Formula 1 has taken a quick break from the European season to head to the picturesque Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the St Laurence River for the Canadian Grand Prix. With high speeds, heavy breaking, and the infamous Wall of Champions the weekend always proves to be interesting.
Free Practice One saw the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton set the pace with the Ferrari’s hot on his heels. Following his somewhat disappointing Monaco Grand Prix performance Hamilton bounced back to top the time sheets on a 1:13.809, enough to put him two tenths clear of his championship rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. The two championship rivals were followed by their team mates, with Valtteri Bottas third for Mercedes ahead of fellow countryman Kimi Raikkonen in fourth for Ferrari. The top four were once again in a league of their own out at the front of the grid.
Surprisingly however it was not the Red Bull’s leading the charge by the rest of the pack for the Ferrari’s and Mercedes’, rather the Force India’s of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon were fifth and sixth respectively. Showing that this could be a positive weekend for the Pink Panthers as they look to solidify their fourth spot in the constructor’s championship. Max Verstappen was the fastest Red Bull in seventh with his team mate Daniel Ricciardo in ninth as the pair sandwiched the Williams of Felipe Massa. Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten, to put a small smile on his team’s face after a difficult session for Kvyat’s Toro Rosso team mate Carlos Sainz. Sainz FP1 session was cut short on the instillation lap due to an engine failure.
He was not the only Spanish driver to suffer in FP1, as it was a case of business as usual once again for Fernando Alonso at McLaren. Having missed the Monaco Grand Prix to race in the Indy 500, Alonso got a rude awakening when his McLaren ground to a halt with a loss of hydraulic pressure. The failure meant Alonso scraped his McLaren home to 14th in the session.
The cool and dusty track proved to be a challenge for many of the drivers, with spins for several drivers in FP1 including Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen as they all looked to find the upper limits of their car and the tracks grip.
Free Practice Two saw Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time of the session for Ferrari with a 1:12.935, just over two tenths of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton in second place for Mercedes. Raikkonen was the only driver to break into the 1:12’s today, showing that there is once again pace in the Ferrari this weekend. While Hamilton did take second in FP2 he was compromised with a tyre issue, as once again we saw Mercedes were taking longer to prepare their ultrasoft tyres for a quick lap compared to the Ferrari’s which are able to turn the tyres on quicker. This no doubt helped Raikkonen to secure the fastest time of the session.
Sebastian Vettel was third for Ferrari in the session, just five hundredths of a second off Hamilton’s time. Proving that we are on for yet another tight battle between the pair this weekend. While Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth in his Mercedes.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fifth, which considering the team feared they would have a difficult weekend here due to the power-hungry nature of the track, is a positive step for them. The team did not have it all its own way though, as both Red Bull drivers ran into reliability problems in the session. Verstappen stopped on track with a gearbox problem late in the session, while his team mate Daniel Ricciardo ran into Renault engine trouble.
“The positive is that Max’s pace looked pretty good on the ultrasofts, he looks like he is on the tail-end of the battle,” said Ricciardo, who was only 15th due to his RB13’s engine fault.
Felipe Massa was an impressive sixth for Williams, at a track that recently has been a happy hunting ground for the team. They secured their one and only podium here last year when Valtteri Bottas finished third in the race, and while the podium looks to be out of reach realistically this weekend. The opportunity to score some much needed championship points is certainly there.
The surprise this session came from the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, who despite missing the first half of the afternoon’s running due to a hydraulic issue, was able to finish an unexpected seventh place ahead of the Force India of Esteban Ocon in eight, the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat in ninth, and the Force India of Sergio Perez in tenth.
It was also once again another case of merry go round F1 cars in FP2 as several drivers spun once again. The Mercedes of Bottas was caught out and spun across the grass at the first section of corners, while the Haas Romain Grosjean completed an unwanted hat-trick with three off-course moments during the session. He struggled to 11th during the session, though it was clear the Frenchman was unimpressed and in a foul mood on the team radio following the spins, blaming his misbehaving Haas, and even his own team mate Kevin Magnussen for what happened.
“Is that the torque again?,” said an angry Grosjean following the spin. “I don’t give a damn. The torque doesn’t sound correct when I release the throttle, I don’t know why.”
When he was then told that Magnussen was on a back-up lap ahead on him, Grosjean bluntly responded: “Oh, **** him.”
With a tight battle between Mercedes and Ferrari emerging qualifying will mean everything tomorrow if the teams want to maximise their chances of winning.
Canadian GP Free Practice One Results
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:13.809
2) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, + 0.198
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, + 0.237
4) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, + 0.421
5) Sergio Perez, Force India, + 0.769
6) Esteban Ocon, Force India, + 0.976
7) Max Verstappen, Red Bull, + 1.052
8) Felipe Massa, Williams, + 1.297
9) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, + 1.632
10) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, + 1.849
11) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren , + 2.134
12) Kevin Magnussen, Haas, + 2.424
13) Lance Stroll, Williams, + 2.504
14) Romain Grosjean, Haas, + 2.536
15) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, + 2.664
16) Fernando Alonso, McLaren, + 2.712
17) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, + 2.996
18) Jolyon Palmer, Renault, + 3.195
19) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, + 3.797
20) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, No Time Set
Canadian GP Free Practice Two Result
1) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:12.935
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +0.215
3) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, +0.265
4) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, +0.375
5) Max Verstappen, Red Bull, +0.453
6) Felipe Massa, Williams, +1.128
7) Fernando Alonso, McLaren, +1.310
8) Esteban Ocon, Force India, +1.364
9) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, +1.526
10) Sergio Perez, Force India, +1.566
11) Romain Grosjean, Haas, +1.631
12) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, +1.669
13) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, +1.686
14) Kevin Magnussen, Haas, +1.741
15) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, +2.137
16) Jolyon Palmer, Renault, +2.192
17) Lance Stroll, Williams, +2.305
18) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, +2.676
19) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, +2.689
20) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, +3.373
Feature Image Credit: Williams Martini Racing Press Release