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Hamilton calls Canadian GP one of F1’s ‘exceptional’ races

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Lewis Hamilton has called the Canadian Grand Prix is one of Formula 1’s “exceptional” races ahead of his bid for a sixth victory in Montreal on Sunday.

Hamilton took his very first F1 win at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve back in 2007, and has since claimed a further four races, putting him second on the victory list in Canada behind Michael Schumacher (seven wins).

“Obviously having the amazing experience I had in 2007, I remember standing on the podium and looking down at my Dad and just seeing the biggest smile I’d ever seen in my life on his face, which was a very proud moment,” Hamilton reminisced.

“And then just since then, I think every year I’ve come I’ve just grown a lot I think with Canada and Montreal, and the following has grown along the time as well in 10 years. So the love I come and receive when I get here is spectacular, and you definitely feel the energy.

“Here’s a great race, the weather’s generally pretty good. The circuit’s incredible and unique to its own. The city’s one of the greatest cities. I’ve not been here when it’s not been a grand prix, but during the grand prix, there’s a huge buzz here.

“I love being here. I try and get here a bit earlier because the food’s great, the people are great, and I generally get left alone so it’s a good weekend.”

Canada is celebrating 50 years of F1 this weekend, and Hamilton believes it holds a place among the very best races on the sport’s calendar.

“Formula 1 is obviously made up of a lot of great countries, a lot of great races,” Hamilton said.

“But there are the exceptional races, and there are only a few of them, and this is race is in that few.”

Looking ahead to the coming weekend, Hamilton said that he felt Mercedes is on the back foot in the fight with the rival Ferrari team, having slipped to 25 points behind Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ championship last time out in Monaco.

“I think Toto [Wolff, Mercedes F1 boss] mentioned that he thinks that Ferrari [is quickest], and we obviously have seen Ferrari are the quickest at the moment so they’re the favorites,” Hamilton said.

“But we’re working very hard to rectify the issues we had in the last race and hope that we can attack this weekend.

“They’ve got some unique bits on the car I think that will work well this weekend, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take the fight to them.”

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.