Mercedes chose Montreal to unleash their first power unit upgrade of the season – and both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas used it to good effect in the first free practice session of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, as they finished one-two and comfortably clear of the third-placed Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.
Bottas was just 0.147s behind his team mate – although he ended the session with a suspected fuel pressure issue – while Leclerc was a full 0.953s away from Hamilton – although it appeared that there was more pace in the locker for both the Monegasque and team mate Sebastian Vettel who ended up fifth, the two Ferraris sandwiching the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, who was 0.988s off Hamilton in fourth.
As the drivers emerged onto a particularly dusty Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, there was plenty of action in the opening running. Nicholas Latifi, making his first ever FP1 appearance for Williams at his home race, endured a number of lock-ups in the opening laps, while he was also forced to call on his reflexes to avoid an errant groundhog on the track.
There were spins, too, for Vettel at the hairpin and Romain Grosjean at Turn 6. But only one driver endured a session-ending incident, in the form of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, who misjudged the entry into Turn 8, before rotating his C38 into the Turn 9 wall, puncturing the left-rear tyre, damaging the wheel and possibly the suspension – and giving his mechanics a good hunk of work to do before FP2.
A Virtual Safety Car was all that was required to clear up Giovinazzi’s mess, and when the action resumed, it was his team mate Kimi Raikkonen who ended up heading the midfield battle, going P6 for Alfa Romeo, while a further four teams rounded out the last four positions in the top 10 – Carlos Sainz seventh for McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo P8 for Renault, Sergio Perez P9 for Racing Point, and the Haas of Kevin Magnussen tenth. An intriguing midfield battle ahead then, it would seem.
It was a less happy session for Pierre Gasly, who’ll be looking for FP2 improvements after ending up 13th, with the Frenchman appearing to struggle for confidence in his Red Bull RB15 as he locked up several times at various spots on the track.
The two Williams of George Russell and Latifi brought up the rear, Russell 3.222s off the ultimate pace as the team tried out their new front suspension, while Latifi’s compatriot Lance Stroll couldn’t match Perez’s speed, as he finished down in P17 for Racing Point.
So, it’s early advantage to the upgraded Mercedes – but what can Red Bull, and Ferrari especially, produce when the wicks get turned up in Free Practice 2?
2019 Canadian Grand Prix – FP1 Results