Leclerc on top as Ferrari rebound after Hamilton puncture

Montreal (AFP) –


Charles Leclerc topped the times ahead of Sebastian Vettel as Ferrari took full advantage of a Lewis Hamilton puncture to lead the way in Friday's eventful second free practice at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Leclerc, bitterly disappointed by a team error in his home Monaco event two weeks ago, clocked a best lap of 1min 12.177sec to outpace the four-time champion by 0.074sec and leave Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes third, adrift by one-tenth.

Hamilton, who endured his setback after smacking a wall, wound up in sixth place behind Carlos Sainz of McLaren and Kevin Magnussen of Haas.

The defending five-time champion completed only eight laps and missed more than an hour of the session, a possibly vital absence in terms of collecting data, notably on tyre degradation, at the challenging Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

Sensing an opportunity, Ferrari grabbed a chance to show the power of their engines and leave Mercedes facing serious problems for the first time this year after a record run of six wins since the start of the season.

Sergio Perez was seventh for the Canadian-owned Racing Point team ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and his Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg and local hopeful Lance Stroll in the second Racing Point car.

Max Verstappen was 13th behind his Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly after he had also had an untimely brush with the walls.

On a warm afternoon, the air temperature was 25 degrees Celsius and the track was 48 ?- near-perfect conditions.

- Hard impact -

After their dominance in the morning, it was no surprise to see Mercedes, powered by a new engine, back on top with championship leader Hamilton leading the way ahead of Bottas.

But the calm air of the Silver Arrows was upset after 25 minutes when Hamilton smacked his right rear wheel against the wall at the exit of Turn Nine, the impact puncturing his tyre.

"Sorry about that," he told the team by radio after nursing his car back to the pits. His brevity acknowledged the severity of the crash before he climbed out to leave his crew to change the rear section. His session was over.

Given that encouragement, Bottas switched to soft tyres to go top before Vettel, and then Leclerc, took over for Ferrari, the three separated by one-tenth. Sainz, with a bold lap, was three-tenths adrift in fourth.

By then, Verstappen had slapped his Red Bull against the so-called 'wall of champions' and withdrawn to the pits while many drivers were grumbling about poor tyre wear. "The rears are melting away," said Vettel.

Severe degradation also affected both Haas drivers, Leclerc and Hulkenberg and with temperatures set to rise, a chaotic race seems in prospect.