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Canadian GP 2019

JUNE 7, 2019

Practice 2 Report - A chink in the Mercedes armor

Spanish GP 2019
© Cahier Archive

By Dan Knutson in Montreal

Mercedes dominated Free Practice 1 for the Canadian Grand Prix, but a chink appeared in its silver armor in FP2 when Lewis Hamilton hit the wall and his teammate Valtteri Bottas could only manage third place. The Ferraris ruled the second practice session with Charles Leclerc fastest by a tad ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes – Hamilton and Bottas; Ferrari – Vettel and 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.

Hamilton was quickest in FP1 with a time of 1:12.767, a mere 0.147 of a second better than Bottas.

“I love coming back to Montreal,” Hamilton said. “The weather is often great here. The circuit is fantastic and it’s a track that I think everyone enjoys. It’s definitely in the top three of the favorite circuits of the year. And I think the city is a big part of that. The city is very vibrant. The people are super welcoming, great food.

“From a driver’s perspective the track is awesome. It’s a bit go-kart-esque, with great long straights, so you can overtake, and you’re throwing the car over these big, huge curbs around the track and there are not massive run-off areas, so it’s a bit of a high-speed street circuit, which is great.”

Kubica, who had missed FP1 because Williams reserve driver Nicholas Latifi was in his car, was the first out in FP2.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Centigrade).

As in FP1, the drivers were in no hurry to go out on the now slightly less dusty track.

Among those that did was local driver Stroll who posted a 1:14.797 to go to the top of the charts until passed by Albon who went 0.093 of a second quicker.

But now, a dozen minutes into FP2, the Ferrari drivers were on track and Leclerc took the lead with a 1:14.009. Vettel was a tad slower and both were on Pirelli’s medium compound tires.

Next, Hamilton and Bottas also tried the medium slicks, and the former immediately got down to 1:12.939 while the latter moved into second place.

The order 25 minutes into the session was: Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Verstappen and Kvyat.

At this stage most of the drivers were using the medium compound tires before switching to the softs for their qualifying simulations.

A chink in the Mercedes armor appeared as Hamilton limped back to the pits with his right rear tire coming off the rim and the suspension wobbling. He’s lost control in Turns 8/9 and tagged the wall just before the half-hour mark.

“Sorry about that,” he told the team.

Now most of the drivers were in the pits preparing for their qualifying sims. Could the Mercedes crew repair Hamilton’s car before the end of the session.

Bottas was one of the first out on the soft slicks. He set the mark at 1:12.311.

The Ferraris were now on track. Vettel took the lead with a 1:12.251 while Leclerc slid into third. Magnussen grabbed fourth.

Then, just before the halfway mark, Leclerc just missed the Wall of Champions and posted a 1:12.177. That was 0.074 of a second quicker than Vettel and 0.134 of a second ahead of Bottas.

The order was now Leclerc, Vettel, Bottas, Magnussen, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Verstappen.

Verstappen, on another fast lap, clipped the wall hard at the Wall of Champions, and so he headed for the pits. That allowed his teammate Gasly to bump him off the eighth place.

But others were doing more soft tire runs. The top three remained the same, but Sainz got up to fourth ahead of Hamilton, Perez, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Gasly and Verstappen.

Giovinazzi had spent the first 60 minutes in the garage while the Alfa mechanics repaired the car after he hit the wall in FP1. But now he finally got on track.

In the final 30 minutes the drivers were doing race simulations. The top 10 was unchanged with the exception of Stroll replacing Gasly in the final spot.

Hamilton never made it back out on track. Not only had the chink in his armor prevented him from doing a qualifying run, he’d also missed out on the race prep. However, in race trim Bottas was faster than the Ferrari drivers.