Verstappen's day ends in smoke as Alonso leads first day of Canadian F1 Grand Prix practice

MONTREAL — Just a short time before the first free practice session was set to begin, the big news of the day at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Notre Dame Island in Montreal, Quebec was the thunder, lightning and rain that briefly turned to hail before settling on a strong downpour that drenched the track. By the end of FP2, however, the paddock’s main source of conversation was Max Verstappen’s early exit in his smoky Red Bull. Next on the list of hot topics was the strong performance of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, who finished the day with the fastest lap.

Verstappen’s return to the garage took place just four laps into the second session after a run on dry tires. Red Bull said the smoke was caused by a battery issue.

“Unfortunately FP1 was very affected by the weather and we also did not get many laps out of FP2. There was a suspected electrical issue so the Team told me to box. They are investigating what the issue is in the garage now and I’m sure we will get to the bottom of it,” Verstappen said. “It is not ideal as I would have liked to have driven a few more laps and it is not how I would have liked to have finished the session. But now we just need to understand more about what happened and the implications that it will have for this weekend.”

Red Bull motorsport director Helmut Marko later added in an interview with, “The problem is on the engine side. We have to take the engine out now to find the exact reason, but it is on the electric part of the engine.”

Alonso had a fast lap of 1 minute, 15.810 seconds. Mercedes driver George Russell was second at 1:16.273, and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, the lone Canadian in field, followed at 1:16.464.

“It was a tricky Friday for everyone,” Alonso said. “But it could be like this for qualifying and the race, so it’s still very useful information. The right decision can gain you five seconds, wrong decision and you’re out of the race.”

f1 grand prix of canada practice session

Earlier, McLaren’s Lando Norris had a lap at 1:24.435 after the downpour delayed the first practice. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was second, followed by teammate Charles Leclerc.

Lightning, heavy rain and hail rolled through a little more than an hour before the practice start time. Sauber driver Valtteri Bottas attempted to form a snowball out of the large pieces of hail that filled the paddock.

“Today was definitely an odd one,” seven-time season champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes said. “It was literally summer this morning, then it rained hailstone. I can’t even remember the last time I saw hailstone but they were huge. Then sunny again, really hot and humid, and then raining again.”

f1 grand prix of canada practice 1

Event organizers asked spectators to leave the grandstands amid the inclement weather while police shut down the bridges accessing Notre Dame Island.

The storm subsided roughly 15 minutes before the expected start time and the site was reopened to fans. The drivers didn’t hit the wet track until 22 minutes into the session as groundcrews worked to clear the water, but conditions remained less than ideal.

Sauber driver Zhou Guanyu triggered a red flag five minutes later when he aqua-planed and clipped the wall at Turn 5 before grinding to a halt. Several other drivers, including Bottas and Stroll, slid off course and into the grass during the session.

More rain is expected through the weekend. Qualifying is Saturday for the race Sunday.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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