MONTREAL (Reuters) - Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, under pressure to clean up his act after a string of crashes and costly errors, kept his nose clean on Friday, clocking the fastest time in both free practice sessions for the Canadian Grand Prix.
Verstappen, who started from the rear of the grid at the Monaco Grand Prix after a crash in final practice, offered the promise of something much better in Montreal, taking full advantage of an upgraded power unit to put down two polished performances on the 2.7 mile (4.34 km) sun-splashed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
The young Dutchman clocked the best time of the day in the afternoon session, one minute, 12.198 seconds, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull team mate and Monaco Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo.
“Today was a good day, the car is working very well. We did not really change a lot initially and that’s always a good sign and gives you hope,” said Verstappen. “I think we looked quite competitive and it was a positive start to the weekend.
“So far everything went well and I have a good feeling.”
Mercedes’ championship leader Lewis Hamilton, chasing a record equalling seventh Canadian Grand Prix win, was fourth best ahead of his Ferrari championship rival Sebastian Vettel and team mate Valtteri Bottas.
If Hamilton is to secure what would be a record seventh pole in Canada on Saturday the Briton will have to squeeze more out an engine that is at the end of its life, running in a seventh race while going against his Red Bull and Ferrari rivals who will have upgraded power units.
“It’s such a fun track to drive and we didn’t have any problems, I really enjoyed it,” said Hamilton, who claimed his first career Grand Prix victory in Montreal and has won the last three straight races on the island circuit. “Straight out of the box today I think we started right with the car set-up.”
After a miserable start to the season Romain Grosjean finally gave his Haas F1 Team a reason to smile, clocking the seventh best time.
Verstappen was also able to crack a smile at the end of the day having answered his critics with a smooth error-free effort to not only top a practice session for the first time this season, but do it twice.
Formula One’s youngest race winner arrived in Montreal under attack from all corners, after an incident-filled start to the season that has seen the 20-year-old reach the podium once in six races while Ricciardo has recorded a pair of wins.
It has been a campaign filled with miscues.
He retired in Azerbaijan after a collision with Ricciardo and in China he tangled with Hamilton and Vettel, finishing fifth after a 10-second penalty demoted him from fourth, while Ricciardo won the race.
Before that, he collided with Hamilton in Bahrain and retired while he had a 360-degree spin in Australia and finished sixth after starting fourth.
Editing by Toby Davis