Sebastian Vettel will start from pole position for Sunday’s Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix, ending Ferrari’s pole drought in Montréal which stretches back to 2001.
The German’s chief championship rival, Lewis Hamilton, could only manage fifth-fastest and looks likely to see his 14-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings slashed if their respective form continues into Sunday.
With six pole positions and six victories on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve – named in honour of the late Ferrari race-winner – including three from three between 2014 and 2016, Hamilton has all but owned the Grand Prix in Canada.
This time, however, it was Vettel who swept all before him with a pair of flawless record-breaking laps in the final qualifying session to claim pole.
The Ferrari-powered teams came to Montréal armed with upgraded power units believed to give them an extra-two-tenths of a second per lap advantage. The Mercedes-powered teams were also slated to bring their own power unit upgrades to Canada, but delayed its release due to an unspecified “quality issue”.
Their absence appeared to be crucial, however Hamilton – who has run the same power unit for the past six Grands Prix – was gracious enough to admit that he was simply outclassed over one lap.
“I don’t think today’s performance has got anything to do with the older engine,” he said afterwards. “Sebastian simply did a better job when it counted. I think it could be tricky to overtake tomorrow. It’ll be tough to win from fourth here, but nothing is impossible.”
His claims were backed up by Bottas being just 0.09 seconds slower than Vettel, who nailed two stunning flying laps in Q3 to clinch pole with a time of 1:10.764.
Ferrari’s last win in Canada occurred in 2004 and Vettel is clearly keen to break that winless streak.
“Being on pole here with Ferrari means something extra,” he said after clinching the 54th pole position of his career and is in the pound seats to claim the fiftieth Grand Prix win of his career.
“I think the meaning of Gilles for Ferrari is huge and I think motor sport in Canada is linked to that name. Obviously it’s a great result.”
Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen finished fifth-fastest, throwing away a better grid slot by understeering wide at Turn 2 on his final flying lap. He starts ahead of the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, the winner of the previous Monaco Grand Prix, who had his faulty power unit replaced ahead of this weekend’s event.
The top ten was completed by the Renaults and Force India runners – Nico Hülkenberg (7th) and Carlos Sainz Jr. (9th) were split by Esteban Ocon, while his teammate Sergio Pérez was tenth.
Kevin Magnussen narrowly missed out on a Q3 berth and starts from eleventh place in his Haas, but the American team had more headaches for teammate Romain Grosjean whose engine blew spectacularly as he drove down the pit lane at the start of Q1.
Brendon Hartley worked hard to shrug off speculation about his continued future at Toro Rosso by qualifying twelfth-fastest – teammate Pierre Gasly failed to make it out of Q1 and will take an engine change grid penalty – ahead of the ever-impressive Charles Leclerc in the Alfa Romeo Sauber.
Qualifying was not a happy result for McLaren, with Fernando Alonso – celebrating his 300th Grand Prix appearance this weekend – and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne the slowest two Q2 runners.
For the fifth time this season, neither Williams Mercedes was able to escape Q1. Local driver Lance Stroll will struggle to claim a repeat points’ finish on home soil from 17th on the grid, one spot ahead of teammate Sergey Sirotkin. The pair outqualified the second Sauber of Marcus Ericsson, largely on account of the Swede damage his car’s suspension when he hit the wall exiting the Turn 8/9 chicane.
Image via Scuderia Ferrari