Lewis Hamilton put down a marker for Canada qualifying by topping the timesheets overall in Friday practice at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
The first session was rain-soaked at the start but, on a drying track, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa eventually managed to put in a respectable fastest lap of 1:17.553 (the track record, held by Rubens Barrichello, is 1:13.622, set in 2004).
BMW’s Robert Kubica was less than three-tenths of a second behind him while Heikki Kovalainen for McLaren was half a second down the track.
Next in the rain-shuffled pack were BMW’s Nick Heidfeld, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton a subdued sixth after completing just eight laps.
David Coulthard for Red Bull was eighth, closely matching the time of team-mate Mark Webber, while Jenson Button and Honda team-mate Rubens Barrichello could only manage 20th and 18th respectively.
In the second session the track was dry and lap times closer to the expected range. Hamilton put in a blazing 1:15.752 with BMW’s Robert Kubica next on 1:16.023 and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on 1:16.093.
Heikki Kovalainen, Felipe Massa and Nick Heidfeld snapped up the next three places. David Coulthard was 12th, around six tenths of a second slower that team-mate Mark Webber in seventh.
Jenson Button had another horrible session for Honda, coming 19th with a time of 1:17.842, more than two seconds slower than the leaders. Team-mate Rubens Barrichello was 13th on 1:17.462.
After the sessions David Coulthard was fined £2,400 (3,000 euros) after his Red Bull was clocked going at approximately 10mph over the pit lane speed limit.
Following Friday practice Lewis Hamilton said: “We chose not to use our allocation of wet tyres for the majority of the opening session but managed a run on dry tyres towards the end of the morning.
“In the afternoon, we were able to improve the car on every run – I felt very comfortable with the set-up and balance, particularly when we switched to the option tyre, which allowed me to lean on the car as the track conditions improved.
“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.”
McLaren team principal Ron Dennis added: “We often experience mixed weather conditions at the Canadian Grand Prix, and today was no exception.
“We chose to conserve our supply of wet tyres throughout this morning’s damp session, but we were pleased with the developments we made to the cars this afternoon. We feel confident that the improvements will allow us to be competitive.
“Nonetheless, we’re fully aware that this race is often unpredictable, so we’re taking absolutely nothing for granted. It’s still too early to judge where we are compared with our competitors, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
For Honda Jenson Button said: “It has been a tough day for us today and we need to fully understand why that was in order to make progress for the remainder of the weekend.
“The car felt unbalanced and was difficult to drive in both sessions. I really struggled with the rear end which was causing problems with snap oversteer and we just lacked any form of pace.
“So there is a lot of work to do before we can feel confident with the car for qualifying and the race.”
Steve Clark, head of test and race engineering, added: “In these conditions the track and performance is changing every lap so it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions from any changes we make to the car.
“As the track dried the story of the day appears to be tyre choice. These are the same tyres as Monaco and historically this track has proved a tough endurance test for them.
“In today’s low-grip conditions the reverse seemed true and even the super soft compound was difficult to bring up to temperature.”
He said that the weather forecast for the weekend is for much higher temperatures.
Red Bull’s Friday practice report informs us that the team is preoccupied with Euro 2008 – David Coulthard’s French race engineer, for example, has been cheering on his national team.
Dragging their minds back to this weekend’s race, they tell us that DC felt it was “a normal Canada practice day, adapting to more downforce.
“The day was made a little tricky by the track conditions being wet this morning, but we ran through our programme.
“We didn’t manage to use all our tyres today, as we ran out of time at the end of the second session but, nonetheless, we’ve got some good data to work through and we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Practice 1 times:
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:17.553 (14 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW: 1:17.809 (12 laps
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:18.133(10 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, Sauber: 1:18.182 (13 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:18.292 (12 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:18.303 (8 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:18.712 (11 laps)
- David Coulthard, Red Bull: 1:18.809 (12 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:18.971 (24 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:19.005 (13 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:19.093 (20 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 1:19.228 (21 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:19.346 (28 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:19.568 (31 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:19.815 (16 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:19.888 (15 laps)
- Nelson A Piquet, Renault 1:20.091 (23 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 1:20.173 (17 laps)
- Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1:20.541 (16 laps)
- Jenson Button, Honda: 1:21.542 (17 laps)
Practice 2 times:
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes: 1:15.752 (42 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW: 1:16.023 (41 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:16.093 (39 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:16.331 (36 laps)
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:16.413 (27 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW: 1:16.589 (43 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:16.604 (39 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:16.767 (37 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 1:17.019 (43 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:17.068 (46 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:17.242 (37 laps)
- David Coulthard, Red Bull: 1:17.334 (32 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 1:17.462 (39 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:17.508 (39 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:17.549 (31 laps)
- Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1:17.559 (38 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:17.644 (30 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:17.813 (37 laps)
- Jenson Button, Honda: 1:17.842 (39 laps)
- Nelson A Piquet, Renault: 1:18.076 (17 laps)