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Fri, 8 June, 2012Hamilton leads on practice day in Montreal

  • Lewis Hamilton (McLaren MP4-27). 2012 Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Qualifying day. Melbourne, Australia. Saturday 17 March 2012. © McLaren.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton set the pace on the first day of practice in Montreal on Friday by topping both sessions, as preparations got underway for Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix in the city. The Briton posted laptimes of 1m15.564s and 1m15.259s in the morning and afternoon practice sessions respectively, completing in excess of a race distance over the course of the three hours' track time.

The threat of rain in the afternoon kept everyone busy throughout the day, first putting in extra laps during the morning session and then early in second practice too as teams got down to business in the anticipation of showers later in the session. In the end the rain didn't arrive until after the chequered flag had fallen, meaning drivers will have reams of data from which to pinpoint their set-up ahead of tomorrow's running.

The first session saw a number of incidents, none bigger than Heikki Kovalainen's meeting with the concrete wall on the exit of turn 9. The Finn slid into the barrier, rear-end then front-end, causing considerable damage to the right-hand side of his Caterham and a 13-minute stoppage as marshals cleared the track.

Heikki had his mechanics to thank for losing only 30 minutes of the second session, after working throughout the lunch-break to get his CT01 back in working order.

World champion Sebastian Vettel was involved in the second incident that caught people's eye during the session, after making slight contact with Bruno Senna while overtaking the Williams driver into the final chicane. The German was subsequently reprimanded by race stewards for the clash.

The second practice session wasn't without its dramas either and it was again Senna who was involved, again at the final chicane. This time around it was all of his own making, as he crashed heavily into Champions' Wall on the exit of the chicane, ripping the front and rear wings from his car and causing severe damage to the right hand side of his FW34. He lost control of his car mid-way through the corner, before spinning backwards into the tyre barrier.

On the timesheets, Ferrari at this stage look most likely to challenge Hamilton at the front of the field after finishing the second session within one and a half tenths of the Briton. Alonso was just half a tenth adrift on a time of 1m15.313s, while team-mate Massa was a further tenth off the pace on a 1m15.410s.

Red Bull look to be on the pace also, specifically Sebastian Vettel, after the German finished the sessions in second and fourth places respectively. Like McLaren and Ferrari, Force India and Mercedes got both their drivers into the top ten at the end of second practice, while Sauber's Kamui Kobayahsi showed the potential of the C31 by finishing sixth.

Elsewhere down the field, Caterham continue to lead the fight at the back of the field, and even finished ahead of both Toro Rossos during the afternoon, while HRT and Marussia are closely matched in the fight at the very back, with the Spanish squad currently edging it by almost two tenths of a second.

In between the front and the back, Williams, Lotus and Toro Rosso will all need to find some serious improvements overnight if they are to challenge for Q3 positions on Saturday and points during the race.

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