Norris tops shortened Canadian GP FP1 after dramatic hailstorm

Lando Norris was fastest in a shortened first practice session at the Canadian Grand Prix that was too wet to start on time but ended with drivers on slick tires.

Norris headed Ferrari pair Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, with Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Oscar Piastri rounding out the top six in a session when the highest lap count was 11 and three drivers — Zhou Guanyu, Jack Doohan and Alex Albon — failed to set a time.

The session was heavily impacted by the weather, after a thunderstorm hit the circuit around 90 minutes before the start of FP1. That continued for around half an hour and brought with it torrential rain and hailstones, leading to flooding around the track.


Routes into the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve were briefly closed as fans had to take shelter, but work soon began to try and clear the standing water and prepare the track for running as quickly as possible. The clock started at 1:30pm as scheduled but the pit exit remained closed while vehicles and track workers were pumping away the largest areas of flooding, with the session effectively beginning when race control opened the pit exit 21 minutes into the allotted hour.

Lewis Hamilton was first to check out the conditions. Glenn Dunbar/Motorsport Images

Hamilton was first out on track but the majority of cars soon started exploring the conditions after a band of rain had cleared and the sun started to come out. Intermediates were immediately in use despite large puddles in places, but the risk of aquaplaning was displayed when Zhou lost the rear of his car accelerating towards Turn 5, hitting the wall on the outside of the track before he could regain control.

The damage to the left-hand side of the car meant Zhou had to stop at Turn 6 and brought out a red flag, leading to a five-minute interruption to running at the halfway point in the session while his car was cleared.

Soon after the session resumed, the track was then starting to dry too much on the racing line for intermediate tires but featuring too much standing water patches for slicks, leading to a quiet spell until the final five minutes where the sun had dried the track out enough for Leclerc to make the first move on softs. He was soon followed by the rest of the field, with a few incidents resulting.

The most dramatic was a spin for Valtteri Bottas at Turn 8, the Stake Sauber driver losing the rear on entry and sliding through the waterlogged grass sideways. The same corner also caught out Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Logan Sargeant and Lance Stroll, although they were all able to keep their cars pointing in a straight line.

Norris managed to go fastest with a clear lap on the checkered flag, but Leclerc looked set to comfortably beat it as it became a matter of timing and track position. Unfortunately for the Monaco Grand Prix winner, he came across a line of traffic on the approach to the final chicane, and with just one dry line he was unable to pass to complete his lap.

It made for a frustrating first session for Doohan in particular, who did not complete a timed lap on his FP1 appearance in place of Esteban Ocon. The Frenchman will be back in his Alpine for FP2 later this afternoon, for which  the weather forecast appears more settled.

Story originally appeared on Racer