Raikkonen tops second practice at Canadian GP

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Kimi Raikkonen moved Scuderia Ferrari to the fore in second practice for the Canadian Grand Prix, with the first 1:12 lap of the weekend at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

Raikkonen’s best time of 1:12.935 occurred in the opening half of the 90-minute session, and wasn’t supplanted after teams switched from qualifying runs to race simulations.

A Raikkonen and Ferrari win at the track would end respective droughts dating to 2005 (Raikkonen) and 2004 (Ferrari), respectively. Of course this is only second practice and even if Raikkonen was to take pole, as he did last race in Monaco, he’d need to back it up in the race.

The Ferrari man that is ahead in the championship, Raikkonen’s teammate Sebastian Vettel, was third this session, 0.265 of a second back.

After Mercedes AMG Petronas was 1-3 in the morning session, it was Ferrari 1-3 this afternoon with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton splitting them in second. Hamilton was just 0.215 of a second back.

Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was fourth but had a ragged sesssion with a couple lockups and a spin through Turns 1 and 2.

Max Verstappen had an even worse session when his Red Bull TAG Heuer slowed with a lack of power after Turn 7 and stopped on course, which brought out a red flag. Coupled with Daniel Ricciardo being stuck in the garage most of the session as well, it was a day to forget for Red Bull Racing.

Williams’ Felipe Massa was sixth with Esteban Ocon (Force India), Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso), Sergio Perez (Force India) and Romain Grosjean (Haas) completing the top 10. All of the best times were set on Pirelli’s ultrasoft compound.

Grosjean was particularly frustrated during the session, with radio transmissions catching him saying “I’m starting to get a bit fed up” after several spins. Grosjean, who’s had persistent brake issues at Haas, may be in for a long weekend at the brake-heavy circuit that features so many straights and long braking zones.

After a hydraulic issue sidelined Fernando Alonso in the first practice session, the McLaren Honda did make it back out in free practice two. Alonso got within 1.310 seconds in the session on the ultrasofts, which was good for seventh right at the end of the session.

Lance Stroll was 17th for Williams to complete his first day as the first Canadian driver in the Canadian Grand Prix in 11 years.

Third free practice is live Saturday morning at 10 a.m. ET, streaming online and on the NBC Sports App.

Qualifying coverage is live Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET on CNBC.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

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Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
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Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.