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Canadian Grand Prix: Qualifying to be a voyage of F1 discovery

If there was one theme that emerged from team comments after Friday’s practice sessions at the Canadian Grand Prix, it was this:

Who knows what to expect from today’s qualifying session.

Rain and wet conditions affected both practice sessions, limiting the programs of all 10 F1 teams and bringing uncertainty to the Montreal dawn on qualifying day. “To be honest, there is probably not much to learn for any of the drivers or teams today,” Mercedes driver George Russell said in his team’s post-practice report.

Russell was not alone in that assessment.

“It’s been a bit of a difficult day with the weather, so I’m not sure what the position will be,” McLaren driver Oscar Piastri said. “I feel good, but it’s hard to judge considering I didn’t get all the runs I wanted to, but that’s the same for everyone.”

Complicating things for the 10 teams, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was resurfaced ahead of this year’s Canadian Grand Prix, creating yet another question mark for the teams ahead of today’s FP3 and qualifying.

“Overall, the car felt good today,” Pierre Gasly said in Alpine’s post-practice report, “although we didn’t do much running due to the weather and the heavy rain, but that’s the same for the other teams. So there are a lot of question marks for all the teams, especially with the new asphalt.”

But there may be a bright side to Friday’s session for all teams.

Given that the rain may continue into Sunday, they may have learned all they need to know.

“Both sessions today were affected by rain, which meant that we didn’t learn much about tyre behaviour, car set-up or even competitiveness,” McLaren team principal Andrea Stella said. “However, conditions may be similar for the rest of the weekend, so we may already have the most valuable information.”

We’ll know within a matter of hours what the team learned on Friday, if anything at all.

Max Verstappen in trouble at Red Bull?

Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Red Bull announced a number of new features on Max Verstappen’s RB20 ahead of Friday’s FP1.

After completing a few laps in wet conditions in FP1, Verstappen was only able to complete four laps in FP2, the session ending with the Drivers’ Championship leader reporting smoke in the cockpit and jumping from his car shortly after it was returned to the garage.

After the team put up yellow caution tape around the RB20 – a worrying sign of an electrical failure – Red Bull began repairs to the car, but Verstappen’s day was over.

The Red Bull driver dropped to 18th place, a rather unfamiliar position.

“They suspected an electrical problem, so they asked me to brake and it’s under investigation. I’m not back in the garage yet but we’ll know the cause soon,” Verstappen said. “It’s not ideal. I would have liked to have done more laps. The others did a few more laps on the dry and then a few more on the wet.

“We definitely didn’t want to have this result in FP2, but I think it’s more important to understand what actually happened and how it impacts this weekend and the rest of the year.”

Red Bull arrived in Montreal with a 24-point lead over Ferrari in the constructors’ championship, while Verstappen had a 31-point lead over Charles Leclerc in the drivers’ championship, but this year certainly feels different, and talk from both teams in Maranello and Woking suggests that Ferrari and McLaren believe they can continue to put pressure on Red Bull at the front.

A start to the week like this certainly puts Verstappen and Red Bull at a disadvantage heading into Saturday.

Shocking announcement from Aston Martin?

Track conditions were a little drier in FP2, allowing for more representative times to be recorded in the second practice session.

With that in mind, Aston Martin fans might have something to be optimistic about this Saturday morning.

In the end, it was Fernando Alonso who topped the timesheets in FP2, with team-mate and local hero Lance Stroll not far behind in FP3.

There was quite a bit of chaos on the timing sheets in FP2, with Verstappen in 18th place and Lando Norris in 20th, which will probably be a welcome sight for Aston Martin supporters.

“It was a stop-start day with changeable weather. In FP2 we were able to do quite a bit of running on both the intermediates and slicks on a drying track, where we learned a few things and also about the new surface which behaves a bit differently to normal,” Stroll said in the team’s post-practice report. “We’ve got some good data on the set-up and the behaviour of the intermediates, which could be very important with rain forecast for this weekend.”

According to Alonso, who comes out on top on Saturday may just be a matter of making the right decision at the right time.

“It was a difficult Friday for the whole field, especially with the weather preventing many laps from being recorded in FP1. The track conditions were neither totally wet nor totally dry, which could have happened in qualifying and the race, so today’s result will provide us with very useful information for the rest of the weekend,” Alonso said.

“If the conditions are the same tomorrow, the drivers who performed well in qualifying and made the right decisions will be the ones [tires] “It will give us a big advantage,” Alonso added. “It will be interesting for people to watch, but for us as a team, [tire] We just aim to make the right decision and make the most of it.”