Alonso sets Friday pace at Canadian GP

Fernando Alonso enjoyed a fantastic Friday on the Isle Notre Dame, leading both practice sessions in dominant fashion. In the morning 90-minute session, Alonso led teammate Lewis Hamilton by nearly two tenths as the McLaren-Mercedes duo were four...

Fernando Alonso enjoyed a fantastic Friday on the Isle Notre Dame, leading both practice sessions in dominant fashion. In the morning 90-minute session, Alonso led teammate Lewis Hamilton by nearly two tenths as the McLaren-Mercedes duo were four tenths clear of the rest of the field. Alonso continued atop the leaderboard in the afternoon, holding as much as a one second gap to 2nd place for most of the time before a swarm of low times came in the closing minutes.

"A good start to our weekend at a challenging circuit," commented Alonso. "In the first session we limited our running slightly as the track was very dirty and only used one set of tyres, but still emerged fastest. The second session was spent on tyre evaluation and also looking at the brakes and we have made some good progress. I don't think we will dominate like we did at the last race in Monaco and the track conditions here means that it's very hard to estimate where our competition is, but so far so good."

In the morning the McLarens were the only cars in the 1:17 range, but bettered themselves later in the day. With about 40 minutes left in session two, Alonso set the day's fastest time of 1:16.550, almost eight tenths quicker than his previous fast lap, and a mark that went unchallenged the rest of the day.

"So far it looks like we could have a competitive weekend," said team principal Ron Dennis. "As always on a Friday both drivers focused on general set-up work and tyre evaluation but we also did some work with the brakes as these are a key factor at this particular circuit."

Ferrari was expected to hold the upper edge in Canada and may still do so after finding the necessary speed late in the afternoon session. But for most of the day Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen were languishing between 5th and 8th. It was only when the team adjusted on the car late in the day that the drivers improved, Massa to 2nd and Raikkonen to 4th. In relation to McLaren, the Ferraris were split by Hamilton but were still half a second adrift of Alonso.

"It is difficult to get a clear picture of the situation because the track was really slippery today, more so than we could have expected," Raikkonen explained. "But the grip level improved a bit in the afternoon. We got through our planned programme and now we have to study the data to work out how to improve our performance and find the best balance for the car, taking into account that the condition of the track surface should improve over the course of the weekend."

BMW looked good as Nick Heidfeld was among the first to dip into the 1 minute, 17 second barrier. With the late surge by the Ferraris, Heidfeld was dropped to 5th with his time of 1:17.827, but still "best of the rest". Given the low-downforce nature of the circuit, BMW is expected to thrive as they did last year in Monza when Robert Kubica scored a podium. Kubica had a rough day, failing to post a time in the first session with technical problems, and only turned 29 laps in the afternoon and ending in 12th.

Nico Rosberg took his Williams-Toyota to 6th place in the afternoon, his only session after test driver Kazuki Nakajima ran in the morning. Rosberg edged Rubens Barrichello, a surprising 7th quick for Honda, with Giancarlo Fisichella, Mark Webber and Takuma Sato completing the top ten.

Webber was 5th fastest in the morning, running Red Bull's new low-downforce rear wing configuration for this race. Teammate David Coulthard came home 11th at day's end but was further down the timesheets most of the day.

The pseudo-Red Bulls, a.k.a. Scuderia Toro Rosso, were somewhat quick in session two. New technical director Giorgio Ascanelli promised an improvement based on their new set of front and rear wings. And for most of this session Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed were each in the top ten, though, as the times tumbled late in the going their final results were 14th and 16th, splitting the Super Aguri of Anthony Davidson.

Toyota had a miserable day. One has to question how with all their money and resources how they are struggling as they are at the moment. Ralf Schumacher, under intense pressure to perform given rumors of his replacement, looked fine in the morning session in 8th and three-tenths up on Jarno Trulli. But it all went awry later in the day. Trulli suffered a right front suspension collapse early in the session, and told the team to bring in Schumacher as well.

After working to fix the problem, Trulli went back out and suffered a similar fate. The suspension broke upon hitting the curbs, notorious around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve but vital to any success whatsoever. When all was said and done each had turned 16 laps apiece and were 18th and 19th on the timesheets.

Down Spyker way Christijan Albers had the advantage on Adrian Sutil. At one point Sutil launched his car over the curbs to get completely airborne - but missed the famed "Wall of Champions" at the final chicane.

Renault's Heikki Kovalainen continued his struggles learning some of the tracks; on this occasion he got off course exiting turn six, got two wheels off and smashed the wall, damaging his left front suspension. It was game over, red rover for the Finn and P22 on the day.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato , Jarno Trulli , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Anthony Davidson , Fernando Alonso , Christijan Albers , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Gilles Villeneuve , Scott Speed , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen , Vitantonio Liuzzi , Robert Kubica , Kazuki Nakajima , Adrian Sutil
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Toro Rosso , Williams