Canadian GP - Saturday - Practice Session 3 Report
Hamilton fastest but tyres the key in Montreal
The Canadian Grand Prix looks poised for a fascinating qualifying session after Lewis Hamilton (1:16.058) topped the final session of free practice on Saturday morning, 0.29s quicker than championship leader Mark Webber's Red Bull (1:16.349).
The interesting thing is the tyre situation. With just a few minutes of the session remaining Hamilton's McLaren was quickest in 1:16.2 having only run the harder prime tyre, along with most of his rivals. In the final few minutes, now on the super soft Bridgestone, Hamilton only found a couple of tenths. With significant tyre degradation on the option tyre and lap times rapidly dropping off by as much as 4s, the preferred strategy may be to qualify on the harder tyre for what looks certain to be a two-stop race, with the more fragile option tyre being used towards the end of the race when more rubber has gone down.
However, it could be that some of those who are quick, but not necessarily quick enough for the first couple of rows, may elect to qualify on the option tyre and gamble on an early Safety Car to change onto the harder tyre. The grid order could therefore be more of a lottery dependent upon tyre strategy key.
Fernando Alonso's Ferrari (1:16.495) set the third quickest time, ahead of Michael Schumacher (1:16.536) as the seven times champion looked as if he was having to fight his Mercedes pretty hard. Sebastian Vettel (1:16.582) was five hundredths behind Schumacher and a couple of hundredths quicker than Adrian Sutil (1:16.673) with the first of the Force Indias.
Jenson Button (1:16.699) had to abort what looked to be his best lap close to the end of the session when Lucas di Grassi lost his Virgin and clipped the wall under braking for the hairpin. The reigning champion therefore finished the session eighth fastest, ahead of Tonio Liuzzi's Force India (1:16.814) and Vitaly Petrov's Renault (1:16.982), the Russian doing a strong job to get within three tenths of team mate Kubica on his first visit to Montreal.
Among the front runners, Nico Rosberg (1:17.979) will go into qualifying at a disadvantage having missed most of the session with a clutch problem. He got out for a lone run on the harder tyre at the end of the period and finished up 18th. Karun Chandhok, after impressing on the opening day with the HRT, also missed the session with a hydraulic issue.