By Ian Gordon
MONTREAL (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton dominated Canadian Grand Prix practice on Friday in a further indication that the Formula One championship momentum could be swinging back toward him.
The triple world champion set the pace in the morning session at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and went even quicker in the afternoon, clocking a best time of one minute 14.212 seconds in his Mercedes.
“It’s been an awesome day. This has always been a strong circuit for me and I’m really enjoying being back here again. I’ve generally been really happy with the car so far,” said Hamilton.
Two weeks after finally taking his first win of the season in Monaco, the Briton will be confident of a fifth victory in Montreal on Sunday which, if team-mate Nico Rosberg draws a blank, will see him regain the overall lead.
Rosberg has never won on the island track, finishing runner-up for the past two years, and the championship leader has work to do after ending the day third fastest and more than half-a-second off Hamilton.
“Getting the tyres working is not so straightforward here, so that needs some further analysis tonight,” said Rosberg, who finished seventh in Monaco after struggling with low tire temperatures.
The German was leapfrogged on the time-sheets in the second session by countryman Sebastian Vettel, the four times champion, who was second fastest in a Ferrari that has a new turbocharger for this race.
Vettel is still seeking his first win of the season and, after finishing 0.257 seconds off Hamilton, will be hoping the seventh round brings that elusive victory.
Max Verstappen showed his confidence has not been dented by crashing out in Monaco, just two weeks after his historic win in Barcelona, with the fourth fastest time ahead of Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Verstappen was, however, handed a reprimand for impeding Williams’ Valtteri Bottas.
Had it not been for the pit-stop error in Monaco that wrecked Ricciardo’s victory chances, the team would have been aiming for a third success in a row.
The Red Bull duo, making the most of improved Tag Heuer-badged Renault engines, were the only other drivers within a second of Hamilton.
Bottas set the sixth fastest time for Williams while Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion who is giving little away about his plans for next year, was seventh after an oil leak in the opening session.
Button’s McLaren team mate Fernando Alonso had a few brushes against the wall on his way to the 11th fastest time behind Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz who completed the top 10.
The Williams mechanics had to work hard in the lunchtime heat to repair Felipe Massa’s car after it slammed into the barriers when the Drag Reduction System failed after seven laps.
The hard work paid off as the Brazilian racked up 44 laps in the afternoon.
(Editing by Alan Baldwin)