Even when it looks like Sebastian Vettel’s rivals might stand a chance of toppling the defending World Champion, this year’s championship leader does it again: six poles from seven rounds this season, and his first ever at Montreal.
The German will start Sunday’s 70-lap race alongside Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who – along with third-fastest Felipe Massa – enjoyed the Italian team’s most competitive qualifying showing of the year so far. Mark Webber completes the second row, while Lewis Hamilton – a hot tip to win heading into this weekend – was just fifth-fastest.
While the threat of rain has remained a fixture in many local weekend weather forecasters’ minds, it again failed to rear its head in this session – rain drops only started to fall once the final phase of qualifying had been completed.
The use of the Pirelli super-soft tyres was enough to see Pedro de la Rosa make it into the second phase of qualifying on his one-off return to racing action with Sauber, although he caused a fright when he ran wide on a hot-lap, making his C30 spark as it touched the outside wall!
while the Spaniard’s team-mate Kamui Kobayashi put in a last-minute lap in Q1 to bump Jaime Alguersuari out of the reckoning and 18th on the grid. The Barcelona-born driver struggled with the evil handling of his Toro Rosso, suffering a number of lock-ups as he battled terminal understeer.
Behind Alguersuari, Jarno Trulli managed to out-qualify Team Lotus team-mate Heikki Kovalainen for the first time in 2011, while HRT’s Vitantonio Liuzzi comfortably made it off the back row with his effort to snatch 21st place from the Virgin Racing entry of Timo Glock. Further behind, Narain Karthikeyan managed to outpace Jérôme d’Ambrosio. The Belgian just failed to post a lap time within 107% of the session’s quickest time, but was later allowed to take the race start after the stewards took into consideration that he was running with a newly-built chassis after wrecking his original on in Friday practice.
Just over eight-tenths of a second covered the drivers eliminated in a tight contest to avoid elimination in Q2, and Paul di Resta – who had been in the top-ten in all three practice sessions in his Force India – was unlucky to find himself on the wrong end of the equation with the eleventh-fastest time after Nick Heidfeld pipped him for the last spot in the final session.
While the Scottish rookie was three-tenths quicker than any of his other eliminated rivals, he was joined by Pastor Maldonado, Kamui Kobayashi, Adrian Sutil, Sébastien Buemi and Pedro de la Rosa.
During this phase of the session, Felipe Massa seemed to unintentionally baulk Michael Schumacher on the lead up to the final chicane, and risked earning himself a grid penalty for his troubles.
The final shoot-out saw most drivers opt for two runs to secure their grid position. Schumacher bucked the trend with a single hot-lap effort, and he will start from just eighth, albeit with the advantage of an extra set of tyres up his sleeve.
A brilliant lap of 1:13.014 saw Vettel secure his 21st pole position of his short F1 career – moving him to tenth on the all-time list and demoting Damon Hill and Fernando Alonso – while Alonso used a rapid pit stop and tyre change to attempt another run to successfully demote Massa from a provisional second place.
Running without KERS and having suffered a battery problem at the beginning of this morning’s practice session, Mark Webber will start from fourth place, while Hamilton’s sixth place – two spots ahead of team-mate Button – marks the first time that the McLaren driver has failed to clinch pole in Canada.
With Rosberg splitting the McLarens in sixth, the two Renaults of Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov complete the top-ten on the grid.
A high chance of rain is predicted for Sunday’s race, which will certainly make things very interesting indeed. One wonders how many drivers on the grid qualified with a wet set-up in mind…
2011 Canadian Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:14.011||1:13.486||1:13.014|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:14.375||1:13.654||1:13.429|
|5.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes||1:14.114||1:13.926||1:13.565|
|6.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||1:14.920||1:13.950||1:13.814|
|7.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes||1:14.374||1:13.955||1:13.838|
|8.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||1:14.970||1:14.242||1:13.864|
|11.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes||1:14.874||1:14.752|
|12.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth||1:15.585||1:15.053|
|13.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari||1:15.694||1:15.285|
|14.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes||1:14.931||1:15.287|
|15.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:15.901||1:15.334|
|16.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth||1:15.331||1:15.361|
|17.||Pedro de la Rosa||Sauber Ferrari||1:16.229||1:15.587|
|18.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:16.294|
|19.||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus Renault||1:16.745|
|20.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus Renault||1:16.786|
|21.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:18.424|
|22.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:18.537|
|23.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:18.574|
|24.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:19.414|
[Image via AUTOSPORT and Formula1]