Force India team leads practice

THE NEWS

Friday’s practice was anything but a dry run for this weekend’s Formula One Canadian Grand Prix.

The early practice at the Montreal track showed the potential impact of a damp track on the field. Force India’s Paul Di Resta posted the fastest lap on an initially wet track in the opening session. Di Resta completed the 2-mile Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 1 minute 21.020 seconds, which was relatively slow because of the conditions. Jenson Button of McLaren was second in 1:21.108, and Romain Grosjean third in Lotus at 1:21.258.

A drier line was established late in the session, setting up a frantic final laps with most cars on track. Several tried out Pirelli’s new prototype tires, but only for a few laps.

WHAT IT MEANS

More than one might imagine, actually, at least for Sunday’s race. After all, conditions then, according to various weather reports, will be warmer but still damp with a 40 percent chance of rain.

That’s bad news for a lot of top contenders. If intermittent rain creates the same conditions seen in Friday’s practice, when teams got better on a damp as opposed to wet track, some expected contenders could find nothing but disappointment in Montreal. Just look how they fared early: Nico Rosberg, gunning for a fourth straight pole position, was seventh, recent winner Fernando Alonso was fourth, championship leader Sebastian Vettel was ninth and his teammate Mark 10th. Defending champion Lewis Hamilton could muster nothing better than 16th.

Others had even more trouble with the conditions: Pastor Maldonado hit a wall late and damaged his front wing. Jules Bianca stopped on a slick road after 41 minutes. Several others, including Button and Hamilton, had minor slides but kept going. Will they face the same issues on Sunday?

WHAT THEY SAID

Prior to getting on the track, Rosberg was confident a strong qualifying effort was in his future.

“It’s a track I like, definitely. I enjoy this track,” he said. “I’m confident coming here and qualifying is going to be exciting and important also, but a little bit less important at this track maybe, because you can overtake and tire degradation is going to be an issue, so there’s going to be a lot happening in the race.

“But anyway, as in all tracks, even with this statistic or no statistics, it’s always a big challenge to try and be ahead of Lewis in qualifying because he’s obviously very, very quick.”

NUMBERS GAME

6: Top 10s by both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in six races.

21: Vettel’s points lead over Raikkonen.