First blood to Fernando Alonso in Canadian GP practice

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Fernando Alonso has finished quickest in the first practice session for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, edging out Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timesheets by just 0.016 seconds.

The Ferrari driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:17.238 to beat Hamilton, who had looked set to finish the session fastest. His Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, slotted into third place, a further one-tenth of a second down on Alonso.

As has been commonplace in 2014, the first 30 minutes saw a number of the drivers head out early in order to use Pirelli’s extra set of tires. Predictably, Mercedes one again went fastest of all in the first part of the session, with Hamilton leading Rosberg by just 0.050 seconds after their initial efforts.

However, both drivers did have a few unstable moments at the first corner, with Hamilton taking to the run-off area at one point. Daniel Ricciardo kissed the wall coming out of the first chicane, but gently enough to not sustain any damage to his Red Bull.

American driver Alexander Rossi’s first few laps in the Caterham were tentative, which was expected given that this was his first time driving a 2014-spec car. However, he soon found his feet and was matching the times of stablemate Marcus Ericsson. He eventually finished the session in last place, though, albeit just four-tenths of a second behind the Swede.

Marussia’s Jules Bianchi was the first to push slightly too much and make contact with the wall on the exit of turn four. His right-rear kicked out and was damaged, forcing him to crawl back to the pits at a pedestrian pace.

With 30 minutes to go, Rosberg improved his time to move ahead of his teammate as a number of drivers found more pace once the track had rubbered in. Hamilton soon redressed the balance with a lap that was almost half a second faster than Rosberg’s effort, and Fernando Alonso also managed to better his time to split the Mercedes drivers.

The Spaniard then went one better, and moved to the top of the timesheets with 20 minutes to go. Hamilton looked to re-claim first place, but a lock up at the hairpin meant that he lost the chance to improve. He had been two-tenths of a second faster than Alonso through the first two sectors.

Valtteri Bottas put in a late time to move up to fifth place behind Sebastian Vettel, but at the top of the timesheets, no-one could beat Alonso’s effort. Although Mercedes still appears to be the team to beat, Ferrari will undoubtedly be pleased with the Spaniard’s early showing here in Canada.

You can watch second practice for the Canadian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2pm ET.

As expected, FIA denies granting Colton Herta a Super License to race in F1

Colton Herta Super License
Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The governing body for Formula One on Friday said IndyCar star Colton Herta will not be granted the Super License that the American needs to join the F1 grid next season.

“The FIA confirms that an enquiry was made via the appropriate channels that led to the FIA confirming that the driver Colton Herta does not have the required number of points to be granted an FIA Super Licence,” the FIA said in a statement.

The FIA decision was not a surprise.

Red Bull was interested in the 22-year-old Californian and considering giving Herta a seat at AlphaTauri, its junior team. AlphaTauri has already said that Pierre Gasly will return next season and Yuki Tsunoda received a contract extension earlier this week.

However, AlphaTauri has acknowledged it would release Gasly, who is apparently wanted at Alpine, but only if it had a compelling driver such as Herta to put in the car. F1 has not had an American on the grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015, but Herta did not particularly want the FIA to make an exception to the licensing system to get him a seat.

At issue is how the FIA rates IndyCar, a series it does not govern. The points it awards to IndyCar drivers rank somewhere between F2 and F3, the two junior feeder series into F1.

IndyCar drivers have criticized the system in defense of Herta and the intense, close racing of their own highly competitive series. Herta has won seven IndyCar races, is the youngest winner in series history and has four starts in the Indianapolis 500. He qualified on the front row in 2021 and finished a career-best eighth in 2020.

Rossi, who has spent the last four seasons as Herta’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, lashed out this week because “I’m so sick and tired of this back and forth” regarding the licensing.

“The whole premise of it was to keep people from buying their way into F1 and allowing talent to be the motivating factor,” Rossi wrote on social media. “That’s great. We all agree Colton has the talent and capability to be in F1. That’s also great and he should get that opportunity if it’s offered to him. Period.

“Motorsport still remains as the most high profile sport in the world where money can outweigh talent. What is disappointing and in my opinion, the fundamental problem, is that the sporting element so often took a backseat to the business side that here had to be a method put in place in order for certain teams to stop taking drivers solely based on their financial backing.”

Rossi added those decisions “whether out of greed or necessity, is what cost Colton the opportunity to make the decision for himself as to if he wanted to alter career paths and race in F1. Not points on a license.”

The system favors drivers who compete in FIA-sanctioned series. For example, Linus Lundqvist earned his Super License by winning the Indy Lights championship.

Lundqvist’s required points come via the 15 he earned for the Lights title, 10 points for finishing third in Lights last year and his 2020 victory in the FIA-governed Formula Regional Americas Championship, which earned him 18 points.

That gave the 23-year-old Swede a total of 43 points, three more than needed for the license.

Herta, meanwhile, ended the IndyCar season with 32 points. He can still earn a Super License by picking up one point for any free practice sessions he runs this year; McLaren holds his F1 rights and could put him in a car. Herta could also potentially run in an FIA-sanctioned winter series to pick up some points.

Michael Andretti, who has petitioned the FIA to expand its grid to add two cars for him to launch a team, said he never bothered to explore potential replacements for Herta on the IndyCar team because he was confident the Super License request would be rejected.

Andretti has been met by severe resistance from existing F1 teams and even F1 itself in his hope to add an 11th team. Andretti could still get on the grid by purchasing an existing team and he’d like to build his program around Herta, who is under contract in IndyCar to Andretti through 2023.