Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Hamilton back in Canada with confidence, the F1 points lead and fast car

Hamilton back in Canada with confidence, the F1 points lead and fast car

Lewis Hamilton could hardly wait to get back on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve at the Canadian Grand Prix.
It's been a year since the Mercedes Mclaren driver last put a wheel on the 2.7-mile (4.4-kilometer) road course on Isle du Notre Dame, but he has thought about it a lot in the interim.
"Last year in Canada was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, to take my maiden pole and victory in Formula One was incredible," the Englishman said at the Montreal track.
Hamilton showed on Friday it was worth the wait as he started slowly in the morning practice but wound up with the fastest lap at 1 minute, 15.732 seconds, not far removed from his pole-winning lap of 1:15.707 a year ago.
That was somewhat surprising because, without the traction control that was banned after last season, the fast Canadian circuit presents more problems for all of the drivers.
"Last year I think we had a very good car," Hamilton said. "Obviously, with the driving aids we had, I think the package was stronger in some areas than the ones we have right now. But that is because we have had some aids taken away.
"But we should be slightly better over the curbs, which is definitely suited for this sort of circuit. And we've improved the engine and improved the aero, so we should be quicker overall."
His car wasn't particularly quick on Friday morning.
In the first of two 90-minute sessions, led by Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Hamilton was a disappointing sixth. But Hamilton and his team made steady gains in the afternoon and he eventually turned the fastest lap in the final 10 minutes.
"In the afternoon, we were able to improve the car on every run," he said. "I felt very comfortable with the setup and the balance. ... We've still got some work to do ahead of qualifying and the race, but we've already got some positive running under our belts."
Robert Kubica, the BMW Sauber driver who walked away from a frightening crash at the track last year, showed no lingering effects of the incident as he was second fastest at 1:16.023.
Reigning F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari was third at 1:16.053, followed by McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen at 1:16.331 and Massa at 1:16.413.
After a relatively slow, event-free morning free practice on a partially wet track, the 90-minute afternoon session was much faster and full of action.
Numerous drivers, including Hamilton, Kubica and Raikkonen either bounced off the wall or came close at the dangerous Champion's corner, while several others spun.
Massa wound up parking his car on the grass alongside the track because of a mechanical problem with about 20 minutes left in the afternoon session, while former world champion Fernando Alonso, driving for Renault, and Timo Glock, in a Toyota, also wound up walking back to the pits after spinning and stalling their cars on course. Mark Webber, in a Red Bull entry, and Kovalainen also spun, but were able to continue.
Last year's Canadian GP was a historic weekend, with Hamilton the first black man to win in F1. But it wasn't easy, with several accidents bringing out the safety car and forcing Hamilton to rebuild his lead over and over.
"The safety car kept coming out and each time I would lose another gap," he said. "I thought, `Am I really supposed to be winning this race or not?" But I still managed to pull it off. It's still a thrill to think about it."
But, considering the way he began his Grand Prix career, the victory was hardly surprising. Hamilton came to Canada with five straight top-three podium finishes and went on to record nine in a row before he faltered just a bit and came up just short of what would have been an amazing championship run for the youngster.
Now, at 23, Hamilton has come back to Canada more self-assured and leading Raikkonen by three points in the standings. That's despite a change in the rules over the winter that took away traction control and made driver ability a bigger part of the racing equation.
But Hamilton has already won twice this season and is coming off a victory two weeks ago in Monaco.
"I think I've matured a lot (since last June)," Hamilton said. "I think I have grown stronger as a driver and have become closer to the team."
Asked how much of that growth was inspired by his breakthrough victory in Canada, Hamilton said, "I don't think it made a huge difference.
"The only difference it makes is that beforehand you know you can do it, but believing you can do it and then actually making it happen is a different thing. It showed people I was here to do business, and prove to myself that it is possible. And it has just sort of opened that doorway and I was able to win from then on."


Updated : 2021-06-25 03:11 GMT+08:00