Sebastian Vettel took his 54th career pole position, beating Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen in a tight qualifying session the Canadian Grand Prix that saw the top three drivers separated by less than two tenths of a second.
Ferrari set the pace in the opening session with Vettel going quickest. The German swapped times with team-mate Kimi Räikkönen before he settled into P1 with a lap of 1:11.710. Hamilton slotted into third despite a nervous moment at, with the Briton finishing just over a tenth of a second behind Vettel. His Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished the session fifth ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
At the bottom of the order, only four drivers from the session would drop out after Haas’ Romain Grosjean exited the session right at the start. The Frenchman left his team’s garage soon after the green light had gone on to signal the start of Q1. But as he applied some power in pit lane, a huge plume of smoke erupted from the rear of his car and he was immediately told to stop his car. He would play no further part in the session.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson hit trouble as well early on, with the Swede smacking the wall on the exit of Turn 9 and damaging the car. He thus sank to the bottom of the order as the session developed.
Ahead of the final runs Fernando Alonso slipped into the drop zone in P16 but the McLaren driver found more pace in his final run and jumped to P14 ahead of team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne. That meant that Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly was eliminated in P16 ahead of Williams’ Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin, with Ericsson in P19. Gasly’s prospects had been hurt by having to revert to an older spec Honda engine ahead of the session after a problem was detected on his upgrade power unit in FP3.
At the start of Q2 both Mercedes and Ferrari opted to run with ultrasoft tyres at the start and Valtteri Bottas set the initial pace with a time of 1:11.514. The put him ahead of Vettel and Räikkönen. Hamilton sat behind after locking up on his lap. Verstappen though took hypersofts and set the quickest time of the first runs with a lap of 1:11.472.
In the second runs the Mercedes and Ferraris went back out on hypersofts. Vettel, though, abandoned his lap, but not due to wanting to settle on ultrasofts. The German felt he was severely hampered by drivers on slower laps and so steered back to the garage. In the end all the Ferrari and Mercedes settled on their ultrasoft times.
Ricciardo, who had been off the pace of his team-mate throughout practice, suddenly seemed to find a sweet spot with his RB14 and on his second run he jumped ahead of Verstappen to claim top spot with a lap of 1:11.434. Verstappen settled on his opening time and took P2.
Eliminated at this stage were Haas’ Kevin Magnussen who finished in P11 ahead of Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and the McLarens of Alonso and Vandoorne.
In the first runs of Q3 Hamilton was first onto the timesheet with a time of 1:11.227, but team-mate BOT blasted past that with a good lap of 1:10.857. Räikkönen then slotted into P2 with a lap of 1:11.095.
Vettel, though, went even quicker and he took provision pole with a time of 1:10.776. Verstappen then jumped ahead of Hamilton to sit fourth at the end of the first runs, just 0.001s behind Räikkönen.
And there was no halting the German in the final runs. Räikkönen was the first to crack, running wide in the first sector and ruining his chances. Hamilton then made a mistake at the hairpin to exclude himself from the battle for pole. And when Bottas failed to improve Vettel’s 54th pole position was secure.
Max Verstappen might have had a say in it after setting the quickest first sector time of the session on his final run. But the Red Bull driver lost time in the following two sector and ended the third ahead of Hamilton, Räikkönen and Ricciardo. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was seventh ahead of Force India’s Esteban Ocon, the second Renault of Carlos Sainz and the second Force India of Sergio Pérez.
2018 Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:10.764
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:10.857 0.093
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:10.937 0.173
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:10.996 0.232
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:11.095 0.331
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:11.116 0.352
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:11.973 1.209
8 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:12.084 1.320
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:12.168 1.404
10 Sergio Perez Force India 1:12.671 1.907
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:12.606 1.842
12 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:12.635 1.871
13 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:12.661 1.897
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:12.856 2.092
15 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:12.865 2.101
16 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:13.047 2.283
17 Lance Stroll Williams 1:13.590 2.826
18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1:13.643 2.879
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:14.593 3.829|
20 Romain Grosjean Haas