Feature F1 Unlocked
PRACTICE DEBRIEF: What we learned from the disrupted Friday running in Canada
Teams had just 90 minutes of representative practice to fine-tune their machines on Friday after CCTV issues at the track limited running in FP1 for the Canadian Grand Prix. As a result, we saw a wide variety of data gathering programmes on display in second practice, making it tricky to work out who has the edge. That said, here are the key takeaways…
Mercedes have work to do despite table-topping pace
Lewis Hamilton set the pace on Friday, a fraction ahead of team mate George Russell, as Mercedes began their Canadian GP campaign in encouraging fashion.
However, while Hamilton and Russell were reasonably happy with their efforts, they know the times flattered their ultimate performance and they need to make a few tweaks overnight – especially around finding a set-up that delivers a more stable rear-end – if they are to fight towards the front.
Our data team reckon there was around 0.65s of track evolution between when Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz set the initial pace and when the Mercedes duo set their quickest lap times much later in the session.
That’s why they are third fastest in our qualifying simulation rankings, a couple of tenths of a second off the ultimate pace. They’re even further back when running higher fuel, but only a fraction behind Aston Martin.
Red Bull remain the ones to beat
Red Bull were heavy favourites heading to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and while they didn’t trouble the top of the timesheets, our data shows the RB19’s inherent pace makes them quickest in both short and long runs.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez opted to do their qualifying simulations at the start of the session when the track was at its slowest, and thus it was no surprise to see them sixth and eighth respectively as others benefitted from more rubber being put down to go quicker.
They face a fight for pole from Ferrari – as they have done all season – but look very comfortable when it comes to race pace, leading the way by 0.24s.
We need to throw the caveat in that given the track evolution was high and everyone was lapping on different fuel loads at different times, it’s tricky to know where everyone stacks up. But the early signs are that Red Bull will be very difficult to beat – on a weekend where victory would be their 100th in F1.
Ferrari enjoy strong start to Montreal weekend
Ferrari haven’t enjoyed many smooth Fridays in 2023, but this was certainly one of them, with Charles Leclerc having confidence from the car from the off, across both low and high-fuel runs.
His team mate Sainz wasn’t so happy, as he struggled under braking – a big issue at a track that has lots of big stops – but he says the team have started to understand the problem and have begun working on fixes.
Ferrari are very much in the hunt for pole, continuing their season-long run of being quick on fresh tyres and low fuel.
They also seem to be Red Bull’s closest rivals in terms of race pace. However, the caveat here is that Ferrari have often looked okay with high fuel on Friday, only to fail to deliver that on Sunday as they struggle with tyre management.
Aston Martin are lacking data on their upgrade
Aston Martin – like rivals Williams – brought a huge upgrade package to Canada and were hoping to clock a high amount of mileage to help them evaluate the new parts.
However, Fernando Alonso said he couldn’t get a proper read on whether the upgrades were a step forward because of the lack of running.
His team mate Lance Stroll, driving in front of his home fans, said he was happy with the car and reckoned it felt good – as they look to bounce back from a lacklustre race in Spain.
Our data suggests their fourth overall in qualifying form, and third-best in terms of race pace, albeit some way off Red Bull and Ferrari.
However, with rain forecast to fall constantly throughout Saturday, impacting both FP3 and qualifying, we could be in for a mixed-up grid and a fascinating race come Sunday.