The Morning After: The stage is set in Montreal

Picking up more-or-less where we left off in Monaco, the Ferrari-Mercedes duel continues.

With a Raikkonen-Hamilton-Vettel-Bottas top four, the stage is set for another session of neck-and-neck qualifying. Not only is the short-run pace of both teams clearly exceptional, but with Raikkonen once again leading the charge, we’re looking at a potential four-way fight for pole position.

That said, where Mercedes have lagged behind Ferrari this year has been on long-run pace, and uncertain if they’ve made any improvements in that area here in Montreal. Consistency was hard to come by – particularly for Lewis Hamilton, who never managed more than two quick laps in succession – and on a track where racing is actually possible, that means they’ve still got plenty of work to do before Sunday.

McLaren Impress, Disappoint in Equal Measure

You know the story by now – not a race weekend goes by without at least one Honda engine failure, and Montreal has proven no different. This time it was a hydraulic leak for Fernando Alonso, which prematurely ended his FP1 and kept him out for most of FP2. On the bright side, he did manage to sneak in a run at the end of the day, finishing P7 on the timing sheets.

Given the past few days have seen an ultimatum from Alonso, an admission of problems from Yusuke Hasegawa and some pointed criticism from Zak Brown, it’s safe to say Friday didn’t provide quite the response Honda needed. Alonso’s time showed the car has potential, but it means little if they’re starting every race with a 25-spot grid penalty. Maybe they can make up for it in tomorrow’s rafting race, although knowing Honda, they’ll produce an overly complex design only to see their paddle break halfway down the river.

Quick Hits

Having seen Renault’s much-vaunted engine upgrade delayed until Baku, not much has been expected of Red Bull in Canada, but Max Verstappen’s fifth-best time in FP2 – just 0.078s off Valtteri Bottas in fourth – was particularly impressive. Certainly, there still a ways away from pole (and need a massive reliability boost), but it does bode well for the team if their French supplier does eventually deliver as promised.

Add yesterday to the list of difficult Friday practice sessions for Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman wasn’t the only driver to spin, but he was certainly the most prolific, complaining he was “fed up” on team radio. It’s not the first time this year he’s become noticeably irritated with the car, despite some solid performances on Sundays. A textbook love-hate relationship.

If his profile in ESPN the Magazine didn’t illustrate enough how different a life Lewis Hamilton leads to the rest of us, the man himself certainly did, revealing on Friday he’s secured paddock passes for his dogs, Roscoe and Coco. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous, but on the bright side, at least I still have my testicles.