Formula One Canada GP: Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz has to take evasive action to avoid groundhog

Carlos Sainz got more than he bargained for in qualifying on Friday when a groundhog ran out on the Montreal circuit requiring evasive action.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz had to take evasive action at the Canadian Grand Prix on Friday when a groundhog ran out onto the circuit.

Sainz was travelling at high speed during opening practice for Sunday’s race when the animal appeared between turns two and three.

“Whether you want to call it a marmot, a groundhog or a beaver, a cute little brown furry animal was very lucky not to be squashed by a Ferrari during FP1,” said the Sky Sports F1 Twitter feed.

Esteban Ocon had slowed down to avoid a collision but Sainz, just behind the Frenchman, only spotted the groundhog at the last second.

It came close to the Ferrari’s right wheel before Sainz managed to avoid a messy encounter.

Alex Albon in a Williams also had to swerve to avoid the groundhog. Appearances by groundhogs at the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit on Montreal’s Isle Notre Dame, where they are indigenous and protected, have become common on race weekends.

In 2018, French driver Romain Grosjean damaged the nose of his Haas car when he hit one in practice.

“It was a big impact. It was a big animal,” Grosjean said at the time

Red Bull sets the pace at Canadian GP

Daniel Ricciardo finished in the middle of the pack as world champion and series leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull set the pace - completing a double top in Friday’s practice for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old Dutchman, who will start his 150th Formula One race on Sunday, clocked a best lap time of one minute and 14.127 seconds in the second session, having been quickest in the opening period earlier, to beat Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 0.081 seconds.

Carlos Sainz was third-quickest in the second Ferrari ahead of resurgent four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin and two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Alpine.

Pierre Gasly improved to take sixth place for AlphaTauri ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell, Lando Norris and his McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Esteban Ocon was 10th in the second Alpine ahead of a strangely off-colour Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, local hope Lance Stroll in the second Aston Martin and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes.

Ricciardo finished in 10th in the second session and 9th in the first.

Hamilton appeared to be unhappy with the experimental set-up of his car and complained it was “undriveable” on a weekend when the team’s chief technical officer James Allison was at the track to help Mercedes recover from a disappointing start to the season.

Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Canada. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images/AFP
Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Canada. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images/AFP

Blighted by performance problems, notably with “porpoising” and bouncing, the team had chosen to try some radical set-up ideas in a bid to solve their problems.

The session began in dry conditions with an air temperature of 27 degrees as the cars poured out of the pit lane, all bar the two Mercedes drivers quickly joining the fray.

Hamilton and Russell were seen in discussions with their team at the back of the pits while the floor of Hamilton’s car was being changed.

Verstappen almost immediately went top of the times in 1:15.618 to outpace Red Bull team-mate Perez by eight-tenths, an early riposte to the Mexican’s recent claims that he is bidding to win the title this year.

‘STICKING PLASTER’

Running on mediums, the Dutchman was demonstrating his pace before Alonso rose to third, on softs, and Leclerc to second, also on softs, in a busy start to the session.

The earlier opening session had seen notably less evidence of the notorious bouncing that had plagued many teams and drivers at last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but it had clearly not gone away.

Following the FIA’s statement of intent on Thursday to intervene in a bid to remove the phenomenon from the sport, on safety and medical grounds, and to protect the drivers, there had been fevered paddock debate, but little else.

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and McLaren finished ninth. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images/AFP
Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and McLaren finished ninth. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images/AFP

Russell had compared the plans as little more than “using a sticking plaster”, Hamilton had welcomed quick action and Verstappen had rejected the idea of any mid-season change to the rules.

Sainz complained of heavy bouncing in his Ferrari on the straight shortly before team-mate Leclerc improved to within two-tenths of Verstappen before the Dutchman extended his advantage to half a second.

Perez, whose surge of form and results since winning in Monaco has lifted him into contention, was unable to find the speed to match Verstappen and struggled with his set-up.

Having out-qualified him at both the Monaco and Azerbaijan events, the Mexican was hoping to keep the upper hand in pursuit of his second win of the season.

Leclerc, however, appeared to have found his groove and closed within 0.081 seconds of Verstappen’s 1:14.127 lap in his Ferrari, powered by a rebuilt engine following the failure of his unit in Baku.

Verstappen looked to be in supreme form and control.

