole, but it is the starting performance, and the running on high fuel at the start of the race that may put him at a disadvantage with Alonso in the Ferrari. If he can keep Alonso at bay he stands a good chance of winning the race.

  8. Andy R says:

    Hi James,

    Any insights on why Mclaren took so long to fix Button’s car? Was it a serious issue with the car OR a serious issue with the efficiencies (lack of) of the team’s pit-side operations (again!)??

    Gary Anderson hints it might be the latter in his BBC blog…

    Cheers and have fun in Canada, I am on the West coast of Canada wish I could be track-side :)

    Andy

    1. oak says:

      they changed the gearbox in an hour and 20 minutes. not a long time by anyones standards.

  9. Jesper says:

    How are the teams stacking up when it comes to drop-off on long runs?

    1. SP says:

      It looked extremely close. Hamilton, Rosberg and Alonso were covered by only a few tenths. Red Bulls werent too far off and nor was Schumacher. The Lotus’ came out for a stint towards the end, their long runs looked faster but I suspect they were running less fuel. As with any practice session, fuel loads are a big question mark. It looks very close though!

      1. c-m says:

        Bear in mind that the fuel penalty around this track is smaller than most places.

  10. Charalampos says:

    Well a bit of unexpected friday for me. If u add Hamilton’s fastest sectors then u have a lap of
    1:15:009

    More than 1 cars (HAM, ROS) did 20 laps at the end of p2 and they were not becoming slower and slower and more cars seemed capable of doing the same. It looks like the tyres do not go off. I think that teams understand the tyres way too good now.

    Lewis pace seems very good. But noone knows the fuel loads. I still stick with Mercedes for pole.

    1. azac21 says:

      Yet, if the weather warms up as predicted for quali and the race days all this can change i.e. tyres could degrade much faster…

      Or even worse. Teams that suffered of P1 and P2 could find themselves on the top simply due to the higher track temperatures.

  11. ida says:

    Lewis looks like he’ll be ‘lucky 7′ in the race winners tally.
    Just a bit of fun to see if any of this could continue……..European GP could be KImi’s, Silverstone is made for Mercedes atm so British GP could be Schumi’s, German GP is where it might end with Lewis, Fernando and Vettel always strong there but lets hope Roman can come up with the win and THEN Felipe can pop up and win in Hungary!!!

    1. Christos Pallis says:

      That would be crazy! possible but crazy…

      Im actually starting to despear with this tyre lottery. Im sorry for being a cynic but Maldanado is not a worthy race winner, that was a fluke of the tyres.

      1. Andrew says:

        Hmm, where was his teammate Senna then in the same car in Spain? It’s not as though Senna is useless, he was the runner up in GP2.

      2. Alex W says:

        Did you actually watch Maldo, he didn’t put a foot worng!

  12. SP says:

    Hamilton set his best time at the early stages of a short stint, on supersofts. Whereas, some of the others from P2 onwards seemed to set their times toward the middle or end of longer stints. If I recall correctly, some of the opposition set their best times on softs too.

    So, although I expect Hamilton to be on pole, it may not be so easy. I dont see him strongest in terms of race pace but at the end of the day, if he gets a clear track in front he’ll pull away.

    As for Mr. Button, shame he lost time. Eventually got out and started setting half decent times for a 1st stint. Ironically, he still radioed in complaining about front grip. Its there Jenson, you need to find it! ;)

    1. Nigel says:

      All of the quickest drivers set their times on 7 or 8 lap stints.

      Hamilton was no different. Though his best time was at the beginning of his stint, he put in a lap nearly as quick at the end of the stint.

      I think he also did a 20 lap run the the options which looked pretty competitive.

    2. James Clayton says:

      Hamilton’s time on supersofts was only about 2 tenths quicker than his time on softs though, if I remember correctly.

  13. Methusalem says:

    Ferrari are always fast in Montreal, even last year, they were as fast as the Red Bull rockets. What could be the reason?

    1. Christos Pallis says:

      Ferrari has always had a strong car in traction areas and under braking, plus a lack of ultimate downforce is not a penalty in Montreal! Thats also why McLaren have won there the last two years, similar characteristic’s. That and the fact that Redbull can’t achive a good top speed…

  14. Chris_NZ says:

    Autosport has a story predicting a one stop strategy due to lower then expected tyre degradation. I wouldn’t see that as likely as race day is going to be much hotter.
    There are also the unknown factors and the safety car is likely to come out. With the short pit lane as well, time in the pits isn’t such a penalty.
    I’d go for a two stopper strategy.

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s very hard to defend in the final laps on worn tyres on a one stopper. It’s so easy to overtake

      1. John says:

        presumably they are looking at the low risk gamble of setting up for a one stop and taking an almost free stop when the safety car comes out – not much point in committing to a stop outside of a safety car window if they don’t have to when others can benefit from a free stop. Could be interesting with some rapid strategy changes!

      2. Nigel says:

        I read the same story, and agree with you, James.
        Montreal is very different to Monaco, and even with the benefit of a safety car during the race, one stoppers are not going to be able to hold on to their lead in the last stint for more than a couple of laps.

