Max Verstappen dominated Friday in Montreal, the #1 Red Bull topping the timing screens in both free practice sessions of the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix weekend.
After doing the business in FP1, the World Champion repeated the feat in FP2 on an afternoon, which turned from sunny to dark rain-laden clouds at the end of the hour session, but never bucketed down until afterwards.
From the moment Verstappen hit the track in FP1 he was on it, signalling his intent by exposing some of the firepower he has in hand at the wheel of the RB18, which appeared to suit Verstappen better than teammate Sergio Perez on the day.
The World Champion’s best effort around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve stopped the clocks at 1:14.127, which came early during FP2.
In the sister Red Bull, Perez – second in the 2022 F1 title race after eight rounds – never found the sweetspot ending 11th on the time screens, a full second down on Verstappen.
In the wake of the Baku meltdown, Ferrari need to bounce back this Sunday or at least run the Bulls close, and that’s what they did with Charles Leclerc second quickest, less than a tenth adrift, followed by teammate Carlos Sainz, a tenth and a bit further down in third.
The stage is set for Max versus the Ferrari duo for pole position in qualifying; Perez could join the party if he can find his mojo overnight. No other team has a chance of sniffing a top spot start unless, of course, the predicted rain does come down on Saturday.
Best of the rest, Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin seem to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts, fittingly in team owner Lawrence Stroll’s homeland, the German ending the day fourth fastest – best of the Mercedes brigade – at a venue where he has enjoyed considerable success.
Notably, Vettel’s teammate Lance Stroll was left wanting three-quarters of a second, ending the day 12th.
Fifth fastest was Fernando Alonso, the Alpine driver again way better than teammate Esteban Ocon who was half a second slower, in tenth on a positive day for the French outfit who were hosting Mario Andretti and his entourage in town to lobby their F1 entry.
As is now usual, Pierre Gasly showed handy pace in the AlphaTauri to end the day sixth fastest while teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who had never driven the place, learned his way around, ending 17th on the timesheets.
Mercedes misery continued with Lewis Hamilton radioing his team “this car is undrivable” he reported as he struggled to 13th, 1.3 second’s slower than Verstappen’s benchmark effort and nearly half a second shy of George Russell in the sister car; he was seventh-fastest.
The McLarens were on the wrong end of the midfield, when not too long ago they looked to be stepping up. Eight tenths off the top time, Lando Norris was eighth, fractionally quicker than Daniel Ricciardo in ninth.
For Valtteri Bottas it was a frustrating Friday, the Finn doing no meaningful running in an Alfa Romeo plagued with niggles throughout the final session. His rookie teammate Guanyu Zhou was 16th fastest at the end of his first visit to Montreal.