Haas driver Kevin Magnussen of Denmark comes through the hairpin during the first practice session at the Canadian Grand Prix Friday, in Montreal. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Verstappen quickest; Canadians Stroll and Latifi on track in Canada GP practice

MONTREAL — Max Verstappen looked in too good of a mood to head butt anyone.

The Red Bull driver turned in the quickest laps in both practice runs at the Canadian Grand Prix on Friday, when Lance Stroll of Montreal and Nicholas Latifi of Toronto gave fans a rare look at two Canadians on the track at once.

A day Earlier, Verstappen was so fed up with questions over his incident-filled season that he vowed to head butt the next person to ask him about his frequent crashes. Then he turned in the leading performance in two 90-minute practice sessions at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

“It’s a positive start to the weekend,” the Dutchman said. “The car was working really well.”

Verstappen had the day’s quickest lap in the afternoon session of one minute 12.198 seconds on the 4.361-kilometre track after leading the morning session at 1:13.302. He edged Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari at 1:12.320.

Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo also had an interesting day. Coming off a victory two weeks ago at Monaco, the Australian lost power early in the afternoon and spent more than an hour in the garage before returning to post the third-quickest time of 1:12.603 for Red Bull.

But he is well aware that practice sessions are for working on the car’s set-up, adjustments and performance and Red Bull will still have its hands full chasing the Formula One leaders — Mercedes and Ferrari.

Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton, who was fourth at 1:12.777, has won the Canadian Grand Prix six times, including the last three, and needs one more win to equal Michael Schumacher for the race record.

“I would say Merc are going to be the favourites” said Ricciardo. “They were quicker on the harder tire for the moment, but we’ll be all right.”

Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari was fifth at 1:12.985 with Valtteri Bottas’s Mercedes sixth in 1:13.061.

There is a third practice session plus qualifying on Saturday, with the race on Sunday afternoon.

Stroll, in his second season with Williams, posted the 19th fastest time of 1:14.703, outpacing only his Russian teammate Sergey Sirotkin.

Latifi, the Force India reserve driver, ran only in the first of two 90-minute practice sessions before handing the pink car back to regular driver Sergio Perez of Mexico. His best lap was the slowest in the field at 1:17.145, but he was there just to get the feel of an F1 car and help the team test it on two types of tires.

Latifi ran 28 laps. Like many drivers, he had a brief slip off the track 50 minutes in at a chicane on the back side of the course.

“It was a special feeling pulling out of pit lane — I had a big smile on my face,” the 22-year-old said. “It was especially nice on my last lap to see all the Canadian flags waving to me.

“Overall I was happy with the session. The main thing was to get through the program, which we did. I kept it off the walls, which isn’t easy to do on this track.”

Stroll touched a wall in the morning session, forcing a stop for repairs, but was back out for a full run in the afternoon.

“A lot of laps, good information that’s been absorbed,” the 19-year-old said. “Now we just have to break it down and get it in the best position for (qualifying).”

Stroll is the first Canadian in F1 since 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve of St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que., left the series in 2006. Latifi has a shot at being the next if he gets enough points in the F2 series to earn his superlicence.

“It’s good for Canada,” said Stroll. “I’m happy for Canada that we participate in this sport. It would be great to see Canada continue to expand in the sport.”

The session stopped for three minutes after Carlos Sainz’s Renault hit a barrier and spun out, then yellow flags came out when Stoffel Vandoorne broke his suspension after his McLaren touched a wall, ending his afternoon.

Latifi was named reserve driver by Force India this season after holding a similar position with Renault. He attended the Canadian Grand Prix the last two years without getting a chance to drive.

He has raced in the F2 series the last two seasons and currently sits 10th in F2 standings after eight races this year, including a third-place finish at Baku, Azerbaijan. He needs to finish in the top five to earn enough points for his F1 superlicence.

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