        There was another interesting comment from Hamilton, though:
        http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/100205
        ‘…Hamilton added that the super soft compound lasted longer than expected but that it did not give the one-lap performance advantage that has been seen for most of 2012.
        “I preferred the prime to be honest even though the soft did go a bit quicker. It wasn’t as big as it normally is, it is normally quite a big gap but I think it is only three or four tenths difference,”…’

        Unless warmer temperatures today make a radical change, it should be easy for the faster teams to run the primes in Q1.
        We could also see on or two who get to Q3 but aren’t near the front starting the race on the prime again.

      3. James Allen says:

        Wait and see what happens when the track warms up.. as it should do on Saturday

  15. brendan says:

    could anyone tell me why mercedes where 9/4 to get pole before practice 1 and 2 but after they are 6/4, do the bookies know something we dont?and why was nico slower in p2 than in p1,do you think they are sand bagging,

  16. Luke says:

    Hamiltons fastest in practice and all of a sudden its a “..real drivers track and the driver makes all the difference..”? What the? Monaco, Spa, Suzuka maybe but Montreal? Starights and hairpins? Don’t think so. He’d probably get better results if he stopped buying tickets on himself and concentrated on what he does best.

    1. John says:

      It’s not called the “wall of champions” for nothing! The need to run very close to the wall is very similar to Monaco – and has caught out the very best. The constantly changing track condition means the top drivers are trying to push faster every lap. On a corner where needing an inch perfect line is critical means a driver has to have a very well honed ability to feel the limits of grip levels.

    2. rach says:

      What is Hamilton supposed to do not go fast to please you?

      Also, this is a drivers track because the walls are close and the driver really can make a difference. Ask Bruno Senna? But then I imagine you didn’t watch yesterday so you won’t understand!

  17. Michael says:

    I just hope Lewis gets a fair shake this weekend. No Mclaren screw ups.

  18. JC says:

    James, what is wrong with Toro Rosso lately? The car just seems miles off the pace.

  19. stephen says:

    I still think the mercs will have pole.

  20. Carlos Marques says:

    How’s the vibe in Montreal with the student protests? Are the crowds still there? Anything different from any other year? I couldn’t make it to Montreal this year (I’m in Toronto) because I didn’t feel it was safe…

    Did the drivers notice anything different?

  21. Carlos MolerO says:

    How close it’s ferrari’s top speed compare to the front runners? I believe they are closer than in other circuits, don’t they?

  22. Happy to see Massa setting some decent lap times, will be interested to see if he can keep it up.

  23. Wade Parmino says:

    The McLaren appears to suit Hamilton’s driving style. Certainly for outright pace over a lap. Button’s conservative, smooth style just isn’t getting results with the current McLaren. But at Canada I think he might finish the race ahead of Hamilton. However, I don’t think either McLaren will Win.

    1. matthew says:

      your forgetting how quick lewis is in canada.
      last year he was super quick in canada untill he got taken out,plus he gets pole there alot and has won there too.i doubt what happened in canada last year with the changing conditions and safety cars will happen this year.
      also hamiltons race pace was very consistent even for 30 laps.

  24. Elie says:

    A bit soon to get excited. No real surprises here-possibly Ferrari – but I’ve been saying they’ve been downplaying improvements for a long time now..Mercedes have more up their sleeve. Lotus were doing long runs and temperature should be 5 deg warmer Sat/Sunday which will help. I will stick with my tips -Merc/ Nico then Lewis for the race. Really hoping Lotus improve an fight Red Bull and Ferarri!

  25. Xman says:

    I think like Monaco, whoever can go longer in the first stint, conserve until thry find clear air and put in some fast laps to jump the others will win the race.

  26. Rob Newman says:

    I don’t think Hamilton actually set the pace. As always Friday times are misleading and needs more analysis before coming to a conclusion.

    Hamilton set the fastest time of 1:15.564 on softs in P1 whereas Vettel’s fastest on softs was 1:15.531 in P2. Vettel didn’t do low fuel runs on the supersofts in P2 but he was much faster on super softs in P1 but that was spoiled by traffic lap after lap. Also, if I am not mistaken, Hamilton’s fastest on super softs came on low fuel.

    Vettel seems to be ok on Fridays but he has not been very good on Saturdays this year. He has become very unpredictable.

    Unless the weather plays a role, it will be either Hamilton or Rosberg for pole but I am not sure if Hamilton can win. Ferrari’s are mighty fast. I can’t understand what happened to the Lotus cars. They look way out of pace.

  27. chris says:

    Merc should have more to come. Nearly all the other teams did their quick times on the super softs, Merc used the soft.

  28. Andrew Kirk says:

    What’s your view on Hamilton’s mindset this weekend James? It is one of his strenghts and major weakness I feel.

  29. Dave says:

    James,

    I wonder, could you do an article on Jenson’s predicament at the moment. From the outside it seems unfathomable that he could be so far off on setup when his teammate is being competitive.

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