Told by his team to expect heavy rain arriving, around 10 minutes after the session, he was succinct in replying, “that’s lovely”.

WORLD CHAMP’S ‘SHAME’ CALL OVER F1’S MID-SEASON CHANGES

World champion Max Verstappen on Friday said a mid-season intervention on safety grounds to solve Formula One’s ‘porpoising’ problems was “a bit of a shame.”

The Red Bull driver led the way as drivers and teams reaction to the idea of a potential rule-change was widely, but not entirely, rejected.

The sport’s ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA), on Thursday announced it was intervening with a series of steps on medical grounds to prevent or eliminate ‘porpoising’ and excessive bouncing after several drivers complained bitterly after recent races.

“I think it’s a bit disappointing that again there is a rule change mid-season, I would say,” said the 24-year-old Dutchman.

“It’s not about affecting us more or less than other teams, but it shouldn’t be that one team is complaining a lot and suddenly then they change the ‘regs’ around it.

“I think there are a lot of teams that actually did an amazing job to not have these kind of issues, so it is possible to drive around it.”

His reference to one team suggested he was talking about rivals Mercedes who have struggled badly with their new generation ‘ground effect’ car this year.

“If you raise your car then you won’t have these issues, but you lose performance,” he added, as quoted by Racer.

“But if you can’t design the car properly for that — then that’s your fault. It’s not the regs fault. So, for me it’s a bit of a shame.”

Max Verstappen is disappoint F1 is set to introduce mid-season changes.
Max Verstappen is disappoint F1 is set to introduce mid-season changes.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate George Russell, together with others including Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo and Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren warned of potential long-term physical consequences after suffering acute back pain.

Red Bull are one of the few teams not impacted severely by the phenomenon. Haas team chief Guenther Steiner suggested the mid-season intervention would change the performance ‘pecking order’ of the teams.

“Some of the cars are pretty bad,” he said.

“But there is a solution — just raise the ride height. But then you go slow … and who wants to go slow?

“It’s like, I don’t know how many years ago, in the middle of the season when we had the change of tyres. It’s something like this.

“You change something fundamentally — you could change the pecking order completely again …

“Is that really fair? No. The use of the safety factor … but that could be approached, too – if it is too dangerous, just raise your ride height.”

Contrary to expectations, Russell said he did not think Mercedes wanted a mid-season rule-change.

“I think this is something that everybody thinks Mercedes is sort of pushing for,” he said.

“But from a pure performance side of things, we don’t really want change because if there’s change, you never know if it’s going in your favour or against you.” He added that it was good to see the FIA considering drivers’ health and safety and taking action to protect them.

“It’s something we have spoken about and we want change, moving forward, because what we went through last weekend in Baku is not sustainable.” Ricciardo said he had really suffered in Baku.

“It got worse and worse (his back pain),” he said.

“And I sympathise with everyone that’s had it now because it’s bad. “I genuinely feel rattled. I’m definitely going to help out when people talk about it.”

MCLAREN BOSS SICK OF RICCIARDO ‘BROKEN RECORD’

Todd Balym

Daniel Ricciardo may not have the full support of McLaren CEO Zak Brown, but his team principal has sought to hose down rumours that the Australian Formula One star is on the outer at the team.

After the Monaco Grand Prix Brown hinted that the manufacturer was considering its options saying that Ricciardo hadn’t “met expectations”, and that there are “mechanisms” in place which could lead to a split between team and driver.

However, after an improved showing at Baku team principal Andreas Seidl sought to dispel such speculation.

“I think we all put a bit too much focus on this broken record at the moment,” Seidl told F1 Nation podcast.

“Daniel is very experienced, he’s working hard together with the team in order to deliver results similar to Lando.

“So actually within the team, it’s not such a big topic as it is made at the moment.”

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Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and McLaren has received support from his team principal. Picture: Clive Mason/Getty Images/AFP
Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and McLaren has received support from his team principal. Picture: Clive Mason/Getty Images/AFP

FIA’s HALF-HEARTED SAFETY INTERVENTION

Ricciardo is one of several drivers who voiced serious concerns about the porpoising issues plaguing every car on the F1 grid an issue the sport’s ruling body on Thursday said it has taken medical advice and will intervene on safety grounds, “taking steps” to reduce the ‘porpoising’ that has left many drivers in pain this season.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes struggled to climb from his car due to acute back pain after last Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly warned that in future he may need to “walk with a cane” if this year’s ground effect cars remain unchanged.

