FP3: Alonso shines as the rain falls in Canada

Jamie Woodhouse
Fernando Alonso drives the Alpine in the wet. Canada, June 2022.

Fernando Alonso driving the Alpine in wet conditions during practice. Canada, June 2022.

Fernando Alonso was on top come the end of the final practice session in Canada as the rain and cold air rolled in.

In a prelude to the conditions expected for qualifying, Alonso put the intermediate tyres to perfect use, topping FP3 with a 1:33.8.

For much of the session it was a back-and-forth battle with Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, the veterans showing that they still have that magic touch in the wet, though Pierre Gasly ultimately ended up splitting the pair with a combined six World Championships.

After a Friday filled with dry running, rain rolled in shortly after FP2 ended and a similar scene met the drivers ahead of FP3, plenty of drops still falling as the final hour of practice got underway.

The Haas’ and Alfa Romeo’s ventured out early to assess the conditions, cold and very wet in a nutshell, but with the threat of rain continuing into qualifying it may well be conditions that the drivers must get used to.

Charles Leclerc was the first of the traditional front runners to brave it, but the Ferrari man will start from the back in Canada after taking a complete new power unit.

A very tentative 1:39.1 from Haas’ Kevin Magnussen set the early pace, the Dane then taking a trip over the grass as Carlos Sainz struggled to keep his Ferrari on the track also.

Lance Stroll found himself in “limp home mode”, but it was a swift fix and he was back up to speed. Sebastian Vettel in the other Aston Martin meanwhile was struggling to get the AMR22 slowed down for Turn 1, improving to P1 once he got to grips with the left-hander.

There was little sign of the weather improving as the session reached halfway, though Sainz, who has taken a new Internal Combustion Engine, was making the gains needed to rise to P1, clocking a 1:35.8.

Fernando Alonso, who was looking very competitive on Friday, continued that trend despite the change of conditions, reducing the deficit to Sainz to two-tenths as he comfortably went P2.

25 minutes remained as Mercedes’ George Russell delivered his first timed lap, four seconds down on Sainz, while Max Verstappen also emerged from the garage, though struggling badly for traction in the RB18, he was soon back in the pits.

Russell was though finding some grip, elevating himself to P3 with half-a-second to find on Sainz, though there was soon a new pacesetter in the form of Vettel, a 1:35.8 from the four-time World Champion.

Sainz and Alonso were first to try out the intermediate tyres, the track still looking very damp indeed for such a switch.

Alonso was making it work though, a 1:34.8 taking him top. Verstappen returned to the track, but he was not tempted by a gamble on the inters, even with Alonso enjoying himself as he chipped away a further six-tenths.

Vettel was enjoying it more though as he made the move to inters and returned to the summit with a 1:33.8. ‘I’ll take that P1 back’ was the swift response from Alonso.

Magnussen meanwhile was left perplexed as he went straight on at Turn 1, forcing him to reverse out of the grass down at Turn 2. “What happened there?” he asked. Latifi stressed that the intermediate was “not the right tyre for us”, adding that he was at risk of crashing the Williams at every corner.

Speaking of crashes, the rain was starting to come down a bit heavier with a few minutes left in the session, Verstappen spinning off into the grass at Turn 2 on the inters. No damage fortunately for the Drivers’ Championship leader.

But it was Alonso keeping it on the track and topping the session, a top three of he, Gasly and Vettel split by 0.055s.

1 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:33.836 15 laps
2 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 0.053s 18
3 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 0.055s 18
4 Esteban Ocon Alpine 0.167s 16
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 0.274s 14
6 Lando Norris McLaren 0.412s 13
7 George Russell Mercedes 0.423s 11
8 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.662s 10
9 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.780s 10
10 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.942s 18
11 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing 1.180s 15
12 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing 1.377s 15
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1.695s 23
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1.807s 17
15 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.856s 12
16 Alex Albon Williams 1.925s 17
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 2.425s 27
18 Mick Schumacher Haas 3.552s 18
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 4.558s 11
20 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 5