Friday 19 January 2018

Hamilton: Gap to Red Bull closing


David Tremayne

Jenson Button's pre-event prediction that the Mercedes would be very quick in Montreal proved correct as Nico Rosberg dominated the first practice session for tomorrow's Canadian GP.

"I think they can get about 20kmh (extra speed) with DRS, the Mercedes, and I think most other teams are about 12kmh," the 2009 world champion had said, referring to the drag-reducing rear wings the cars use this year. "It's a massive difference around here, so they are going to be very, very quick. They are possibly our biggest competitors."

Rosberg was fastest by half a second in the first session, which saw reigning champion Sebastian Vettel get the chicane wrong and, ironically, crash his Red Bull into the area informally known as "Champions' Wall" hard enough to stop the session for six minutes. The German was unharmed, but his car was damaged.

Fernando Alonso staked his claim with the second-fastest time for Ferrari, with team-mate Felipe Massa fourth behind the other Mercedes of Michael Schumacher. Button was fifth, just ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.


Friday morning times are normally just a starting point as the teams are playing themselves in on a surface that is usually still quite 'green', while still honing the set-up of their cars.

But, despite an adventurous session in which he did not go quickly until the closing stages and then abandoned a lap which would have been faster still, Hamilton was optimistic. The 2008 champion, who scored his maiden grand prix win here in dominant style from pole position in 2007, is looking for some redemption after his outburst in the wake of the Monaco GP.

And the circuit named after the Ferrari hero Gilles Villeneuve offers him his best chance so far this year to beat Vettel and Red Bull, who have won eight of the last nine grands prix.

"I'm not sure why we are so quick here, but our car is always good over kerbs," Hamilton said. "We've got reasonable high speeds and end-of-straight speed and I guess you have got to be quite close to the walls here, which I particularly like doing."

While he doesn't want to be considered the pre-race favourite, he admitted that Canada should suit McLaren perfectly: "I'd like to think this is our best chance to beat the Red Bulls," said Hamilton.

"But again they have been fast at every circuit. They have been incredibly successful on all the circuits so far, so you have to assume they will be very quick here.

"But perhaps, as in the last race, maybe the gap will be a little closer compared to places like Barcelona. I am expecting to see that through a lot of the field. I would definitely say that this is one of the better ones for us."

There are two DRS zones here, exiting the hairpin for the long back straight, and again after the chicane at the end of it, on the straight past the pits. Here drivers can activate their drag-reducing rear wings to enhance straightline speed. In the race, the DRS system can only be used in these zones, but drivers can use it all the time in practice and qualifying.

"We use the DRS in practice and qualifying, so we use it everywhere we can," Hamilton said. "The great thing here is you see quite a lot of overtaking.

"You have the great long straight coming out of a hairpin. It is not always easy to follow through corners, as you still need downforce, but the DRS will enable people to get even closer. I think it will just make racing even better." (© Independent News Service)

Canadian Grand Prix,

Live, tomorrow, BBC 1, 6pm

Irish Independent

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