Verstappen leads in Canada as Hamilton blasts ‘undriveable’ Mercedes

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World champion and series leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull set the tone by completing a double top in Friday practice for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old Dutchman, who will start his 150th Formula 1 race on Sunday, posted a best lap time of one minute and 14.127 seconds in the second session, having been fastest in the first period earlier, to beat Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 0.081 seconds.

Carlos Sainz was third fastest in the second Ferrari ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin and two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Alpine.

Pierre Gasly improved to take sixth place for AlphaTauri ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell, Lando Norris and McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Esteban Ocon finished 10th in the second Alpine ahead of a strangely discolored Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, local hopeful Lance Stroll in the second Aston Martin and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes.

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Hamilton seemed unhappy with his car’s experimental setup and complained it was “undriveable” one weekend when team technical director James Allison was on the track to help Mercedes recover from a a disappointing start to the season.

Weakened by performance issues, including “porpoising” and bouncing, the team opted to try some radical set-up ideas in an attempt to fix their issues.

The session started in dry conditions with an air temperature of 27 degrees as the cars came out of the pit lane, except for the two Mercedes drivers who quickly joined the fray.

Hamilton and Russell were seen chatting with their team at the back of the pits as the floor of Hamilton’s car was being changed.

Verstappen almost immediately took the lead in times in 1:15.618 to edge Red Bull team-mate Perez by eight tenths, a first response to the Mexican’s recent claims that he would try to win the title this year.

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– ‘Bad plaster’ –

Running on mediums, the Dutchman demonstrated his rhythm before Alonso rose to third place, on softs, and Leclerc to second, also on softs, in a busy start to the session.

The previous opening session had seen significantly less evidence of the notorious rebound that plagued many teams and drivers at last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but it clearly hadn’t gone away.

Following the FIA’s declaration of intent on Thursday to intervene with the aim of eliminating the phenomenon from the sport, for safety and medical reasons, and to protect the drivers, there had been a feverish debate in the paddock, but nothing else.

Russell had likened the plans to little more than “using a band-aid”, Hamilton had hailed quick action and Verstappen had dismissed the idea of ​​any mid-season rule changes.

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Sainz complained of big rebounds in his Ferrari on the straight shortly before team-mate Leclerc improved to within two-tenths of Verstappen before the Dutchman extended his advantage to half a second.

Perez, whose form and results since winning Monaco have propelled him into contention, couldn’t find the speed to match Verstappen and struggled with his setup.

After overqualifying him at the Monaco and Azerbaijan events, the Mexican was hoping to hold on to his second win of the season.

Leclerc, however, appeared to have found his groove and closed within 0.081 seconds of Verstappen’s 1:14.127 lap in his Ferrari, powered by an engine rebuilt following the failure of his unit in Baku.

Verstappen appeared to be in supreme form and control.

Warned by his team to expect heavy rain, about 10 minutes after the session, he was succinct in replying, “it’s lovely”.

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