Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso upstaged the mighty Mercedes team by setting the pace in First Free Practice at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Alonso, a winner on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2006 and runner-up to world champion Sebastian Vettel last year, lapped the island based track with a best time of 1:17.238 seconds on an overcast morning on the banks of the St.Lawrence river.
Right behind the Spaniard were the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton, a three-time winner in Canada, and his team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton was a mere 0.016 of a second down on the top time, with Rosberg third fastest – 0.146 of a second the gap between the top three, who were also the only ones to dip below into the 77 second zone around the circuit on the Ile Notre Dame.
Ferrari had a raft of updates to be tested on the troublesome F14T, and early indications are that they may have found a step up in performance although Kimi Raikkonen was down in ninth, 1.3 seconds slower than his Spanish teammate, but the Finn was unable to use the power unit to its full extent at the start of the session and lost out on track time as a result.
Mercedes arrived in Canada downplaying a spat between the team mates Hamilton and Rosberg that had dominated talk up and down the paddock but on the track their rivalry remained firmly in place.
With six wins from six races Mercedes have ruled the F1 grid and are expected to continue their domination on a Montreal circuit that plays to their car’s strengths with high-speed straights. The Silver Arrows outfit could well be keeping their powder dry early on in the weekend.
Red Bull continued to improve with Sebastian Vettel fourth on the time sheets ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the Williams and Australian Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull.
McLaren’s Jenson Button, who claimed victory in a rain-soaked 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, was seventh best followed by team mate Kevin Magnussen who is racing at the venue for the very first time.
Jean Eric Vergne rounded out the top ten in his Toro Rosso, followed by the Force India pair of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez.
American driver Alexander Rossi was the only reserve driver doing duty in the morning session, he replaced Kamui Kobayashi in the Caterham cockpit, and ended the 90 minutes session slowest of all. (Reuters)
Canadian Grand Prix, Free Practice 1 – Friday, 6 June 2014