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 Extra, with Off the Grid: Shanghai due to premiere right after at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Times are below: