By: Motorsport.com staff
- Alonso sets fast times in Montreal
- Vettel 2nd quick, crashed in P1
- de la Rosa subs for Perez
Alonso lays down fastest lap on Friday at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve
The Formula One free practice day was a mixture of fast times and crashes. Red flags marred both the morning and afternoon sessions on the opening day in Montreal. In the end it was Fernando Alonso who took the top time of the day for Ferrari with his best lap on Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve at 1m15.107s.
It was definitely one of our best Fridays.
Try as he might to best Alonso, points leader Sebastian Vettel fell short with a 1m15.476s. Third on the day was Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg who was fastest in practice 1 with a time of 1m15.591s, just a tad faster than Felipe Massa who ended today with his best lap at 1m15.601s.
“It was definitely one of our best Fridays – it does not happen often that we see our cars in the top five places – but it is true we were also quickest on both Thursday and Saturday morning in Monaco and then, in qualifying, we found ourselves nine tenths down on the Red Bull: that’s when they show their true potential and that’s why they are still our main rivals, along with McLaren and Mercedes, who seem to be very strong here,” Alonso said.
Vettel was one of those who had a rough day when he crashed his Red Bull car in the morning practice. However, he was not alone on the day. The Canadian circuit has always been tricky but today it truly bit the Formula One drivers as they made their way around the 15 turn 4.361 km temporary track on Ile Notre-Dame. McLaren drivers had a good day with both in the top six in the practice sessions.
Vettel commented about his accident in practice 1, saying "I lost the rear, but by the time I hit the wall I had low speed, so the crash was quite mild. There wasn't much damage, so we could fix the car and get back out this afternoon."
Rosberg had a great first practice as did his Mercedes teammate Michael Schumacher but in the second practice, the two were slower compared to their rivals. However the team elected to prepare the cars for the “high-fuel race” and not focus on lap times. The explanation was simple: Both sessions were interrupted by accidents so and thus after the second red flag in P2, the team changed their program.
"It was a positive start to the weekend, and we seem to have made some progress with our race pace. I felt comfortable with the car today and we completed a lot of laps despite the interruptions, which was good. The tyres are holding up well so it will be interesting to see the comparison once we start working on low fuel tomorrow,” said Rosberg. “Overall, I'm quite happy."
Besides Alonso, Massa also showed the strength of the Ferrari by ending 4th fastest on the day. “It was a good day, maybe the best Friday since the start of the season. The car seems competitive and the balance wasn’t bad for a first day of practice. Obviously, it’s only Friday so it is difficult to have a clear picture of the situation, partly because we don’t know if our competitors are trying different things, but I am reasonably pleased. Unfortunately, because of the red flags, I wasn’t able to use the Supersofts the way I would have liked, so I concentrated on the long run with the appropriate fuel load on board,” said the Brazilian.
Both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button turned consistent laps in their McLaren Mercedes cars by setting times in the top six in both sessions but like others, they two had to change their game plans due to the stoppage of each session. Button said, “It’s very difficult to make effective set-up changes when there are so many red flag stoppages. It’s a very tough circuit here – one hit of a kerb in the wrong way can send you into the wall.”
Hamilton ran over debris from one of the incidents but soldiered on and at the end of the day, the Briton commented: “Our long-run pace is pretty good; the speed is there. It looks very close once again between Red Bull, Ferrari and ourselves, so we’ll work on qualifying, get the car nicely dialed in and then I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”
Williams F1 team was concentrating on their new front and rear wings and a new diffuser. Sam Michael, Technical Director said, “Even with the red flags, we had a really productive day with both cars. We evaluated front wings, rear wings and diffusers throughout both sessions and happily all of the new parts are working well. The tyres improved a lot over the course of the day and that will continue into the race weekend. We will now turn our attention to qualifying.”
Kamui Kobayashi caused one of the red flags. The Sauber driver commented, “We have had quite a busy programme today. In the morning it was very difficult to drive because the track was so slippery. I found it difficult to judge the car’s balance on the new tyre compound we have had for testing. Despite this I tried different downforce levels and worked on the set-up. For the afternoon session the car was better, but then I made a mistake when I tried to do a fast lap on super soft tyres and hit the wall. It was obviously my fault.”
The story today was Pedro de la Rosa who got a call at the last minute to take over for Sergio Pérez for the Sauber F1 team. Perez was feeling ill during the morning practice and due to his terrifying accident at the Monaco GP; the team felt it best to sit him out for the rest of the weekend. To the rescue came the McLaren team, loaning Sauber their third driver.
“First of all I hope Sergio gets well soon,” said de la Rosa. “For me it was unexpected to jump into the car today. We had to get a lot of things ready for me to get into the car, but luckily we managed to do one proper run. Of course I have to learn a lot about the 2011 car, but the most important thing now is I have to get comfortable with the seat and pedals. However, I feel ready and just need a little bit of time in the car.”
The teams will run one final practice before qualifying tomorrow and as Alonso admitted, “As usual on a Friday, the times don’t mean much because we don’t know what programme the others were running and especially because rain is forecast for Sunday: the data acquired today could turn out to be of not much use. We followed our programme, trying out the different types of tyre and various aerodynamic solutions.”
Team Principal Peter Sauber explained, ”This development hit us by surprise, because Sergio underwent thorough medical checks, first in the hospital in Monaco, then in a hospital in Zürich, and finally, the FIA doctors gave him the green light this Thursday in Montreal. Nobody could have foreseen that he would feel unwell. Maybe we are being overly cautious, but when it’s about the health of our drivers we take zero risks.”