After a difficult weekend at the Monaco Grand Prix, Mercedes have returned to form as they took the fastest time of the first free practice session of the Canadain Grand Prix. Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished in the top three, split by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
On the ultra soft tyres, Hamilton set a 1:13.809 which gave him a 0.198-second advantage over Vettel who finished second. The top four was completed by Kimi Raikkonen and was covered by just four-tenths of a second. If the first practice pace is an indicator of the race to come it looks like it will be a close battle for the win.
The track was dusty and had low grip as the cars took to the circuit at the beginning of the 90-minute session. Both Ferrari drivers span off the track in the early stages before taking the fastest times on the lap board. Unlike the other drivers on track, Ferrari headed straight out on the ultra soft tyres.
The spinning continued through the session with Lance Stroll, Nico Hulkenberg, Hamilton and Jolyon Palmer also had off-track moments.
Carlos Sainz Jr had a very short free practice one, lasting around two minutes, as his Toro Rosso had an engine failure on his out lap. With an engine change taking place, the Spanish driver did not return to the track, becoming the only driver not to set a lap time in this session.
Other Spanish driver, fresh from his Indy500 debut, Fernando Alonso also had a troublesome session. Having been sat in the garage for around an hour of the session, Alonso was out on his first flying laps when a hydraulic pressure failure saw him pull up on the side of the Canadian track. He got one lap time on the board before his McLaren-Honda MCL32 gave up, finishing thirteenth.
Once Mercedes fitted the ultra soft tyres in the second half of the session they started to show competitive pace against Ferrari. It was a tight battle at the top, but ultimately Mercedes came out on top for this practice session.
Sergio Perez started off with the first time on the board and finished a competitive fifth. It was a good session for Force India as Esteban Ocon was sixth, behind his teammate by two-tenths of a second.
As predicted by Christian Horner, Red Bull look to be in for a difficult weekend. Max Verstappen was the fastest Red Bull in seventh, 1.052 seconds behind the pace-setting Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo had Felipe Massa splitting between him and his teammate, whilst Daniil Kvyat finished off the top ten.
Stroll finished twelfth in his first session of running at his home Grand Prix, 1.2 seconds off the fastest time of his teammate Massa. Stroll complained a lot about grip in this session and will be looking to improve on that before free practice two in a few hours time.