Lewis Hamilton finished Friday’s practice for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix fastest ahead of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
The British driver, who has won three of the last six Grand Prix in Canada, set the fastest time in the second practice session in Montreal at 1min 16.118secs. He was 0.175 faster than Rosberg as the German marque continued its dominance. Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel was third with Kimi Raikkonen beating Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso into fourth place.
The Mercedes powered Williams’ of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas finished the session in sixth and seventh. The McLaren’s of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button in ended in eight and ninth with the Torro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne rounding off the top 10.
During the early runs on the harder ‘Soft’ tyres, Hamilton managed to beat his German teammate by 0.085secs. As they changed to the faster ‘SuperSoft’ tyres for the qualifying runs, Hamilton was then able to stretch his advantage to over half a second as Rosberg ran wide at the hairpin on his attempt. Rosberg, after a ‘cool-down’ lap then managed to close the gap.
This leaves the battle between the championship chasing Merc’s is finely poised despite the near two-tenths gap as Rosberg’s tyres would no longer have been at peak performance.
Red Bull had appeared to be struggling early on in the session. The Red Bulls Renault engine is by no means the quickest and it showed as Vettel languished down in 15th place with 20 minutes remaining. The German’s track time was limited following an early gearbox problem which meant he didn’t run on the ‘SuperSoft’ tyres until later in the session.
FP2 was also a struggle for some at the back of the grid. Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson pulled off after half an hour with a transmission problem whilst the Marussia of Jules Bianchi managed just two laps.
Surprisingly, in FP1, it was Alonso’s Ferrari that set the quickest time. His time of 1min 17.238secs was 0.016secs quicker than Hamilton with Rosberg 0.146secs behind the Spaniard. Vettel’s Red Bull was fourth with Bottas’ Williams in fifth and Daniel Ricciardo sixth. Button’s McLaren was seventh, 1.208secs behind Alonso.
The track’s long straights should penalise the power deficit of Renault and Ferrari engines which should enable Mercedes customer teams Williams, McLaren and Force India to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari. However, it seems that Ferrari’s upgrades have made impact. The designers and mechanics at Ferrari have been able to find increased power from the engine and have revised some aerodynamic parts, including a new floor.
This allowed Alonso to compete with the Mercedes throughout the session. He was third fastest after the first runs, and then moved into second and then first place as the session progressed.
American Alexander Rossi made his first Friday practice appearance of the season in place of Kamui Kobayashi at Caterham. The 22-year-old rookie did well over his 27 laps, finishing just 0.353secs behind Ericsson in the other Caterham.
Hamilton’s was one of a number of drivers to have an off-track moment on the demanding track. Built on the man-made Ile Notre Dame in the middle of the St Lawrence Seaway close to downtown Montreal, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is characterised by its long straights, hard braking and walls on the edge of the tarmac.
A number of drivers had near-misses as they explored the limits on the dirty track surface, but Marussia’s Bianchi paid the price for a mistake by hitting the wall and breaking his rear suspension at the exit of Turn Four.
Free practice three takes place on Saturday at 3pm BST before qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix at 6pm BST.