Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany comes through the Senna corner on his way to taking the pole position during the qualifying session for the F1 Canadian Grand Prix auto race. (AP)
Sebastian Vettel put Ferrari on pole at the Canadian Grand Prix for the first time since Michael Schumacher in 2001 on Saturday while Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton qualified fourth for Mercedes. Vettel, 14 points behind the Briton, will start from the front for the fourth time in Canada after setting a track record of one minute 10.764 seconds at the sun-baked Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Hamilton had been hoping for a record seventh Canadian pole, at the track where he took his first win in 2007, but instead was out-qualified by Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas who joined Vettel on the front row.
The top four all lapped inside the one minute 11 seconds mark. “I got the job done. Yesterday we were a bit in trouble. I wasn’t really happy with the car, we had some problems and I couldn’t get the rhythm,” said Vettel. “Today we switched on. The car was incredible, it just kept getting quicker. In my final lap I had a small mistake otherwise I think there was a little bit more. But it was fantastic.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who could have become the youngest driver ever to take pole, dominated all three practice sessions but the 20-year-old could not keep pace with the Ferraris when it mattered most. The Dutchman will line up third. Hamilton will still be chasing a fourth consecutive win in Montreal on Sunday to equal Schumacher’s mark of seven victories at an island circuit named after Canada’s late Ferrari great.
“It was just a difficult session. The laps weren’t great laps,” said the Mercedes driver. “Our race pace was good yesterday. Our single lap was good too, but today it just didn’t come together. Ferrari did a better job today and that’s just the way it is.” Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen qualified fifth fastest and will be joined on the third row by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, winner in Monaco two weeks ago and the last man to beat Hamilton to victory in Canada.
It was another disappointing day for the US-owned Haas team, as Romain Grosjean failed to make it beyond the pitlane before the engine in the Frenchman’s car blew in a cloud of smoke. The failure added to a miserable weekend for Grosjean, who has yet to score a point this season and damaged his car slightly during Friday’s free practice when he struck a groundhog.
There were also grim faces in the Williams pit as both Canadian Lance Stroll and Russian Sergey Sirotkin failed to make it out of the first qualifying session and will again start near the back of the grid. It was the fifth time in seven races that both Williams cars failed to advance out of the first phase.