Rain has played its part in this Canadian Grand Prix weekend. On Thursday night, it hit the city of Montreal hard around ten at night, which cleared the student demonstrators off the streets and at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit on the Ile Notre Dame, a torrential downpour came down literally a couple of minutes after the end of the day’s second free practice session. Given how much work was on the Toro Rosso jobsheet today, that was a good thing, because the hybrid street circuit is enough of a challenge for novice drivers and experienced engineers alike without adding a damp track to the equation.
We were not the only teams with a lot on our plate, because the current F1 calendar has Canada down as the first really low downforce track of the year, so this is the place where specific wings are called for. However, some of the updates we brought here are part of our general car development programme, thus adding even more items to check out including, on Daniel’s car only, a revised exhaust system. In the short time since free practice ended, it’s hard to give an accurate assessment of its benefits, but step 1 was achieved in that it ran reliably all day.
Apart from all these novelties, we had to get on with the usual tasks of checking out the balance of the car, which is such an important factor when it comes to getting the most out of the tyres and then there are the tyres themselves to evaluate. Here in Montreal, Pirelli has brought its Soft and Supersoft, just as it did in Monaco a fortnight ago. But a different circuit layout and track surface means that only some of the lessons learned on the shores of the Mediterranean can be applied overlooking the St Laurence Seaway. With this in mind, Jean-Eric pounded round the track a total of 69 times, just one lap short of Sunday’s race distance, while Daniel completed four less than his team-mate. As usual, one cannot read too much into Friday’s practice times, but all the same with Jean-Eric nineteenth on the time sheet, one place ahead of Daniel, it’s clear we need to find some pace for tomorrow.
Lewis Hamilton was fastest today for McLaren, ahead of the Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. Sebastian Vettel was fourth for Red Bull Racing, with fifth and sixth times being posted by Force India’s Paul di Resta and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi. Proving just how tricky this track can be there were two red flags; the first when Heikki Kovalainen destroyed the right hand side of his Caterham, while, in the Lotus, Bruno Senna was the first driver to crash into the famous “Champions Wall” at the final corner before the pit straight.