MONTREAL — Amid his longest stretch without a race win in his Formula One career, Lewis Hamilton isn't feeling the pressure.
Hamilton, a seven-time world champion with a record 103 victories, last topped the podium in December 2021 in Saudi Arabia. He enters Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix on the heels of a second-place finish in Spain earlier this month.
"I don't feel any weight," said the Mercedes driver, who didn't win a race last season for the first time in his career. "We've gone through a tough patch and we're on that (upswing).
"Of course we've not been first place, but there have been many wins in the steps that we've taken in the last race."
Hamilton, fourth in the drivers' standings, carries that momentum into this weekend. And he's no stranger to having success in Montreal.
The 38-year-old has seven wins at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, tied with Michael Schumacher for the most all-time, and said it's always special to race in the city.
"It's one of the drivers' favourite circuits for sure," he said. "It's the city, it's the energy, I was asking one of the Canadians recently: 'Is the city the same (when) we're not there?' The energy is always great. Got a great, amazing crowd since the beginning.
"The track is like, you've got these long, long straights but it's still like a go-kart track."
Bolstered by upgrades, Hamilton and teammate George Russell hit the podium in Spain as Mercedes overtook Aston Martin for second in the constructors' standings.
The Montreal track has a different style with slower corners, curbs and a bumpier surface.
That didn't seem to matter during practice on Friday, as Hamilton and Russell placed first and second in a second session that came under heavy rain in the final minutes.
Hamilton's fastest lap was one minute 13.718 seconds.
Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was third and Montreal-born Lance Stroll was ninth for Aston Martin.
The first practice session lasted under 10 minutes after it was cut short due to local security camera issues around the circuit. The FIA announced the cameras were not synced correctly and the session could not resume for safety reasons.
The session had already been delayed once before when Alpine driver Pierre Gasly drew a red flag after his car stalled from a driveshaft problem just a few turns in.
Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas finished with the fastest lap of the first practice, producing a lap of 1:18.728. As a result of the delay, the second practice was extended 30 minutes.
Another practice goes Saturday before qualifying, which determines the starting order for Sunday's race — one that Red Bull driver and F1 leader Max Verstappen is heavily favoured to win.
Hamilton hasn't renewed his contract for next season, saying "it'll get done when it's done," but adding he and the team are "chipping away" at the gap between Mercedes and Red Bull.
He hopes he's not done building on his record number of wins.
"We have that North Star, we know where we need to go," he said. "We don't know everything of how to get there but we know that together we can get there.
"I hope we get to have some, at least within the last period of time in my career, I hope we get to have some more close racing."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2023.
Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press