Alpine driver Fernando Alonso braved the rain and cool weather to set the fastest time in the third free practice session of the Canadian Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon.
Alonso set a time of one minute 33,836 seconds on the Gilles Villeneuve circuit, shaving 53 thousandths of a second off the time set by Alpha Tauri driver Pierre Gasly. Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel was third fastest, two thousandths of a second slower.
Quebec’s Lance Stroll was 13th, 1,695 seconds behind the 40-year-old Spaniard. Toronto’s Nicholas Latifi was 19th.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton again had problems with his Mercedes and finished 15th.
However, these results should be taken with a grain of salt.
Most drivers were cautious during the session, as a light rain continued to fall relentlessly on the track, making it relatively slippery.
Teams tried out different set-ups, juggling rain and intermediate tires in search of the best compromise. However, some were trapped in the corners, leading to brief visits off track.
Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Kevin Magnussen (Haas) had a bit more of a scare than the others, as their cars came to a halt just a few paces from a safety barrier at the exit of the Senna ‘S’s, after long slides at the end of the session.
Weather conditions are expected to improve in time for the start of qualifying, scheduled for 4 pm, but Mother Nature could have some surprises in store.
One thing is certain, however, Charles Leclerc will not be starting from the front of the grid for the race on Sunday.
His team, Ferrari, has gone back on its decision to replace certain components of the car’s engine, preferring to replace it completely. As a result, the Monegasque driver will start at the back of the field, alongside Alpha Tauri driver Yuki Tsunoda, who has been punished for the same reasons.
Leclerc, who did not record a time in the third free practice session, will not be able to add to his impressive record of six pole positions this season.
Verstappen and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez have shared the other two top positions this season.
The Dutchman, the reigning world champion, dominated the first two free practice sessions on Friday.
Verstappen leads the overall standings with 150 points, 21 more than his teammate Perez. Leclerc follows in third place on 116, while all other drivers on the grid are under 100 points.
Hamilton is the defending Canadian Grand Prix champion. The Montreal event was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 18, 2022.