Ferrari is finally back, at least it seems. Sebastian Vettel secured pole position for the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix with a scintillating final lap around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montréal, beating championship leader Lewis Hamilton to top spot by barely two-tenths of a second.
The German was jubilant and relieved to have finally beaten Hamilton over one lap this season, but knows that the tougher task will come in Sunday’s 71-lap race where Mercedes-AMG has proven undefeated so far in 2019.
Hamilton held the upper hand at the end of the first Q3 runs, claiming provisional pole with a time of 1:10.493 which was almost two-tenths of a second quicker than what Vettel could manage. It looked, once again, like Ferrari would be denied.
Vettel clearly hadn’t read the script, and on his second run the four-time World Champion pulled out all stops. He clocked a time of 1:10.240 to snatch top spot, and when Hamilton made a mistake at the hairpin on his final flying lap it was in the bag.
While beaten to pole, Hamilton graciously paid tribute to the improved form of Ferrari. “This is fantastic for the sport,” he said. “I love to fight with another team, and today was just so close. At some stages they were ahead of us and we were swapping all the way. I hope this is a turning point for them and it’s going to be very close from now on and we’re going to have a serious battle throughout the season. That would be fantastic.”
It is the 56th pole position of Vettel’s Formula 1 career, his first since last year’s German Grand Prix. The points are handed out on Sunday, and Vettel will be hoping to control proceedings from the front to claw back some of the huge 55-point deficit by which he trails Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship standings. He and Ferrari badly need to return to race-winning form.
With his teammate Charles Leclerc starting from third place and joining him on the cleaner side of the grid, there could well be two Ferraris at the front by the time the field makes its short dash down to the opening sequence of corners.
Hamilton will not have quite the same advantage of a teammate’s support. Not only is Valtteri Bottas his closest championship rival, but the Finn could do no better than sixth-fastest in what is his worst qualifying performance of the season.
Between the two Mercedes runners were two surprise performers. Former Canadian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo stunned everyone with a superb lap to secure fourth-fastest in his less-fancied Renault, while Red Bull Racing’s Pierre Gasly was fifth-fastest after a relatively indifferent weekend.
Ricciardo’s teammate Nico Hülkenberg underscored Renault’s improved turn of speed by qualifying seventh-fastest, and in a positive sign for the Renault-powered entries the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr also made it into Q3, qualifying eighth- and ninth-fastest respectively. Sainz will, however, serve a three-place grid penalty for impeding Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon.
Kevin Magnussen should also have been among the battle for ‘best of the rest’ honours in Q3, but crashed heavily in Q2 after clipping the ‘Wall of Champions’ on his final flying lap. With his right-rear suspension broken, the Dane’s Haas Ferrari was sent spearing into the pit wall, causing major damage to his car and triggering the red flags.
That meant that the likes of Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) had to abort his final flying lap, consigning the Dutch driver to the eleventh-fastest time. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat was twelfth-fastest and teammate Alexander Albon fourteenth, with the pair sandwiching the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi, who had himself bumped teammate Kimi Räikkönen out in Q1.
Magnussen’s accident also hampered his own teammate Romain Grosjean, who was following in the Dane’s wake and had to abandon his only flying lap. In truth, however, criticism should be laid at the feet of the Haas team, which did not send the Frenchman out earlier in Q2 to post a ‘banker’ lap time.
After looking relatively quick at various stages this weekend, Racing Point had an embarrassing at the team’s ‘home’ event. Lance Stroll’s shocking qualifying form continued as he was eliminated in Q1 for the eleventh Grand Prix on the trot, while teammate Sergio Pérez fluffed his final flying lap and missed out on the Q2 cut by just 0.09 seconds.
Despite significant upgrades, the two Williams entries of George Russell and Robert Kubica never looked a chance of doing any better than claiming the last row of the grid for themselves. Russell continued his unbeaten run in his head-to-head qualifying battle with teammate Kubica – whose one and only Grand Prix win came at this circuit in 2008 – outpacing the increasingly under pressure Polish driver by seven-tenths of a second.
|FORMULA 1 PIRELLI GRAND PRIX DU CANADA 2019 – QUALIFYING|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:10.240|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:10.446||+ 0.206|
|3.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:10.920||+ 0.680|
|4.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:11.071||+ 0.831|
|5.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:11.079||+ 0.839|
|6.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:11.101||+ 0.861|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:11.324||+ 1.084|
|8.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:11.863||+ 1.623|
|9.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:13.981||+ 3.741|
|10.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||no time|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:11.800||+ 0.790|
|12.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:11.921||+ 0.911|
|13.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:12.136||+ 1.126|
|14.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:12.193||+ 1.183|
|15.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||no time|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|16.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:12.197||+ 0.997|
|17.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:12.230||+ 1.030|
|18.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:12.266||+ 1.066|
|19.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:13.617||+ 2.417|
|20.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:14.393||+ 3.193|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 lap time of 1:11.010 posted by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 lap time of 1:11.200 posted by Sebastian Vettel
- Carlos Sainz Jr. – who provisionally qualified 9th-fastest – will serve a 3-place grid penalty for impeding Alexander Albon.
- Kevin Magnussen – who provisionally qualified 10th-fastest – will be required to start the race from the pit lane for a change of chassis after qualifying.
Images via Motorsport Week and Scuderia Ferrari