P3: Hamilton pulls clear

Lewis Hamilton pulled clear of Nico Rosberg in Practice Three at the Canadian GP to underline his status as favourite for pole position later on Saturday.

As a three-time polesitter and race victor in Montreal, Hamilton is by far the most successful driver in the current field at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and his P3 benchmark of 1:15.610 was unusually half a second faster than Rosberg, the championship leader, could manage in the sister Mercedes. This came despite brake concerns developing on the Briton's W05.

Even more unusually, however, was the fact that neither Mercedes driver managed to improve their soft-tyre times in the late runs on the theoretically quicker supersoft rubber, a quirk which allowed the impressive Williams of Felipe Massa to split them on the timesheet.

Mercedes-powered Williams have targeted this weekend as a chance to challenge for a podium position given the circuit's layout rewards engine performance and Massa's speed on both tyre compounds bodes well for qualifying.

Further back, little separated Ferrari and Red Bull once more, with fifth-placed Daniel Ricciardo sandwiched by Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. But World Champion Sebastian Vettel ended up tenth following delays caused by a problematic brake pedal.

Valtteri Bottas was seventh in the second Williams, six tenths back on Massa but ahead of Toro Rosso pair Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Esteban Gutierrez was the only driver to crash in the session after losing his Sauber's back end under braking for the Turn Three chicane, a mistake which spun the C33 around into the outside wall and did substantial damage to its left-rear.

However, three drivers - Marcus Ericsson, Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez - all spun later round the lap at Turn Eight after drifting wide on the brakes, underlining the ever-challenging nature of the semi-permanent circuit.