Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel will start the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix from pole position. He pipped Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas by less than a tenth of a second in a hard-fought qualifying session.
After topping all of the weekend's free practice sessions, Red Bull's Max Verstappen had to settle for third place on the grid. A number of uncharacteristic lock-ups meant that Lewis Hamilton could only manage fourth place for one of his strongest events.
Canadian Grand Prix - Qualifying times
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:12.008s||1:11.472s||1:11.096s|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:12.459s||1:11.434s||1:11.281s|
|8||Esteban Ocon||Force India||1:12.577s||1:12.141s||1:12.084s|
|10||Sergio Pérez||Force India||1:12.702s||1:12.395s||1:12.671s|
|12||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||1:12.587s||1:12.635s|
|16||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||1:13.047s|
The Canadian climate continued to treat race fans to blue skies and sunshine over the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Saturday. There was no risk of rain and temperatures climbed nicely into the 70Fs as the afternoon wore on, albeit with a stiff breeze blowing over the Ile Notre-Dame.
Q1: Ferrari fastest, but Grosjean's hopes go up in smoke
The first round started with a spectacular cloud of smoke billowing down pit lane. The culprit was Romain Grosjean's Haas, and the team ordered him to stop immediately. Once the VF-18 was pushed back into the garage, other drivers were able to head out on track on hypersoft tyres, with Sebastian Vettel setting the early benchmark of 1:12.110s in the Ferrari.
Vettel and his team mate Kimi Raikkonen traded the lead back-and-forth while Max Verstappen's first effort put him into third ahead of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton. A scruffy first lap from Daniel Ricciardo left the second Red Bull in fifth ahead of Valtteri Bottas, with Force India's Esteban Ocon and Renault's Carlos Sainz leading the charge from the rest of the field.
Once the first runs were complete, Vettel's 1:11.710s was 0.015s ahead of Raikkonen. Hamilton and Bottas had improved to third and fourth respectively, ahead of Verstappen who had locked up and flat-spotted his tyres on his subsequent flier. The top ten felt then confident enough to sit out the end of Q1 in the garage.
At the other end, the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were in a tense battle to avoid being eliminated. They just succeeded, with Pierre Gasly ending up on the wrong side of the cut line after Toro Rosso was forced to revert his STR13 to an old Honda power unit after he suffered a loss of power at the end of FP3.
Along with Gasly, both Williams cars were also out of the running while Grosjean's hopes had gone up in smoke before he could even get out on track. The fifth member of the drop club was Marcus Ericsson, who had damaged his Sauber when he hit the wall exiting turn 9.
Q2: Ricciardo on top, as Ferrari and Mercedes gamble on ultras
Ferrari were once again quick into action in the second round, and this time they were joined by both Silver Arrows. All four cars were gambling on ultrasofts. Vettel clocked in with a 1:11.524s which was immediately bettered by a hundredth of a second by Bottas. However Hamilton fluffed his lines with a late lock-up and could only manage fourth fastest behind Raikkonen.
Having shown in Monaco that their car was kinder on the hypersoft tyres that their rivals, both Red Bulls emerged on the pink compound. Verstappen vaulted to the top with a 1:11.472s, but Ricciardo was no match and found himself four tenths behind in sixth.
Ferrari and Mercedes were hoping not to have to run again in Q2, although they headed back out on track as a precautionary measure just in case. The Red Bulls did decide to complete another flying lap apiece, and Ricciardo duly punched in the best time of the round with 1:11.434s as the chequered flag came out.
Sainz and Ocon had once again the best of the rest after the first runs. Their respective team mates Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez made up the rest of the top ten. Magnussen, Vandoorne, Alonso, Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley and Sauber's Charles Leclerc all found themsleves on the outside looking in as the clock counted down, and despite some improvements in their final runs none of the five did enough to avoid elimination.
Q3: Vettel unbeatable, with Bottas best of the rest
The two Mercedes drivers were first into action in the final pole shoot-out round. A brilliant effort by Bottas put the Finn on provisional pole with a 1:10.857s, but this new track record was soon bettered by almost a tenth by Vettel. Raikkonen put one hand on third place while Hamilton was disappointed to find himself half a second off Vettel's pace in fourth place.
Then it was time for the Red Bulls to show what they could do: Verstappen was good enough to slip into fourth ahead of Hamilton while Ricciardo was sixth ahead of the Renaults of Hulkenberg and Sainz, with the Force Indias yet to run.
The track was briefly quiet as the drivers regrouped and took a final new set of tyres for their last runs of the day. Raikkonen's chances of improving ended when he got sideways in turn 2, but Vettel managed a marginal improvement to extend his lead at the top.
Hamilton was unable to find the pace he needed to claim what would have been his fourth consecutive Montreal pole. Instead it was his team mate who succeeded in digging deep enough to join Vettel on the front row, while Verstappen's final effort put him third just ahead of Hamilton.
That pushed Raikkonen down to fifth place, and he will share the third row of the grid on Sunday with Ricciardo. Hulkenberg held on to seventh place while Ocon succeeded in pipping Sainz to eighth. Perez will start tomorrow's Canadian Grand Prix from tenth.