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‘It was a disaster’: Mercedes ‘deteriorated’; more cheeky news for Ferrari – F1 practice talk points

The battle for first place in free practice was tense between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, but it won’t mean much on Saturday night.

Ferrari and Leclerc’s two-week horror has continued in Canada. Fresh off his power outage in Baku, he is now about to face a grid penalty of at least 10 places.

Preventing the growing championship advantages of Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing is therefore a disadvantage for Carlos Sainz.

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Sainz was not as quick as Leclerc, but is within striking distance. And if it rains to interrupt qualifying, it could be the curveball he needs to send his car’s higher downforce to the top spot.

Things are a lot less easy in midfield.

Mercedes’ battle continued, if not aggravated, and Lewis Hamilton is particularly dejected after testing some experimental parts and configurations. But that has opened the door for a swag of midfielders dreaming of big points in what could be a fascinating battle for a possible podium finish.

MORE PENALTY PAIN FOR LECLERC

Charles Leclerc’s four-race pole run ends this weekend and will almost certainly lose more ground to Verstappen in the championship after Ferrari confirmed he would face at least a 10-place grid penalty for breaking his power unit component allocation.

It has been less than a week since Leclerc’s engine failed at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, costing him 25 points ahead of Verstappen on the title table. Ferrari took until Friday, after a formal analysis of the broken engine at Maranello, to confirm that the whole thing was a write-off and that a new power unit was needed – although the exact cause of the problem has yet to be determined.

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP

The failure in Baku, combined with the same in Spain, left the Monegask dangerously close to sanctions – and in a difficult position when it comes to picking parts for the weekend.

He has now used all three of his approved turbochargers, and only the first version, used for the first five races of the season and again in Monaco, remains – but it now has very high mileage.

Most of the main components of the power unit are designed to spin between seven and eight laps.

Ferrari used that old turbo during Friday practice along with a new combustion engine, engine generators and control electronics – all without penalty, but now all maxed out for the season.

But immediately after FP2, the team broke open a third control electronics unit, resulting in a 10-place penalty.

It would be extremely surprising if the team didn’t do the same with all the other engine parts and send Leclerc to broaden the parts pool. It would take him to the back of the grid, but it rips the plaster off in one go and could theoretically get him around the last third of the season without having to take another hit.

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is not bad for overtaking, which will help minimize damage, but further loss of ground in the championship is pretty much guaranteed.

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

VERSTEP THE MAN TO BEAT, PENALTY PAIN FOR LECLERC

In contrast to Leclerc’s misery was Max Verstappen’s largely clear Friday in Canada. He had a great time in the first session and although Leclerc finished in 0.081 seconds at the end of the day, he didn’t really feel that the Dutchman seemed safe at his pace on soft tires.

Indeed, while Leclerc spent the entire FP2 on soft tires en route to his fastest lap, Verstappen only had one five-lap blast before switching to race pace.

Carlos Sainz did enough to keep in touch with the top but complained of worsening bounce during the day. Taking that out of the car and allowing for a more aggressive use of the curbs could put him in direct competition with Verstappen in time for qualifying.

Sergio Perez was well in the standings after a hampered single flying lap, so he will likely be in the mix on Saturday afternoon as well.

The long-term picture up front is less clear.

Pirelli brought its softest compounds to Canada to tackle the relatively low-grip street surface, but the medium tire was the best-balanced compound in the afternoon heat – before the heavens opened shortly after the end of FP2.

However, Ferrari spent most of FP2 on the soft compound, deeming it too delicate to be competitive, finishing about 0.2 seconds slower than Red Bull Racing’s medium run.

A brief run by Sainz on mediums at the end of the session then misleadingly put Ferrari at the top of the rankings. Not only was it short and therefore not directly comparable, but it would also have consumed relatively little fuel.

Red Bull Racing haven’t completed long runs on soft tires so we have to interpret the truth, which is probably somewhere between Ferrari’s twice below.

Long-term averages, top five

Ferrari: 1:17.730 (average, 4 laps)

Red Bull Racing: 1:18.087 (average, 8 laps)

Alpine: 1:18.167 (heavy, 7 laps)

Ferrari: 1:18.237 (soft, 5 laps)

Aston Martin: 1:18,598 (average, 4 laps)

Mercedes: 1:18.685 (average, 10 laps)*

*Mercedes’ fastest long run was Hamilton (1:18.534), but it was spread over just three laps.

