Fernando Alonso has bounced back from a below par performance at the Monaco Grand Prix to head the Formula One field in Free Practice around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean.
The Ferrari driver set the fastest lap in a qualifying simulation on the supersoft tyre and also put in a strong long run performance with fast, consistent laps. But Red Bull also looked consistent on the long runs and Mercedes looked strong on single lap pace again.
Following heavy rain overnight much of Free Practice 1 was run in wet conditions, with only a small number of cars taking to the slick tyre as the circuit dried in the closing minutes.
This meant that there was little experience gained on the new development tyre that has been brought to Canada by Pirelli in the hope of negating the delaminations that have occurred in recent Grand Prix.
However FP2 was dry throughout, although cold at 19 degrees celsius, and this allowed for the teams to evaluate the modified tyre and complete some dry laps.
It took until the half way point in the session for the qualifying simulations to begin and Sebastian Vettel was the first to set a competitive time on Pirelli’s super-soft compound. It became apparent that some cars were struggling to put temperature in to the tyres on the first flying lap with the fastest times coming on the second flying lap of the tyre.
With the track gaining grip rapidly the top spot was held by Vettel, Webber and Hamilton before Alonso took to the top, just 1/100th of a second ahead of Hamilton with the fourth lap on the tyres. He followed up with another lap a few hundredths slower.
Hamilton has stated that his difficulties in getting the maximum out of the car this season -relative to Nico Rosberg – lie with unfamiliarity with the different braking system that the Briton has struggled to get to grips with since his move from McLaren.
Similarly to Monaco, Montreal is a circuit that the drivers must edge up to in order to find their maximum pace as unforgiving walls lining the circuit offer little room for error. And as the times began to drop there was the customary change to the option tyre as the teams set about completing qualifying simulations, before the switch the race stint simulations in the final thirty minutes of the afternoon.
During these runs it was the usual contenders who illustrated strong race pace as Ferrari, Lotus and Red Bull put themselves ahead of Mercedes over the lengthy stints. And with these teams taking seven of the top eight places it looks set to be a good battle between the front-runners.
Force India also looked strong on long run pace in its 100th Grand Prix.
Alonso finds himself 29 points adrift of World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel and with a car that looks superior to the rest of the field at this early stage of the weekend Ferrari must focus on clawing back that deficit that has come about through Vettel’s excellent consistency.
There were a number of lock-ups during the first half of the session in particular, which is typical in Montreal with its long straights leading in to heavy braking zones. However it is also believed that the development tyre affected the brake bias of the cars and caused more frequent lock-ups then we would usually see.
CANADIAN GRAND PRIX, Montreal, Free Practice 2
1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m14.818s 48
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m14.830s + 0.012s 45
3. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m15.083s + 0.265s 40
4. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m15.212s + 0.394s 46
5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m15.249s + 0.431s 46
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m15.254s + 0.436s 43
7. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m15.280s + 0.462s 41
8. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m15.396s + 0.578s 43
9. Jenson Button McLaren 1m15.422s + 0.604s 29
10. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m15.566s + 0.748s 38
11. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m15.599s + 0.781s 35
12. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m15.661s + 0.843s 39
13. Paul di Resta Force India 1m15.855s + 1.037s 22
14. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m16.319s + 1.501s 46
15. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m16.351s + 1.533s 38
16. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m16.374s + 1.556s 40
17. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m16.475s + 1.657s 45
18. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m16.929s + 2.111s 35
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m17.070s + 2.252s 41
20. Charles Pic Caterham 1m17.236s + 2.418s 35
21. Max Chilton Marussia 1m17.888s + 3.070s 45
22. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m18.392s + 3.574s 39