Hamilton tops opening practice for Canadian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton led for Mercedes AMG Petronas in the opening 90-minute practice session for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, thus giving the first blow back to the Silver Arrows after its rough weekend in Monaco.

While it appeared as though the team was set for a 1-2 with Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas trading the fastest lap, Sebastian Vettel interrupted proceedings and slotted into second at 0.198 behind for Scuderia Ferrari, a 1:14.007.

Vettel aside, Hamilton and Bottas engaged in a proper neck-and-neck scrap at the top of the timesheets, as the low grip Circuit Gilles Villeneuve circuit rubbered in over the course of the session.

With just over 30 minutes left in the session, Hamilton posted a lap of 1:14.173 that beat teammate Bottas by just over a tenth of a second. But then Bottas then went to a 1:14.046 lap immediately thereafter to supplant him.

That only stood until Hamilton posted the weekend’s first 1:13 lap, a 1:13.961, which was 0.085 of a second ahead of Bottas. Hamilton went quicker still to a 1:13.809 as the session reached the 20-minute remaining mark.

Behind the top three, Kimi Raikkonen was fourth for Ferrari, with the pair of Mercedes-powered Sahara Force India drivers also having a very good session in fifth and sixth. Sergio Perez (only 0.769 of a second behind) and Esteban Ocon (0.976) were both within a second. Ocon spun near the end of the session, though, one of several in the session. The best of the Red Bulls was only Max Verstappen in seventh, with Daniel Ricciardo in ninth.

All of the top six drivers set their fastest times on Pirelli’s ultrasoft tires, the softest compound on offer at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

As could be expected, grip was at a premium to kick off the weekend festivities on the Isle Notre Dame, the park/street course that is only utilized at most two race weekends per year.

The low grip track led to a number of spins and off-course excursions. Ocon, Raikkonen, Vettel (below) and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson all spun at least once, while Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg (below) and Jolyon Palmer, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Williams’ Lance Stroll also had offs that were caught on camera.

Palmer at one point balked Verstappen as the Dutchman reported in to his Red Bull Racing team that “Palmer wasn’t looking in his mirrors.” Verstappen later had a moment of his own.

The session didn’t even last a lap for Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr., his unbadged Renault power plant smoking and stopping at the exit of the hairpin on his installation lap.

And then, sadly, there was another chapter written in the saga of Fernando Alonso’s 2017 F1 season with McLaren Honda. It took until the final 25 minutes of the session before the returning driver could post an official lap, either, before his similar fate of mechanical woes also returned.

His McLaren Honda did an installation lap early on but didn’t register a proper lap until he posted a time of 1:16.521 with 20 minutes to go, good for 16th and almost a half second behind Vandoorne in 11th.

Almost true to form, Alonso’s car stopped on track after completing just that one lap. He parked the car at the hairpin, the team having told him to stop on track. He got out, threw his headrest down in frustration, and bantered with the corner marshals. On replay, Alonso reported in the “gearing was super heavy.”

The other driver of note worth watching this weekend is Canadian Stroll, the teenager having his first laps in Montreal as the first Canadian in his home Grand Prix since Jacques Villeneuve in 2006 with BMW Sauber. Stroll posted a best time of 1:16.313 on Pirelli’s soft compounds, good for 13th.

Wildlife also made its first appearance during the weekend at Montreal, as a squirrel darted across the track without incident.

Coverage for second free practice from Montreal comes your way at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via the NBC Sports App. Times from FP1 are below.

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
Laurent Charniaux/Pool via Getty Images
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SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.