Of more importance is Alpine’s lofty position here. The team focused on the hard tire, with which Alonso delivered that competitive seven-lap run, making it all the more impressive – and intriguing for those teams that have saved the hard tire for FP3 or the race.

We learned in Baku that the Alpine car is clearly at home in a low-downforce configuration, especially in the hands of Alonso, and while the Spaniard finished just as high in the order, it may come as no surprise to see him at least at the top. to see. the midfield.

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP

‘DISASTERN’ DAY FOR MERCEDES

Mercedes looked competitive on both short and long runs and by the end of Friday the situation was dire in the German marque’s garage.

Canada shares some common features with Azerbaijan in that they are both high-speed, low-downforce and bumpy tracks.

While both circuits feature mostly slow corners, the main difference and difficulty in Canada is that most of those corners are chicanes and require aggressive use of the curbs to get lap times.

In that regard, this track is even further out of the Mercedes performance window. It left George Russell seventh and Hamilton 13th, 0.8 seconds and 1.3 seconds off the pace respectively.

“For me it was a disaster,” said Hamilton, looking at the variety of set-up changes he experimented with throughout the day.

“It’s like the car is getting worse, it’s getting more and more unhappy the more we do it.

“It’s the worst I’ve ever felt a car here, so I hope we can try and make some changes overnight. But essentially it’s just the fundamentals of the car; It is what it is. It’s going to be a battle.

“It’s a huge struggle all the time to keep it out of the wall. When it bounces – if the car takes off a lot and then lands – it grabs up and goes in different directions, and you just try to catch a car that jumps, skips, grabs, hops, grabs.

“It’s tough. It keeps you sharp. And there were some big hits today. We raised the car, but it doesn’t matter.”

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Perhaps in anticipation of a difficult weekend, Mercedes technical director James Alison made a rare appearance around the track to see the problems for himself.

Also lurking in the background is the FIA’s investigation into car bouncing. This weekend it will collect information on the G-forces drivers experience when the car bounces with a view to entering a maximum limit from the next lap. When the car bounces and With underperforming this weekend, things can only get worse from here.

MIXED BAG IN THE TOP 10

Mercedes’ battle opens the door for three other teams to score big points this weekend based on both qualifying simulations and long-term averages.

Fernando Alonso and Alpine we have already mentioned, but Aston Martin is also well in the mix, and McLaren, usually subdued on Fridays, is within reach.

Long Term Averages, Midfield & Backmarkers

Alpine: 1:18.167 (heavy, 7 laps)

Aston Martin: 1:18.301 (soft, 3 laps)

Aston Martin: 1:18,598 (average, 4 laps)

Mercedes: 1:18.685 (average, 10 laps)*

McLaren: 1:18.804 (average, 6 laps)

Alfa Romeo: 1:18.969 (average, 7 laps)

AlphaTauri: 1:19.203 (average, 12 laps)

Haas: 1:19,595 (heavy, 9 laps)

Williams: 1:19.702 (average, 11 laps)

*Mercedes’ fastest long run was Hamilton (1:18.534), but it was spread over just three laps.

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

The Aston Martin has come alive since the controversial Spanish Grand Prix aero update. Sebastian Vettel has scored points at every race since then, and with better strategy he would have scored in Spain too.

The team says the new car has a much wider setup window, allowing Vettel to express himself more by configuring the car to his liking. And he seems like a lot of fun in Canada, albeit not so much to the liking of home hero teammate Lance Stroll, who was buried almost a full second slower in the bottom half of the timesheet.

The caveat here is that Vettel’s long-term representative lap count was relatively small, but he could also argue that the soft tires gave him a decent pace over several laps, something the Ferrari couldn’t handle, although the Scuderia yes it was. try a longer stint with heavier fuel.

AlphaTauri had a great one lap pace but struggled with relegation – bad news for Yuki Tsunoda, who will start at the back of the grid with an engine penalty – while Haas and Williams seemed very off pace.

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