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Lewis Hamilton tops timesheets as Mercedes show signs of more progress in Canada

Lewis Hamilton set the pace ahead of qualifying in Montreal (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
Lewis Hamilton set the pace ahead of qualifying in Montreal (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in final practice ahead of qualifying at the Canadian Grand Prix as Mercedes showed further signs of improvement.

The seven-time world champion said on Thursday he felt a first podium of the season was not far away after signs of progress in Monaco last time out.

And in the first dry session of the weekend on Montreal’s Ile Notre-Dame, Hamilton finished over three tenths clear of Max Verstappen with his Mercedes team-mate George Russell in third.

For the second day running Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu found himself in the barriers, bringing out a red flag five minutes into the session when he spun at the exit of turn one.

Verstappen’s run in FP2 on Friday was cut short by smoke pouring out the back of his car, with Red Bull confirming they changed the engine as a precaution.

The championship leader was not entirely happy as he hit the track again on Saturday.

“This whole weekend already the steering is super weird for me,” the three-time world champion said over the team radio after taking to the escape road at the final chicane.

Verstappen and Williams’ Alex Albon both survived a brush with Canada’s famed ‘wall of champions’.

Ferrari came into the weekend as favourites for victory with many observers but Monaco winner Charles Leclerc was only 10th with team-mate Carlos Sainz 12th.

“We are extremely slow,” Leclerc said over the radio.

McLaren pair Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris were fifth and seventh respectively.

Friday’s two practice sessions were disrupted by rain at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso topping the second running after Norris had gone fastest in the first.

Rain is forecast to possibly be a factor in qualifying later on Saturday and Sunday’s race.

Qualifying gets under way at 1600 local time (2100 BST).