The malfunction of the cameras that resulted in the substantial cancellation of Canada’s first free practice session at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal allowed us, however, to take a dive into the past and witness a beautiful FP2 session spread over the traditional 90 minutes. The decision to bring forward the session instead of delaying it was providential, as it started raining about 10 minutes before the scheduled end time, prematurely ending track activities. Congratulations, in this case, go to the FIA and also to the state-of-the-art prediction tools, which are becoming increasingly efficient, at least in the short term.
But let’s get to the point. Having the opportunity to work for 90 minutes instead of the usual 60, as we have become accustomed to, allowed teams to diversify their programs further. Most of the teams chose to immediately conduct qualifying simulations and then focus on data collection with a lot of fuel onboard towards the end, while Mercedes did the exact opposite. The result? A sensational one-two for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in the overall time classification that emerged at the end of the session, but a completely skewed race pace compared to their rivals.
Indeed, if we observe the race pace of the black arrows (photo to follow), we notice an unusual deficit. Not only compared to Red Bull but also Ferrari and Aston Martin. It is impossible to think that Lewis Hamilton and George Russell could be one second per lap behind the leading group. The deficit is obviously due to having done the long runs at the beginning of the session when the track was still very green (with little rubber). However, the pace appears to be very consistent, and they will certainly be formidable opponents for anyone attempting to reach the podium on Sunday.
Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso to go for it
With temperatures that could be described as quite cool (track surface around 40°C), Ferrari and Aston Martin showed a respectable pace. Fernando Alonso was the fastest of all on the medium tires, and given his skillful tire management, he could definitely be a strong rival for Max Verstappen as well. The Dutchman and Charles Leclerc are still on the same pace as the Spaniard, and if Sunday’s race conditions remain the same, we could witness a thrilling three-way battle for victory (undoubtedly an optimistic scenario, but we have to hope for something, right?).
Aston Martin has brought an important evolutionary step here in Montreal, while Ferrari has conducted a thorough analysis of the updates introduced in Spain and, for the moment, seems to have found the right setup to support a good Grand Prix. Of course, it’s only Friday, so a lot can still change, and with the weather constantly evolving, nothing can be taken for granted. Today, for example, it is expected to rain all day, which means we might have wet qualifying.
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Charles Leclerc is one of the few experimenting with the Hard C3 tire towards the end of the session. Few laps, but high potential. After just three laps, the Monegasque driver already manages to go faster than the best time set on the stint with the Medium C4 tire. Considering that historically, here in Montreal, the Soft C5 tire has always been primarily a qualifying tire, seeing a Ferrari comfortable on Medium and Hard compounds is definitely promising for Sunday. However, it is important not to deceive anyone. Talking about a victory for the Maranello team is premature. The feelings are still good when thinking about a podium finish, but much will also depend on Sergio Perez.
Room for improvement for Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz
A rather subdued Friday for Carlos and Checo. The Spanish driver is about four tenths of a second behind his Maranello teammate and the leading group, while the Mexican driver is even six tenths behind. Both have a lot of room for improvement. Sergio Perez is going through a challenging moment within the Austrian side. It’s been two races since he hasn’t been able to match Max’s performances. Verstappen is literally running away in terms of the championship, and another disappointment would definitively put an end to any dream for the Mexican driver. He cannot afford any more mistakes; even Red Bull might grow tired.
Good performance from Alpine and McLaren
The cool temperatures also seem to suit McLaren and Alpine. Pierre Gasly has shown a really good performance on both Medium and Soft tires. Lando Norris has posted good lap times. Oscar Piastri is struggling a bit more, but the weekend is still long, and if both teams do their homework well before qualifying, they could engage in a good battle for points this Sunday. The fans are hoping for it.