The International Motoring Federation (FIA) announced its intentions as teams and drivers arrived in Montreal ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, to be raced on another bumpy, fast and potentially dangerous hybrid street circuit.

While the statement is expected to be welcomed, it is unlikely to satisfy the teams and drivers or result in the overhaul being called for by those that have suffered pain and loss of performance most.

It is also, according to Alpine’s two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, unlikely to produce any progress because the teams will not agree on changes as they all have different views and interests.

“The FIA has decided to intervene following consultation with its doctors in the interests of safety of the drivers,” said the statement.

“In a sport where the competitors are routinely driving at speeds in excess of 300km/h, it is considered that all of a driver’s concentration needs to be focused on that task and that excessive fatigue or pain experienced by a driver could have significant consequences should it result in a loss of concentration.

“In addition, the FIA has concerns in relation to the immediate physical impact on the health of the drivers, a number of whom have reported back pain following recent events.” The phenomenon of ‘porpoising’, when cars rise and fall at high speed due to the designs of their floors, which have been changed drastically under this year’s new technical regulations, has been a problem all season.

But some teams have suffered more than others.

The FIA issued a technical directive advising teams that it will conduct detailed inspections of the designs of their cars’ floors and how much they wear and promised to set a limit on the cars’ vertical movements.

“In the interests of the safety, it is necessary to intervene to require that the teams make the necessary adjustments to reduce or to eliminate this phenomenon,” said the FIA

AUSSIE CAN’T SHAKE F1 GHOSTS

Ricciardo is adamant his self belief has not waned as the Australian Formula One ace looks to build upon last week’s Baku breakthrough with another strong showing in Montreal this weekend.

The McLaren driver’s rocky start to 2022 took a surprising turn for the better last week in Azerbaijan with an eighth place finish despite boasting the slowest car on the grid down the lengthy main straight.

But while Ricciardo can’t escape the reality he is still battling issues with his car, he knows his fortunes can quickly turn as he returns to the scene of his maiden F1 victory in 2014 in Canada.

Daniel Ricciardo returns to the scene of his maiden F1 victory. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty
Daniel Ricciardo returns to the scene of his maiden F1 victory. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty

“Stripping it back to the core, I still know what I can do,” Ricciardo told the F1 website.

“I still believe I have it and it’s not a place of low confidence or low self-esteem where I’m like I don’t think it’s possible.

“I think at this sport, everything operates at such a high level and if something is a little bit out of tune, then it can have a little bit of a carry-on effect. It’s really for me to get back into that place when I’m fully in tune with the car, and then it will come.

“I have felt it before. It could come at any circuit, and I think from then, then it will probably start to build again, some nice rhythm.”

Ricciardo was one of several drivers who voiced serious concerns about the porpoising issues plaguing every car on the grid after a bouncy Grand Prix last week, but there’s still other issues which have given him concerns that seemed to have carried over from a trouble-plagued 2021.

“I mean, even with the changes this year, there is certainly still some things that carry over from last year’s car, and some things the car did last year, it still does this year,” he said.

“So, it’s still trying to get on top of that. But it’s a place where I didn’t really find these issues in the past, that’s why it’s something a little bit new or unfamiliar for me. But as you said, it’s taken longer than I would’ve liked to get the results and consistency week in, week out, but it’s not far off.

Daniel Ricciardo finished eighth in Baku. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty
Daniel Ricciardo finished eighth in Baku. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty

“I don’t want to keep talking about Monza, but there were times last year where I was able to show that I can make it work with this car. And I do think were closer this year than last year funnily enough, so just going to cross the line now with less people in front of me and more behind me and everything is sweet.”

Meanwhile Ricciardo will be boosted by the news that Melbourne had been secured as the Australian Grand Prix home for a further 10 years, taking the deal through to 2035.

In a boost for the open wheeler sport, the Formula 2 and Formula 3 series will also be on the grid next season.

That decision immediately sparked concerns the Supercars, would get punted from Albert Park but discussions early on Thursday confirmed Australia’s premier motorsport series would remain in 2023 and possibly beyond.

“We have a great long-term relationship with the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and Formula 1 and look forward to being a part of the event again,” a Supercars spokesman said.

Originally published as Formula One Canada GP: Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz has to take evasive action to avoid groundhog

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