Hamilton threads the barriers en route to the fastest time of the session

Lewis Hamilton has set his sights on becoming the 2012 season’s seventh different winner in as many races by posting the quickest lap-time in the opening practice session for the Canadian Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver headed the timesheets from defending champion Sebastian Vettel and his compatriot Nico Rosberg in a busy session where the ten fastest runners were covered by less than eight-tenths of a second.

With many fearing that wet weather could hit the circuit later in the day, teams busied themselves with a multitude of programs in the opening ninety-minute session, which included runs on both Pirelli’s soft and super-soft dry-weather compounds on offer this weekend.

But the session wasn’t rosy for everyone. Jenson Button found himself sidelined for much of the session with a slipping clutch in his McLaren – he would ultimately log just a dozen laps en route to tenth-fastest – while Heikki Kovalainen ensured his Caterham mechanics would be missing lunch when he slammed his car into the wall during the session.

The Finn slide sideways into the concrete at Turn 9, with the impact and resultant debris proving enough to bring out the red flags so the mess could be cleaned up.

With the semi-street circuit proving predictably slippery, a host of drivers enjoyed trips through the run-off areas during the session.

The session also featured a few track invasions from the local wildlife. Most will know that the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve has a resident groundhog population, but the track was also visited by a fox and a squirrel.

Kovalainen hits the wall Senna gesticulates at Vettel
Kovalainen brought out the red flags for thirteen minutes after hitting the Turn 9 wall (above left); Senna was almost hit by Vettel when the German tried to get some clear track (above right).

Another talking point was the near-collision between Sebastian Vettel and Bruno Senna late in the session, which saw Vettel deliberately cut across the final chicane in order to start a flying lap with a clear track in front of him. The pair made contact in the incident, and a furious Senna was none-too-happy with the German’s antics.

Up at the sharp end of the field, Fernando Alonso finished up fourth-fastest in his Ferrari, taking the opportunity to try out a new exhaust configuration.

With his Red Bull RB8 running a newly-modified (and now legal) floor, Mark Webber was fifth-quickest, ahead of Nico Hülkenberg’s Force India, the Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Pérez, Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher and the clutch-less Button.

Paul di Resta and Felipe Massa finished just outside the top-ten, while Pastor Maldonado was thirteenth-fastest in his Williams, which sported a radically-curved rear wing.

The two Lotus entries of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Räikkönen were well down the order, although it would appear both were evaluating race set-ups judging by the number of laps each driver turned out during the session. They ended the session ahead of both Toro Rosso drivers, who were fractionally faster than the Caterhams of Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen.

Pedro de la Rosa finished a promising 20th-fastest in his HRT, despite running over one of his mechanics during a visit into his pit entry. The mechanic was fortunate to escape with little more than bruising after being checked by circuit medical officials.

2012 Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:15.564   30
2. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:15.682 + 0.118 29
3. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:15.782 + 0.218 30
4. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:15.842 + 0.278 34
5. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:15.897 + 0.333 28
6. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:15.986 + 0.422 29
7. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 1:16.000 + 0.436 31
8. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 1:16.249 + 0.685 32
9. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:16.264 + 0.700 28
10. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:16.347 + 0.783 12
11. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:16.460 + 0.896 32
12. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:16.619 + 1.055 17
13. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:16.859 + 1.295 26
14. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:16.890 + 1.326 36
15. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:17.014 + 1.450 42
16. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:17.352 + 1.788 28
17. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:17.580 + 2.016 31
18. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:17.935 + 2.371 23
19. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham Renault CT01 1:18.177 + 2.613 16
20. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:18.182 + 2.618 26
21. Bruno Senna BRA Williams Renault FW34 1:18.762 + 3.198 36
22. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:19.354 + 3.790 23
23. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:20.004 + 4.440 21
24. Charles Pic FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:20.067 + 4.503 23

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.