Saturday, June 9, 2012

Canadian GP Undaunted by Off Track Mayhem on Day 1

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

Entering the 7th race weekend for the 2012 Formula 1 schedule, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec is an all-new continent where the unpredictable season will delight North American fans of the prestigious open wheel racing series. The 2012 Canadian Grand Prix plays host to a 24-car race tour who just completed a grueling Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago, the race course on the artificial island of Île Notre-Dame will be another workout for the drivers and race cars.

Faring the best in both Friday practice sessions for Day 1 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the McLaren-Mercedes in the hands of Lewis Hamilton was lightning fast. Securing the top time of the day with a 1-minute, 15.259-second lap around the 4.361-kilometer (2.709-mile) track, the race car of Hamilton outpaced the Ferrari and Red Bull Racing team on the first day in Canada. The location of the racing superstar's first Formula 1 victory, the Canadian Grand Prix also played host to Lewis Hamilton winning the 2010 event at the track. McLaren teammate Jenson Button is the reigning Canadian Grand Prix champion heading into Sunday. Button had more trouble finding speed on the track on Friday 10th fastest in the first practice and 9th in the second. The McLaren team as a whole has been a winner on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve 8 times.

In the first practice, the Red Bull-Renault of Sebastian Vettel was second-quickest more than a tenth of a second behind Lewis Hamilton's pace of the session. Red Bull Racing has yet to win the Canadian Grand Prix entering the 2012 event.

Photo credit: Nissan/Infiniti

Attempting to counter the speed of the McLaren-Mercedes, the Ferrari squad showed-up big time in the second practice session. Led by Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard's best time was almost half of one-tenth of a second slower than Hamilton. Also formidable in session two on Friday was Felipe Massa who was 0.153 seconds off of the the fastest effort in afternoon practice. The 30th year since the loss of Canadian Formula 1 driver Gilles Villeneuve, a Ferrari victory at the Canadian Grand Prix would be honourable to the Ferrari pilot of the past.

Also showing speed during the Friday practice sessions is the Force India-Mercedes cars of Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg who were firmly in the top-10 fastest after by the end of the day. The Sauber-Ferrari of Kamui Kobayashi was also strong posting a 6th quickest time during practice two. The Top-10 of day one also had the Mercedes GP cars of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher searching for speed for a second win in 2012.

Two accidents on the tough Circuit Gilles Villeneuve occurred on Friday with one in each practice session. In practice one, the Caterham-Renault of Heikki Kovalainen 50 minutes into the session with an incident in turn 9. Bruno Senna crashed his Williams-Renault into the final corner of the track in the vicinity known as the 'wall of champions' during the later afternoon practice. The Senna crash required a 14-minute red flag to clean up the racetrack.

The two friday practice sessions were conducted under typical June temperatures in Montreal. Weather favoured the first day as rain only proceeded to fall near the end of the second practice. Unfortunately for many Canadian race fans and the welcomed motorsport guests from other countries, the 2012 Grand Prix of Canada is being disturbed by the actions of activists relating to a provincial unrest relating to tuition fees. A major event for drawing tourists to Montreal, the fear of the escalating protests within the province of Quebec had forced race organizers to cancel a free off-track event. On Thursday, protesters were nonetheless able to find locations to use their actions to disrupt other smaller events occurring in the city of Montreal. Increased security and contingency plans have been set in place through the Formula 1 race weekend intent on maintaining a near routine grand prix if any actions are in place to counter hostile threats against the event. Earlier this year, the Bahrain Grand Prix was also met with large protests outside of the race track. A much different situation where violence and death amounted from peaceful demonstrations against the Bahrain government, the controversial race returned in 2012 and ran without incident within the Formula 1 competition circuit.

After a late morning practice, Saturday qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix is set for 1pm Eastern time.

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