Canadian GP FP2: Lewis Hamilton heads Mercedes 1-2 in tight-fought session

Henry Valantine
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton runs in FP2. Canada June 2023.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton drives a flying lap during free practice. Canada June 2023.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell topped the timesheets in FP2 for the Canadian Grand Prix in a show of pace from Mercedes on Friday.

The two British drivers beat Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc in the top five, with Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez ranking P6 and P8 in the session respectively.

Valtteri Bottas was an impressive seventh for Alfa Romeo, with Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly rounding out the top 10 in an FP2 session where 13 drivers all lapped within a second of Hamilton’s benchmark.

After only a handful of laps were completed in FP1, FP2 was extended by 30 minutes to try and make up for lost time as the drivers looked to find their way around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Friday.

A CCTV issue curtailed the first part of Friday’s running, but FP2 started half an hour early to allow the teams and drivers a chance to get back up to speed – though with cloudy and humid conditions, the possibility of rain during the session was present.

Unsurprisingly, then, the desire to get out on track was high and the circuit was busy throughout the opening stages as the drivers got opening laps under their belts in earnest.

With the temporary circuit being relatively narrow, Esteban Ocon was forced to back out of a lap when he came flying up behind Carlos Sainz on a flying lap, voicing his discontent on radio and raising his hand out of his car as he drew alongside the Ferrari driver.

There was a lot of dust on the surface too, with track evolution being stark as the drivers cleaned up the asphalt with every passing lap during FP2.

The Ferrari duo were the early pace-setters as Verstappen complained his downshifts were “a joke”, worrying that his gearbox was not quite to his liking early on in the extended 90-minute session.

But around the half-hour mark, Nico Hulkenberg’s session came to an abrupt end as a smoking Haas was seen coming down the pit straight slowly.

He climbed out of his stricken VF-23 quickly and the FP2 session was red-flagged while his car was cleared away, with smoke initially pouring out of his car from what appeared to be an engine issue.

This will leave a significant repair job for the Haas crew overnight, but unlike in first practice, the remaining drivers were able to get going again after a relatively short delay.

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And with soft tyres bolted on most of the cars, qualifying simulations appeared to be next on the agenda – for a first look at how fast the drivers could be on Saturday over one lap.

Sergio Perez aborted his first run after seemingly grazing the wall on the exit of Turn 7, but upon inspection by his Red Bull team he was sent straight back out again and replays showed he was mere centimetres from collecting damage – or extracting as much width as possible from the circuit, to put it another way.

But before most flying laps could be set, the red flags were out again.

Esteban Ocon, who had already had a new gearbox fitted for this weekend, was sat stationary at the exit of Turn 9 with his Alpine seemingly held in second gear, and though he pulled clear of the racing line, he was instructed to stop the car by his team, with Alpine later confirming a suspected loss of water pressure caused his abrupt exit from the session.

This caused another gap in proceedings, and with rain looming towards the end of the session, the teams looked to get back out as soon as they could for their qualifying simulations.

Times were improving across the board, but Sainz and Leclerc stayed top of the three ahead of Verstappen behind, with Alonso making his way into the top five after being outside the top 10 for much of the session.

Margins were fine throughout the field once again for much of FP2, but on his second flying run, Russell put himself fastest of anybody before Hamilton went even faster still, his 1:13.718 just 0.027s quicker than his team-mate.

This could be issued with the caveat that Mercedes opted for another low-fuel run with the track at its quickest when others had already switched to the long runs, but it should still serve as a confidence boost for the team nonetheless.

The clouds continued to darken over the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve heading into the closing stages, with the wind increasing but the rain just about holding off for the drivers to be able to get lap times on the board.

Even though no rain had fallen with 10 minutes to go, both Red Bull drivers were sent out for a steady lap on set of intermediate tyres, with the track having officially been declared ‘wet’ by Race Control.

But when the rain did come a few minutes from the end of FP2, it fell hard. Oscar Piastri crawled back around to the pit lane on soft tyres as he made his way back to the garage, but the drivers were soon back in the pit lane to end the session with meaningful data gathered, later than anticipated after FP1 was curtailed.

Canadian GP FP2 classification

1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes 1:13.718
2 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.027
3 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.126
4 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.326
5 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.376
6 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull +0.424
7 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +0.502
8 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull +0.532
9 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.701
10 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.759
11 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.815
12 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +0.826
13 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.899
14 ZHOU Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1.093
15 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.223
16 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +1.284
17 Alexander ALBON Williams +1.285
18 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.374
19 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.708
20 Nico HULKENBERG Haas +2.651