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

If there was one theme to come out of every team’s comments following Friday’s practice sessions at the Canadian Grand Prix, it was this:

Nobody knows just what to expect from today’s qualifying session.

Rainy and wet conditions impacted both practice sessions, restricting the programs for all ten Formula 1 teams and leading to uncertainty as dawn breaks in Montreal on qualifying day. “In all honesty, there won’t be a lot that any driver or team learnt today,” said Mercedes driver George Russell in the 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 it’s hard to read where we sit,” described McLaren driver Oscar Piastri. “I think we’re looking good, but it’s just difficult to know considering we didn’t get in all the running we wanted to, but that’s the same for everyone.”

Complicating matters for the ten teams is that the surface at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was resurfaced ahead of this year’s Canadian Grand Prix, which gives the teams yet one more question mark heading into today’s FP3, and qualifying.

“Overall, the car felt good today,” said Pierre Gasly in Alpine’s post-practice report. “Although, due to the weather conditions and heavy rain we did not get much running in. But it is the same for everyone else. So there are lots of question marks for all the teams, especially with the new asphalt.”

However, there may be a bright side to Friday’s sessions for all the teams.

Given that the weather may continue to be wet through Sunday, perhaps they have learned all there is to know.

“Today’s sessions were both affected by rain. It means we haven’t learned very much about tyre behaviour, car set up or even our competitive position,” described McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella. “That said, we may have learned the most valuable information already, because conditions may be the same as this for the rest of the weekend.”

We will learn just what, if anything, the teams learned on Friday in a few short hours.

Trouble at Red Bull for Max Verstappen?

F1 Grand Prix of Canada - Practice

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Ahead of Friday’s FP1, Red Bull announced that the team was installing a host of new elements on Max Verstappen’s RB20.

After running a handful of laps in FP1’s wet conditions, Verstappen lasted just four during FP2. That session ended with the leader in the Drivers’ Championship reporting of smoke in the cockpit, and then jumping out of the car immediately after it was returned to the garage.

After the team put yellow caution tape around the RB20 — a sign that there was concern about an electrical failure — Red Bull began working on the car, but Verstappen’s day was done.

With the Red Bull driver down in P18, a rather unfamiliar position.

“There was a suspected electrical issue so they told me to box and they’re investigating now. I haven’t been back in the garage yet, but I’m sure soon we’ll figure out what it is,” said Verstappen. “It’s not ideal. I would have liked to drive more laps. Some other people had a few more laps in the dry, a few more laps now in the wet.

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

Red Bull arrived in Montreal holding a 24-point lead over Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship, and Verstappen with a 31-point lead over Charles Leclerc in the Drivers’ Championship. But this year certainly feels different, with the talk from both Maranello and Woking indicating that Ferrari and McLaren believe they can continue to put pressure on Red Bull at the front of the field.

Starting a week like this certainly puts Verstappen and Red Bull on the back foot heading into Saturday.

Aston Martin to deliver a shocker?

Conditions were a bit drier during FP2, which allowed for some more representative times in the second practice session.

Given that, Aston Martin fans might feel a bit optimistic this Saturday morning.

After all, it was Fernando Alonso who topped the timing sheets in FP2, with teammate — and hometown hero — Lance Stroll not too far behind in FP3.

While the timing sheet was rather jumbled in FP2, with Verstappen down in P18 and Lando Norris in P20, for example, this is probably a welcome sight for Aston Martin supporters.

“It was a stop-start day thanks to the variable weather. In FP2 we got to complete a fair amount of driving both on the Intermediates and slicks on a drying track, and we learned a few things there and about the new tarmac, which is behaving a little differently to previous years,” described Stroll in the team’s post-practice report. “We got some good data on set-up and how the Intermediates behave, and that could be crucial for this weekend as there’s more rain forecast.”

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

“It was a tricky Friday for the entire field due to the weather with not many laps recorded, particularly in FP1. The conditions meant the track was never fully wet or fully dry but it could be like this in Qualifying and the race so today could provide very useful information for the rest of the weekend,” described Alonso.

“If the conditions are the same tomorrow, those that are sharp in Qualifying and make the right decision on [tires] could gain a big advantage,” added Alonso. “It’s going to be interesting for those watching but for us as a team it’ll be about getting the [tire] calls right and aiming to make the most of that.”

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