Paul di Resta gave Sahara Force India a much needed shot in the arm by topping a damp FP1 at Circuit de Villeneuve. Di Rest’s last-minute dash on a drying track may not have set the tone for the weekend, but it did however field the same Mercedes engine so dominant throughout the early part of the session in the hands of Nico Rosberg.
Full wets were the order of the day for the early stages of Free Practice One in Montreal. Whilst the rain initially predicted had ceased, a damp track littered with segments of standing water. It would take 15 minutes into the session for the wets to dispel enough H2O for Paul di Resta and Sebastian Vettel to feel comfortable enough to venture out on intermediates.
GP2 rookie Alexander Rossi subbed for Charles Pic during this session in the Caterham and was the only third driver to do so. Felipe Massa meanwhile was trialling a new front wing with hi-flow visibility paint evident on the Ferrari; Massa’s engineer Rob Smedley, imploring the Brazilian to go as fast as he could. Unsurprisingly Felipe went immediately to the top of the order.
Ferrari were also using another vertical endplate from the side pod plus an additional brake duct to gain optimum braking efficiency on what is one of the hardest circuits on the calendar for brakes.
Williams too were debuting new front-end parts that weren’t quite able to be ready for Monaco, with Maldonado in particular hoping to build on his supreme FP1 form in the Principality just two weeks ago. Maldonado was debuting a new chassis after his Monaco accident with Chilton. Pastor’s team-mate, Valtteri Bottas was having quite a few oversteery snaps in the damp conditions and eventually found himself on the grass as he struggled for initial set-up on what is his debut in Montreal.
Twenty minutes in and Mark Webber was the first to get into the 1 minute 29’s. Next out however was Jean-Eric Vergne, always one to watch in damp conditions – especially after his superb wet-weather prowess in Monaco. Sure enough, Vergne went straight to the top of the timesheets, followed by his Torro Rosso team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. It was a short-lived moment however, as Nico Rosberg trumped the pair of them with a low 1 minute 24 second lap as the track began to dry.
Rosberg continued to dial-in purple sectors – his confidence sky-high after his Monaco win. Hamilton however was still struggling under brakes with a slightly disparate style from his team-mate.
One man who was certainly having an issue under brakes was Jules Bianchi – the Frenchman having to abandon his lap and shooting straight up the escape road. The Marussia crew asked Bianchi to switch the car off.
Ricciardo soon displaced Vergne for second spot, closely followed by Webber, an impressive Guttierez, Hamilton and di Resta. The Lotus’s of Grosjean and Raikkonen rounded out seventh and eighth. Hamilton was on a purple sector when he overcooked it heading into the chicane. Lewis aborted the lap to avoid contact with Webber’s Red Bull, but ended up launching his Mercedes over the kerbs. Hamilton regrouped however to jump to second, 1.5 seconds behind Rosberg.
Nico Hulkenberg backed up Guttierez’s strong form in the Sauber by jumping to third with thirty minutes remaining in the session. Whilst the Sauber looked bumpy on track the set-up was obviously working for them – and an opportune time for the struggling Swiss outfit.
With a dry line forming, Vettel slotted into second position and splitting the two Mercedes, but the track was still quite a few laps off from slick running given the many trees overhanging areas of the circuit de Villeneuve. A few laps later Sebastian went one better, going six-tenths quicker. Meanwhile, the Torro-Rosso’s were fitting slicks for a late run at the top.
Vergne began a run on slicks before his head-rest came loose, forcing the Frenchman to abandon his run and return to the pits. Fernando Alonso waited until 15 minutes to run before venturing out and even then just to concentrate on aero data as the light began to fail.
In the dying stages, Button took the opportunity to do some back-to-back testing with the super-soft and medium slicks on a predominantly drying circuit – resulting in a net 5th position. Vettel too ventured out onto slicks, although his first and second sectors were on average 3 seconds slower than the intermediates at this stage – possibly indicating an exploratory lap. Perez found the going quite tough on slicks as did Hulkenberg; snapping a brake on the stiffly-sprung Sauber and flat-spotting a front right tyre.
Now most of the field were on the medium compound tyre for the final five minutes. Jenson finally made the most of the slicks by jumping to the top of the order in the changeable conditions. Whoever may end up fastest wouldn’t necessarily dictate the order for the rest of the weekend, but perhaps bragging rights. Maldonado was the first to overshoot the chicane and damaging the front wing of the Wiliams – inducing a 150,000 patch up job.
With the yellow flags out, the field would have to demonstrate they had backed off during the sector of the accident, but on the drying track it was still possible to produce a better lap time on average via the other sectors. Paul di Resta was first to do as such, followed by Button, Grosjean and Alonso.
So a topsy-turvy session, but one that added plenty of colour to the biggest party in North America at the moment.
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic
|1||di Resta||Force India||1’21.020|
|18||van der Garde||Caterham||1’25.753|