Crashes highlight GP practice

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:39 PM ET

MONTREAL -- If Formula One teams can't figure out how to race around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve without crashing Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix could be a very long race.

In the first two free practices on Friday no less than four race cars were involved in wrecks of varying degrees of seriousness along the 4.361 km Ill Notre Dame track.

The one that got the most attention was reigning F-1 champion Sebastian Vettel who lost control of his Red Bull Renault in the final corner of the 14-turn road course during the morning session.

"I hit the kerb, slid off the track and hit the wall. I'm fine," he said. "By the time I hit the wall I had low speed so the crash was quite mild.

"There wasn't much damage so we could fix the car and got it back out."

He said the track was very rough and that might have been the reason for so many crashes.

"It's quite rough with the kerbs and chicanes," Vettel said.

The 23-year-old German wasn't about to use that as an excuse for his wreck or for not thinking he had a good chance to win on Sunday.

"The target is to win," he said. "But it is a long weekend and a lot of things can happen. It is important to finish and to do your best."

Vettel said the lost time on the track worried him especially after seeing how fast the Ferraris and McLarens looked in the second free practice.

"McLaren and Ferrari look strong," he said.

Vettel, however, was able to rebound during the afternoon practice producing the second fastest time of the day at one minute, 15.476 seconds.

Only Alonso Fernando was faster at 1:15.107 in his Ferrari, with teammate Filipe Massa third fastest at 1:15.601.

Defending Canadian GP champion Lewis Hamilton was fourth at 1:15.997 in a McLaren with teammate Jenson Button rounding out the top five at 1:15.989.

Alonso said in spite of his fast time he thinks Vettel and Red Bull should be favoured to win the pole in Saturday's qualifying rounds.

"We also topped the practice in Monaco and then in qualifying Vettel was one second quicker than us -- we know tomorrow is the day to put everything into it and we know Red Bull will be very strong and probably the favourite," he said.

As for the series of wrecks on Friday Alonso dismissed any fear those incidents would repeat themselves on Sunday during the Grand Prix.

"This is Canada -- any little mistake puts you in the wall," he said.

In other F-1 news Friday, the embattled Bahrain Grand Prix has been removed from the 2011 calendar.

The race had originally been set for March this season but political unrest in the desert kingdom forced series boss Bernie Ecclestone to postpone it.

Then last week Ecclestone said the race would be rescheduled for Oct. 30, a move both drivers and team owners were against.

With the political unrest in Bahrain not likely to be settled any time soon, Ecclestone agreed to take it off the schedule completely.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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