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Hamilton blisters Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Canadian GP FP1

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Lewis Hamilton has gone nearly 1.5 seconds quicker than his own fastest first free practice time (1:16.212) set last year, in this morning’s first 90-minute free practice for the Canadian Grand Prix.

The four-time Canada winner, three-time World Champion and Monaco Grand Prix winner posted a flier of 1:14.755 in his Mercedes W07.

And considering the time was set on Pirelli’s supersoft compound rather than the ultrasoft compound, the softest compound available and brought to Montreal this weekend at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, it’s a foreboding omen for the rest of the weekend.

Hamilton had earlier set a 1:14.980, first into the 1:14 bracket, which set the scene for the rest of the session.

His Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg was second and Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel third, with Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) and the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen completing the top five.

Rosberg was 0.331 of a second back on the ultrasoft tire, Vettel 0.488 of a second back; neither of the others in striking distance.

There was a sizable accident with just over an hour left in the session. Felipe Massa lost control into Turn 1 in his Williams Martini Racing entry – Massa noting on the radio he had a problem when he tried to fully close the Drag Reduction System – and it sent him into the Turn 1 tire barrier, rear end first.

Massa was OK; the car, not so much. Meanwhile the irony of a Martini-supported car crashing into the newly Heineken-sponsored barrier wasn’t lost on the Twitterverse.

There were also several instances of drivers running in deep at the final chicane before the infamous “Wall of Champions.” Hamilton was particularly salty at McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso at one point, saying of the two-time World Champion on the radio, “Pretty dangerous of Fernando there.” Valtteri Bottas (behind Verstappen), Daniel Ricciardo and Alonso himself were others caught going in too deep.

There were a number of other lockups and off-course excursions – Verstappen had a full oppo-lock tribute to Villeneuve at the hairpin at one point – but no other incidents.

Jenson Button, meanwhile, had what was termed a “temperature problem” on his McLaren Honda and after repairs, needed to pit in the waning moments of the session.

The ultrasoft compound didn’t get a ton of running this morning, instead most teams opting to run longer stints on the supersoft and soft compounds in race run preparation. Montreal is notoriously a low grip circuit that takes time to rubber in.

Free practice two is live from 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extrawith Off the Grid: Shanghai due to premiere right after at 3:30 p.m. ET.

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New schedule has Josef Newgarden seeing double (points) again in 2020

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Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske believes the latest revised schedule for 2020 will change his approach to the season.

The new schedule has the defending IndyCar champion looking at ways to double the possibilities for a second consecutive championship.

“When I look at the whole schedule they released now, I look at it as double-points as a whole in all of them,” Newgarden told Monday. “Iowa is double points on a short oval. There are double points at the Indy GP because there are two races and a road course. Then double points at Laguna, which is a different road course than IMS. And there is double points in the Indianapolis 500.”

IndyCar announced to team owners two weeks ago that the season finale (once scheduled for Laguna Seca and now at St. Petersburg) will no longer be a double-points event. But Monday’s schedule revision essentially adds three double points-style races to the Indy 500’s double-points format, Newgarden said.

“Those are four events where you have to be quite strong,” Newgarden said. “They are all very different from each other. Each one is critical to get right. Iowa has a chance to be the most difficult. From a physical standpoint, it’s already a physical track for one race. To double it up on one weekend will be quite the toll for the drivers.

“It will be a very big test physically to see who will get that weekend right. You can bag a lot of points because of it.”

Just 12 days after the first schedule revision, IndyCar officials announced another revised schedule Monday because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The new schedule features doubleheader weekends at Iowa Speedway in July and Laguna Seca in September. There is an additional race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Oct. 3.

That race will be known as the IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix. It will be the second time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history that an IndyCar race is held in the fall. The only other time was the Harvest Auto Racing Classic, a series of three races won by Johnny Aitken on Sept. 9, 1916.

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix scheduled for May 30-31 will be dropped from the 2020 schedule. Michigan has a “Stay at Home” order that won’t be lifted in time to start construction of the Belle Isle street course.

Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles said the Detroit event will return in 2021.

The IMS road course essentially will have a doubleheader spaced out by nearly three months. The first race will be the GMR IndyCar Grand Prix on July 4, and the second will be Oct. 3 in the Harvest Grand Prix.

The extra doubleheaders combined with the loss of Detroit gives IndyCar a 15-race schedule for 2020. It started out as a 17-race campaign, but April’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the Acura Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the AutoNation IndyCar Classic at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) have been canceled. The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being revived as the season finale on a TBA weekend in October.

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Newgarden also is excited about the chance to run at Indianapolis for three major races in one season. Of course, that all depends on how soon IndyCar can return to action because of the global pandemic.

“I’m continually excited about the thought of getting back to the race track,” Newgarden said. “We would love to be there now, but we can’t. With the current situation, everyone is trying to do the best they can to pitch in and do their part so we can get back to the track as quickly as possible.

“I’m excited to get back to racing at some point in the future. To see that is planned to start at Texas is still great. IndyCar has done a great job staying active and fluid with the ever-changing dynamics and current situation.

“We have three opportunities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There are a lot of chances to get it right at the Mecca of our sport.

“I have a lot of trust and faith in IndyCar and Roger, and they are doing their best to stay on top of the situation.”

The one downer to the revised schedule is the loss of the Detroit doubleheader, a very important weekend to Team Penske because Roger Penske also owns the Detroit race. It’s a chance to showcase the series in front of as “Motor City” crowd, which is also the home to the Penske Corp.

“It’s a shame that we miss any event this year,” Newgarden said. “As a racer, you look forward to each one of them. If any of them drop off, it’s a tough pill. Detroit is more so because it is such an important race for us at Team Penske. It’s in our backyard for Penske Corp. Also, our relationship with Chevrolet, how much they put I that event and try to get it right for everybody involved. It’s tough to not have a go at that this year.

“I think of the volunteers. The Detroit weekend is so well run and executed with such a positive momentum behind it for the last eight years that I’ve gone there. I’ve always enjoyed that weekend off the back of the Indy 500.

“It’s a shame we will miss that this year, but I look forward to getting back there in 2021 and getting it started again.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500