Lewis Hamilton picked up the momentum heading into this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix by setting the fastest time on Friday.
The Briton’s 1:16.118 saw him just under two tenths clear of his team-mate Nico Rosberg as the Mercedes drivers once again established themselves at the head of the field.
Despite the concerns of falling back due to the emphasis on power in Montreal, it was Sebastian Vettel who was third for Red Bull albeit the German did post his time a little later in the afternoon when track conditions were better.
His team-mate Daniel Ricciardo had a difficult day in the second Red Bull, the Australian was given a reprimand for a dangerous manoeuvre on Pastor Maldonado entering the pits in the morning before finding himself down in 12th in the afternoon a second slower than Vettel and 1.5 seconds behind the leading Silver Arrows.
In another unexpected consistency with the rest of the season, Ferrari remained the third best team as Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso ended the day fourth and fifth respectively, but then the Mercedes customer teams came in as the usual midfield scrap developed.
Williams appeared much more competitive with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas leading the McLarens, but Force India had a disappointing day given the high expectations, with both cars outside the top 10 and not looking particularly fast.
The morning session was characterised by the usual dusty track always seen in Montreal on the first day of running but with the new hybrid power units and lower downforce, straight line speeds were also higher than in previous years and indeed the day was characterised by all the drivers cutting a chicane or two and running wide at the hairpin.
As the teams eased into the weekend, it was Alonso who was quickest from the two Mercedes and that gave the first indication that perhaps the predictions of a Mercedes powerfest may have been too premature.
The star of Monaco quickly came back to earth as Jules Bianchi had a difficult day in the Marussia. The Frenchman achieved 15 laps in the morning before becoming the first and only man to make damaging contact with the wall, exiting turn four before power unit troubles kept him in the garage in the afternoon.
In the battle between the two Mercedes, Hamilton and Rosberg really matched each other blow for blow throughout. The two drivers were consistently receiving feedback on who was gaining or losing time where as each look to find where they can get an advantage over the other.
By day’s end, it appeared much of Hamilton’s small lead was down to a more calm approach to the infamous last chicane. In a reversal from the usually perceived styles, Rosberg’s decision to use more kerb and therefore loosen the rear end seemed to be costing him the vital tenth or two as elsewhere they were virtually identical.
Other stories to watch heading into the weekend include if Ricciardo can join a seemingly happier Vettel as the ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes and whether too Ferrari can join their similarly under-powered rival in staying ahead of the Mercedes customer teams.
Toro Rosso are a good bet for points after a steady Friday, though Daniil Kvyat was blighted by mechanical problems. The traditionally slippery STR8 is among the fastest in the speed traps despite the Renault power unit, which means they can overtake other cars around them whereas the struggling Lotus and slow Red Bull may not.
Sauber remain in trouble with the car again looking a handful over the kerbs in Montreal, while after the joy of Monaco, Friday was a return to reality for Marussia as Caterham’s recent run as the undisputed slowest team also continued.
There was plenty to take from a busy Friday but the main picture remained the same as the Hamilton vs. Rosberg battle resumed.
Currently, it appears the largely predicted return to the top for Lewis is on the cards but as we know from past experience in Montreal, it's far from over yet.
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