Montreal Practice 1: Hamilton shows strong early form
8 June, 2012
Jun.8 (Apex) 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.
Flo-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.
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.
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.
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
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:15.682||0.118||29|
|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|
|11||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:16.460||0.896||32|
|20||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:18.182||2.618||26|