June 22nd, 2024

F1 drivers get a taste of tricky conditions ahead of Canadian Grand Prix


By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on June 7, 2024.

McLaren driver Lando Norris, of United Kingdom, takes a turn at the Senna corner during the first practice session at the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, Friday, June 7, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL – Formula One drivers got a taste of what to expect this weekend on a practice day riddled with wild weather at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Lightning, heavy rain and hail rolled through Montreal a little more than an hour before Friday’s opening session at 1:30 p.m. ET, and the precipitation continued through brief periods of sunshine the rest of the afternoon.

“Today was definitely an odd one,” seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes said. “It was literally summer this morning, then it rained hailstone. I can’t even remember the last time I saw hailstone but they were huge.

“Then sunny again, really hot and humid, and then raining again.”

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso posted the fastest lap in the strange conditions, driving around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in one minute 15.810 seconds during the second free practice.

The Spanish driver finished ahead of Mercedes driver George Russell (1:16.273) and Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll (1:16.464), the lone Canadian on the 20-pilot grid.

Earlier, McLaren’s Lando Norris had the fastest lap (1:24.435) in the first practice after a torrential downpour delayed the session.

“It was a tricky Friday for everyone,” Alonso said. “But it could be like this for qualifying and the race, so it’s still very useful information.

“The right decision can gain you five seconds, wrong decision and you’re out of the race.”

More rain is expected through the weekend in Montreal. A third practice is set for Saturday afternoon before qualifying, which determines the starting order for Sunday’s race.

Sauber driver Valtteri Bottas had a little fun with the weather, attempting to form a snowball out of the large pieces of hail that filled the paddock before taking the track.

The experience driving around the track couldn’t have been as enjoyable.

Several drivers spun out of control and slipped off course in both practice sessions. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz also nearly hit a groundhog.

Sauber driver Zhou Guanyu got the worst of it, triggering a red flag early in the first practice when he aquaplaned and clipped the wall at Turn 5 before grinding to a halt.

F1 leader Max Verstappen ended his second session early after smoke emerged from his car.

Verstappen returned to the Red Bull garage only four laps into the session after a brief run on dry tires. Red Bull said the smoke was related to a battery issue.

“It’s not ideal, I would have liked to drive more laps,” Verstappen said. “It’s definitely not how I would have liked to get on in FP2 but I think it’s more important to figure out what actually happened and what kind of implications that will have for this weekend and the rest of the year.”

STROLL’S SUPERSTITION

Superstitions are common in professional sports, and a few drivers were willing to share some of theirs this week.

For Stroll, that involved “religiously” washing his underwear every night during his karting days.

“If I was really desperate, sometimes it didn’t go in the wash,” he said, laughing. “But no, after many years, those things kind of fade “¦ and the underwear got a bit small over the years, so I had to give it up.”

Hamilton had a similar story.

“I had a lucky conker. Somehow, I used to put it in my suit, like Sanka would put the lucky egg in Cool Runnings. And I don’t know how, but it disappeared in a race. And then lucky underwear as well. My mum shrunk them.”

LANDO TATTOO

McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown added a second racetrack tattoo to his arm this season.

To mark McLaren’s first victory under his tenure, Brown got some ink of the Monza circuit on his left arm after Daniel Ricciardo won the Italian Grand Prix in 2021. Brown added another to commemorate Lando Norris’s first race win at the Miami GP last month.

The way McLaren is racing as the third-placed team in the standings, Brown’s arm could soon look like a sleeve. McLaren team principal Andrea Stella said the ink won’t become a team-wide trend.

“There’s no requirement in the job description to have a tattoo in case of a victory,” said Stella. “So I left the whole pressure to Zak. And I hope that he’s going to have a few more.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2024.

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