Hamilton tops time charts in Canada practice

Hamilton tops time charts in Canada practice

After a casual first free practice session, McLaren Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton wired in the quicks to top time charts in the second session ahead of Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix, the only North American stop on the Formula One ...

After a casual first free practice session, McLaren Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton wired in the quicks to top time charts in the second session ahead of Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix, the only North American stop on the Formula One circuit.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-23.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The Englishman who stamped phenomenal on a rookie season with victory at this race a year ago, Hamilton slammed to a 1-minute, 15.752-second fast lap to indicate he is in form to repeat.

But BMW Sauber driver Robert Kubica, whose massive crash made his 2007 Canadian race memorable for the wrong reasons, pushed past world champion Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari to post second-best time, a 1:16.023. Raikkonen rolled to 1:16.093.

McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen came fourth-best in 1:16.331. Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who has three poles in six races, rolled to a stop on course -- steering wheel lights flashing -- with 17 minutes of the second session's 90 minutes left. He could not improve his 1:16.413. Nick Heidfeld, who with Kubica kept BMW Sauber at the sharp end of the charts in unusual wheeling for Fridays, managed a 1:16.589 for sixth-quick.

The well-attended sessions began on a Circuit Gilles Villeneuve damp from overnight rain. More rain is predicted. A wet race without traction control could lead to action overload, as just experienced in Monaco. It also could provide Kubica, whose straight-line speed did not match that of Hamilton, with a juicy opportunity for victory.

The 2.7-mile Ile Notre Dame course is effectively U-turns linked by a set of drag strips with a few jinky chicanes thrown in and set on an island in the St. Lawrence River. Called variously a low- to medium-downforce circuit, it provides teams with aero and grip challenges.

BMW Sauber developed a new aero package for Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The design team provided a changed front wing and a new rear wing then plucked off various other winglets to reduce drag. The car has the largest possible brake discs and what technical director Willy Rampf calls "very robust" discs. That might explain why Kubica and Heidfeld, not usually challenging for top times on Friday were solidly quick.

The section of track where Kubica crashed so massively last year has been smoothed out in hopes that no other driver will "catch an edge" at that point on the track. Kubica has been consistent in saying the Canada track is one of his favorites. Turn 9 was one of a few curves "smoothed" in an upgrade costing millions of dollars. Kubica has been asked repeatedly about returning to the scene of his lurid crash.

"I'm approaching the race as usual," Kubica told BBC Radio.

Mark Webber spent a couple hours of track time unnoticed before hauling his Red Bull RB4 into seventh spot. His teammate, David Coulthard, could manage only 12th. Nico Rosberg led Williams with a 1:16.767, good for eighth. Teammate Kazuki Nakajima was 11th.

Sebastian Vettel, rumored to become Webber's Red Bull teammate before the end of the season, pulled a 1:17.019 from the Scuderia Toro Rosso, well ahead of rookie teammate Sebastien Bourdais in 16th.

Toyota's Jarno Trulli spent a spinningly busy day going in all directions before settling down to a 10th-best time, 1:17.068. His teammate, Timo Glock, smacked a wall and damaged right-side suspension.

After beginning to look resurgent in Monaco, Honda again disappeared down the charts. Jenson Button was 19th on the timesheets, Rubens Barrichello 13th. Fellow veteran Giancarlo Fisichella of Force India followed Barrichello. Fisichella's teammate, German Adrian Sutil, was 18th.

Honda was joined down the list by Renault, having a frightful day with double world champion Fernando Alonso spinning twice at Turn 1, the second time stranding himself when the car stalled. Alonso teammate Nelsinho Piquet pulled off with mechanical problems. Alonso timed in at 17th and Piquet 20th.

In the F1 version of bumper cars, Massa took top time in first practice as one then another driver bumped off Raikkonen's fast lap. Kubica, Kovalainen and Heidfeld had taken quick time before Massa. Massa was disqualified from last year's race for running a pit-lane stop light.

Drivers worked on a drying track that started damp after overnight rain. Most of the action took place in the final 20 minutes of the 90-minute session, when wet tires were replaced by dry. The volatile nature of getting down to business was demonstrated to Button, whose fourth-best time became slowest in less than 10 minutes.

Massa popped top with a 1:17.948 then lowered that to 1:17.533 to end the session as quickest.

Drivers points leader Hamilton was on track only long enough to deliver a lap of 1:18.303. Pole time last year was 1:15.707.

Six drivers, Piquet, Trulli, Nakajima, Button, Fisichella and Massa put their cars off course.

NOTES:

Honda, a backer of Canadian environmental charity Clear Air Champions will back a school campaign to make children in grades 6 through 9 aware of the interactions of air quality, climate change and health. CAC works with athletes to educate and inspire. The school programs aims to encourage adolescents to choose less-polluting forms of travel and to increase their physical activity by using cycling or walking as means of travel.

Coulthard was fined 3,000 euros ($4,700) for speeding down pit lane. His Red Bull was clocked at 15 km/h over the limit. Coulthard told BBC Radio his visit to Dover, Del., for a NASCAR race last weekend reflected his interest in all forms of motorsport. Yet, he left after two hours when "they were not even halfway through the race," he said. "It's difficult to keep that enthusiasm for four hours, but they do it."

Canada marks the only North America appearance for the F1 circus in 2008 after the cessation of the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis. But reports that series supremo Bernie Ecclestone spent the week on the continent, part of it supposedly in the United States, coupled with public remarks by Ecclestone that F1 doesn't need the United States has fueled talk that a US Grand Prix could be on again, possibly as soon as next year. The USGP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ran out of contract without Speedway owner Tony George and Ecclestone agreeing a new deal. George refused to raise ticket prices, Ecclestone's recommended action to accommodate the escalating rights fees required by Formula One Management, Ecclestone's management arm.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Gilles Villeneuve , Sébastien Bourdais , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen , Tony George , Robert Kubica , Timo Glock , Sebastian Vettel , Kazuki Nakajima , Adrian Sutil , Bernie Ecclestone
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Force India , Toro Rosso , Williams