Canada P1: Hamilton sets the pace
McLaren driver quickly out of the blocks in Montreal in busy first session
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 08/06/12 10:52pm
Lewis Hamilton's attempt to finally win his first race of the season in Canada this weekend has started in style with the McLaren driver setting the pace in Practice One on Friday.
In an unusually busy first session to the weekend owing to the threat of rain for later in the day in Montreal, two-time Canadian GP winner Hamilton was instantly on the pace in his McLaren MP4-27 and then, after a red flag stoppage for a crash by Heikki Kovalainen, responded to a challenge laid down by Mercedes rival Nico Rosberg to stop the clocks on 1:15.564.
Rosberg - whose Mercedes team is much fancied to at least take pole this weekend - looked set to take second place in the session but was edged out at the last by World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who completed a late effort on the quicker supersofts to end up 0.118s slower than Hamilton.
The Red Bull driver is however being investigated by stewards in the break between Practices after short-cutting the final chicane to gain track position over the Williams of Bruno Senna at one point in the session.
Mercedes' Rosberg ended up third, just two tenths off the pace on the same compound, ahead of World Championship leader Fernando Alonso for Ferrari and the second 'holeless' Red Bull of Mark Webber.
Jenson Button, meanwhile, was restricted to just 12 laps after an oil leak on his MP4-27 caused a clutch slip and forced McLaren to remove his gearbox while they worked to rectify the problem.
The early stages of the session at the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve had seen light drops of rain fall around the track, and while hardly too problematic, what was nonetheless a relatively 'green' circuit caught out several drivers who took to the track's run-off areas.
Caterham's Kovalainen was involved in a rather more dramatic incident mid-way through the session, however. Coming out of turn nine onto the long curved run to the hairpin, his CT01 got unsettled going over the kerb resulting it his right-rear wheel tagging the wall and bringing round the front of the car into an altogether heavier impact with the barriers.
The impact crumpled the car's right-front and scattered plenty of carbon fibre bodywork parts across that part of the circuit, prompting the inevitable red flag.
Following a brief stoppage while the car was removed and track cleared of debris, Rosberg soon beat Hamilton's early benchmark only for the McLaren to almost immediately reclaim top stop with the time that would stand for the remainder of the session.
Behind the aforementioned top six, Nico Hulkenberg took sixth place for Force India ahead of the Sauber duo, Michael Schumacher and Button - all of whom were within 0.8s of Hamilton's time.
Felipe Massa had been at the sharp end in the early stages but eventually slipped to 12th, the Brazilian having been used by Ferrari as a guinea pig for a new exhaust layout on the F2012 while Alonso concentrated on race-specific set-up work.