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Alonso ups the ante in second session

NEWS STORY
07/06/2013

Mat Coch writes:

Fernando Alonso headed the pack after second practice in Canada, the Ferrari driver narrowly holding off Lewis Hamilton with Romain Grosjean loitering not too far back, appearing to have bounced back after a difficult Monaco Grand Prix weekend.

The morning session was a difficult one to read. Affected by the weather it was only in the final moments of the ninety minute session that teams had a chance to get on to slick tyres, though the slippery circuit quickly punished those who were too aggressive.

It made Paul di Resta's fastest time almost impossible to put into context against those around him; the Scot set a final flying lap when the circuit was at its best at the very end of the session. Mark Webber had been fast too, though mistimed the start of his last lap, the chequered flag beating the Australian by a matter of seconds.

By the time the second session began the circuit was dry, though the weather remained cool. The odd wet patch remained on the slither of tarmac winding its way around the island in the middle of the St Lawrence River, though gone were the puddles and narrow dry line which punctuated first practice.

Esteban Gutierrez got things underway, as has become tradition in practice sessions of late, as cars poured out of the pits the moment the lights turned green. Dry conditions gave many an opportunity to perform a practice start at pit exit, drivers testing clutch bite point and gathering data useful for the start of the race on Sunday.

Pastor Maldonado was among those out on circuit early, the Venezuelan headed nose first in to the barrier at Turn 3 and damaging his Williams in opening practice. Interestingly with yellow flags out Mark Webber had set his best sector time through that part of the circuit, and had been subsequently called to the stewards with a grid penalty a possibility, though no decision had been made as the green flag fell to start the session.

With the exception of Caterham's Giedo van der Garde all drivers were using the development Medium compound Pirelli. The unmarked tyre features a different construction designed to prevent the delamination which has affected a number of tyres throughout the year to date. For the teams it was a free set of tyres on which to go testing.

Nico Rosberg was the initial pace setter with a 1:17.332, a time soon bettered by di Resta and Kimi Raikkonen, who set a 1:16.979. Lotus' pace was reinforced by Romain Grosjean who set an almost identical time to his teammate moments before Webber went half a second faster than everyone.

The early part of the session was spent catching up on time lost to the weather during the opening session; drivers banking laps to familiarise themselves with the Gilles Villeneuve circuit. Lewis Hamilton dipped two wheels off the circuit at the same point that Maldonado had crashed in the morning session, though he managed to gather his Mercedes together.

Ten minutes into the session everyone had been out, just Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel having not set a time though both had completed installation laps at least. While on track replays showed a mistake from Vettel at Turn 1, the German running off track through the mud on the outside of the circuit, it was a long way from anything solid enough to do any damage to the world champion’s ego.

Times were some five seconds faster than they'd been in the morning session, di Resta the fastest car on track after fifteen minutes, followed four tenths further back by Felipe Massa.

Unhappy with second Massa soon went fastest, scraping the concrete wall on the outside of Turn 4 on his way to a lap seven-tenths faster than his own previous best. A 1:16.001 was his reward.

Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso was also fast, and was on target for the fastest lap of the session before a wild moment in the final chicane almost ended his days' work early. The Spaniard, arms filled with opposite lock, powered his way through the corner to narrowly miss the Wall of Champions.

Mark Webber spun at Turn 6 after twenty-five minutes, appearing to lose the rear of the car under braking; perhaps due to KERS harvesting or a differential setting as the clumsy pirouette appeared more than a simple driving error, though a tarmac run off area allowed the Australian to carry on without harm. Webber was third fastest at the time on a 1:16.513 while teammate Vettel was scarcely a tenth of a second slower.

The circuit remained busy, teams seemingly focussed on longer run set up work, lap times having slowed from those set during the early part of the session. That was until Lewis Hamilton got out on track, the Mercedes driver setting fastest sectors in the first two thirds of the circuit, and a personal best final sector, to go three-tenths faster than anyone else.

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