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Canadian GP 2019

JUNE 7, 2019

Practice 1 Report - Insanely dirty

Spanish GP 2019
© Cahier Archive

By Dan Knutson in Montreal

“The track is insanely dirty,” radioed Max Verstappen just before the half-hour mark of Free Practice 1 for the Canadian Grand Prix. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was indeed extremely dusty and slippery, more so than in recent years. But that didn’t deter Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas from posting lap times nearly a second faster than the opposition.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes – Hamilton and Bottas; Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc; Red Bull TAG Heuer –Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly; Renault – Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg; Haas Ferrari – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; McLaren Renault – Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris; Racing Point Mercedes – Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll; Alfa Romeo Ferrari – Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi; Toro Rosso Honda – Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon; Williams Mercedes – George Russell and Robert Kubica.

Canadian Nicholas Latifi drove Kubica’s Williams in FP1. This was the first time this season that one of the team’s reserve/test drivers had taken part in FP1.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Centigrade).

“The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is my type of race track,” Ricciardo said of the 14-turn 2.709-mile (4.361 km) island track. “It’s another street-based circuit where walls are close, there are curbs to ride and there’s no room for driver error. There aren’t many corners there, but still, it’s a tricky track to get right as each corner is complex and you need to get in a good flow to combine them all together.

“It’s good to go straight into Canada on the back of racing on a street circuit in Monaco as we’re already quite dialed in. The circuit is usually a little dirty in the early running as it’s not used that often, but once it’s rubbered in, we’ll be up to speed.”

It was indeed dusty as Sainz proved by kicking up clouds of the stuff by being first out in the session.

Needless to say, nobody was anxious to do more than an installation lap or two. And some drivers like Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen didn’t even bother to go out in the early minutes.

But a groundhog did venture out onto the track 10 minutes into the session. Fortunately it soon wandered back off the track after Latifi nearly hit it.

Latifi posted a time of 1:19.311, four seconds faster than Norris who was the only other driver on the board at the 15-minute mark.

The Canadian continued to lap the dusty track and got down to a 1:18.347.

Finally, after more than 20 minutes, some other drivers started to do some laps. Sainz posted a 1:16.948. Verstappen then sliced 0.950 of a second off of that. Hamilton and Bottas still remained in the pits.

“The track is insanely dirty,” radioed Verstappen who got down to a 1:15.026 followed by a 1:14.654.

All that waiting had done some good for Bottas who turned a 1:14.160 at the 30-minute mark. He followed that up with a 1:13.495. A few minutes later Hamilton posted the exact same time!

Bottas was not going to have any of that, so he improved to a 1:13.229. Hamilton came back with a 1:13.148. Bottas came back with a 1:13.001.

Grosjean then demonstrated how slippery the track was by spinning at Turn 6.

At the 40-minute break, when the drivers have to give back a set of tires to Pirelli, the order was: Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Stroll, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Hulkenberg, Vettel and Norris. Latifi was 20th.

After the lull, Bottas went back out on the still dusty track and lowered the best to 1:12.914. Hamilton slipped ahead to 1:12.767.

Vettel and Gasly took turns sliding off at Turn 1. Then Giovinazzi spun, kissed the wall with his left rear wheel, and stalled at Turn 9. That brought out the VSC so a tractor could haul the car off the track.

The order with 25 minutes remaining was: Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Sainz, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Perez, Verstappen and Norris. And then Verstappen popped up to fourth and Vettel to sixth.

Vettel wasn’t done going off as he spun at Turn 10 with 19 minutes left in the session.

The racing line on the track was getting cleaned up, but now the drivers were on worn tires so most lap times were not going to be improved.

Bottas had to pit when his engine lost fuel pressure. In contrast to the start of the session, the track was busy at the end, with everyone out there save Bottas and Giovinazzi.

At the end of the dusty FP1 the order was: Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Verstappen, Vettel, Raikkonen, Sainz, Ricciardo, Perez and Magnussen.