Montreal Practice 1: Hamilton shows strong early form

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27. Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday 8 June 2012.

Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the opening free practice session of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend

Jun.8 (GP247) Lewis Hamilton started his Canadian Grand Prix weekend in the best way possible by topping the timing screens at the end of the the first free practice at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, in a session which most teams used as a fully fledged testing session and saw Heikki Kovalainen become the first casualty of the unforgiving walls surrounding the circuit on the Ile de Notre Dame.

Sebastian Vettel with measuring contraption bolted to his Red Bull RB8Flo-viz paint was in evidence on most cars up and down the pitlane where most teams had major updates to their various cars. In the end it was Hamilton in the McLaren MP4-27 again showing strong pace ‘out of the box’ – his best time of 1 minute 15.564 seconds came shortly after the hour mark after a flurry of fast laps on the harder (yellow band) Pirelli tyres, which was 0.118 seconds up on next best Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel spent several laps at the end trying out the softer Pirelli, but for some reason the red band tyres were not that much quicker than the harder rubber – between 0.3 and 0.6 seconds depended on who had them bolted on during the final stages. Another anomaly was the fact that the better times were being set after a couple of laps rather than on the first flier. Clearly much has still to be learned about tyre combinations on the slippery, low down-force circuit.

Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG W03 third fastest Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nico Rosberg was the early pace setter in the Mercedes AMG W03, ending the session third quickest and half a second up on team mate, and seven time Montreal winner, Michael Schumacher in ninth.

Ferrari had a host of updates for the F2012 with both their drivers trying different new bits on their respective cars – different specifications for each – Felipe Massa was the first to try a different exhaust configuration, similar to McLaren and Sauber before Fernando Alonso tried the system. Again Alonso was fastest of the pair, with the fourth best time, with Massa 12th but well over half a second down on the Spaniard.

Mark Webber bolted on the soft Pirelli red band late in the session, but did not seem to benefit from a great advantage. He went quicker but not significantly so, and ended the morning fifth fastest.

Force India appeared to bring their good form from Monaco to Montreal with Nico Hulkenberg ending the session sixth in the VJM05 and his team mate Paul Di Resta 11th on the timing sheets.

Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday 8 June 2012.Again showing strong pace were the Sauber drivers, the C31 fast and efficient around the Ile de Notre Dame, with Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez seventh and eighth respectively.

Jenson Button rounded out the top ten, but sat out much of the session with an oil leak which required a gearbox change on his McLaren MP4-27 – last year’s winner only managed 12 timed laps in the session.

Out of the top ten were the Lotus duo of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen who were 14th and 15th at the end of the ninety minutes, the pair focused on long runs and never really attempted any hot laps. Raikkonen did more laps than anyone in the session, racking up 42 tours of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and Grosjean notching up 36 tours.

Also further down the order than expected was, Spanish GP winner Pastor Maldonado down in 13th with his teammate Bruno Senna 21st and also apparently only doing long, heavy fuel runs.

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Caterham CT01 crashes and brings out the red flags. Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday 8 June 2012.All in all the first ninety minutes of the Canadian GP weekend was a glorified test session, as low down force setups were tweaked, new bits evaluated, Pirelli tyres and their nuances on the low grip surface ascertained – all this leading to several cross chicane excursions and trips down the various slip roads. The invariable ‘big one’ came early on…

About fifty minutes into the session Heikki Kovalainen was the first to sample the notorious concrete walls of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The Caterham slammed the wall in Turn 9, a crunching shunt which did severe damage to the right hand side of the CT01. After a delay of 12 minutes the pitlane re-opened and cars streamed out onto track for the last half-hour.

Kovalainen was somewhat philosophical about the incident, “I haven’t had a shunt for a long time, it was bound to happen one day. I was carrying a bit too much speed into that corner. I thought I’d gotten away with it, but the rear end snapped away and that was it. It was just a small error but it happens sometimes. We have got good mechanics. I don’t think the chassis was damaged. It’s just about replacing the two corners and we go again in the second session.”

Conditions were cool and overcast, with the threat of rain which in the end did not amount to more than a few droplets, which hardly impacted the session at all.

Subbed by AJN.

Montreal Free Practice 1 – Friday, 8 June 2012

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.564 30
2 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:15.682 0.118 29
3 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:15.782 0.218 30
4 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:15.842 0.278 34
5 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:15.897 0.333 28
6 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:15.986 0.422 29
7 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:16.000 0.436 31
8 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:16.249 0.685 32
9 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:16.264 0.700 28
10 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.347 0.783 12
11 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:16.460 0.896 32
12 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:16.619 1.055 17
13 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:16.859 1.295 26
14 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:16.890 1.326 36
15 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:17.014 1.450 42
16 17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:17.352 1.788 28
17 16 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:17.580 2.016 31
18 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1:17.935 2.371 23
19 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1:18.177 2.613 16
20 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1:18.182 2.618 26
21 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:18.762 3.198 36
22 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:19.354 3.790 23
23 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1:20.004 4.440 21
24 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1:20.067 4.503 23