Friday practice for the Canadian Grand Prix was business as usual for Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg finishing first and second ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in FP2. His Ferrari teammate, Fernando Alonso, had finished fastest in the first session this morning, and the Italian team appears to be leading the race to be ‘best of the rest’ in Montreal this weekend.
As well as the on-track formalities, there were a number of stories breaking off-track, so here’s today’s paddock notebook from the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK
- Pirelli has confirmed its tire allocations for the next four races in Austria, Great Britain, Germany and Hungary.
- As part of a touching tribute, the marshals at the Canadian Grand Prix will wear black armbands on race day in memory of their colleague, Mark Robinson, who was killed at last year’s race.
- Lewis Hamilton believes that his perceived rivalry with Nico Rosberg has been “overblown” and exaggerated by the media.
- We spoke to Alexander Rossi after his FP1 run-out for Caterham, and he was pleased with how it went despite finishing at the bottom of the timesheets.
- Formula 1 could be set to scrap one of the Friday practice sessions in order to cut costs, after receiving support from the FIA, the F1 Strategy Group and the commercial rights holder.
- Daniel Ricciardo has been reprimanded after illegally overtaking Pastor Maldonado in the pit lane at the end of the first free practice session.
- When is Lewis Hamilton happy on a Friday? He was the quickest man in Montreal, but says that there’s still room for improvement. Red Bull’s drivers said pretty much the same thing.
- Renault had promised to improve the power of its engines for this weekend’s race. Pastor Maldonado doesn’t feel that anything has changed, though.
- Fernando Alonso drew first blood in Montreal by finishing fastest in FP1 on Friday morning. He was closely followed by the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
- Hamilton managed to redress the balance in FP2, though, finishing in first place ahead of Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen. Once again, the advantage appears to lie with Mercedes in Montreal.
THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK
Despite a few drops of rain threatening to spoil the first session in Montreal, it actually turned out to be a hot and sunny day on the Île Notre Dame, perfect for practice. We’re expecting another hot day tomorrow, and it could aid the likes of Lotus and McLaren who have struggled in the cooler conditions so far this season.
During both practice sessions, I took some time to head out of the media centre and watch part of the session trackside. During FP1, I went down to the first complex of corners (T1/T2) to see how the cars were going through there. Surprisingly, Mercedes appeared to be struggling a bit, with Rosberg locking up three times at the first corner. Lewis Hamilton also made an uncharacteristic error, and had to take to the run-off area at one point. Maybe that car is just too fast!
Red Bull has been better through the corners than most so far this season, and it was clear here as Vettel and Ricciardo easily negotiated the difficult left-right complex. The same can also be said of Williams, with Valtteri Bottas looking particularly aggressive and happy to take a big chunk of the kerb. Caterham, on the other hand, looked very uncomfortable. Alexander Rossi’s first few laps were tentative, and even regular driver Marcus Ericsson was struggling to tame the CT-05 car.
On the whole, though, Alexander did a great job. He was upbeat when we spoke to him after the session, and is now ready to turn his attention back to his GP2 campaign with Caterham Racing.
For FP2, I headed on down to the final chicane on the track (T12/T13), and once again Bottas was not afraid to attack the corner. Hamilton and Rosberg both had different approaches, with Nico’s appearing to be a little more ragged. It is here where you can make or break a lap time, so it was good to see the drivers pushing hard and trying to be as brave as possible without binning the car in the notorious Wall of Champions.
Looking at the lap times, it is quite clear that the advantage once again lies with Mercedes. However, Red Bull and Ferrari appear to be closely matched in the race to complete the podium. We could see quite an interesting battle between Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Alonso unfold on Sunday.
Today also marked my first encounter with the 2014-spec cars – or, more importantly, the 2014-spec engines. Having only listened to the sound of the power units on TV, I didn’t quite know what to expect. The uproar about the sound has been one of the big talking points so far this season, but I tried to avoid getting drawn into the debate without having listened to them first hand.
I must say, standing at turn one and at the end of the back straight, I was still very impressed by them. These engines are still loud and impressive, and the technology behind them is sensational. Sure, they don’t sound like V8 engines, but that’s because they are not V8 engines! When you go to Le Mans, the Audi sounds very different to the Porsche and the Toyota because it is different. I find it hard to see why this perceived lack of noise is a reason not to buy a ticket to see a grand prix. It’s a very subjective topic, though.
The news about the possible scrapping of one of the Friday practice sessions came as a bit of a surprise. F1 has been pushing to cut costs for so long, but the power of the big manufacturers and teams has ended all hopes of a cost cap for now. This is the alternative, but I’m not entirely sure that it will have the desired effect. Drivers want running, so to essentially cut it by a third may not go down too well. A possible remedy to this situation is extending the two practice sessions, but quite how this pans out remains to be seen. It does look very likely, though, even if it lacks formal approval for 2015 at this stage.
Be sure to join us tomorrow for final practice at 10am ET online, followed by qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix which is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1pm ET.