It had taken seven race weekends, a third of a season, but Ferrari finally came to the party last night as a resurgent Sebastian Vettel seized his first pole position in 17 grands prix.
After three months of crushing dominance by Mercedes, the four-time world champion took full advantage of his car’s superiority here on Montreal’s long straights to edge out Lewis Hamilton and set up an absorbing duel between the pair in today’s race.
Not since Hockenheim last season has he started at the front, and this belated recovery of form at the Canadian Grand Prix, where he claimed a dominant victory last year, clearly filled him with relief.
“I’m full of adrenalin,” Vettel said, having wrested pole by 24 hundredths of a second. “Lewis is b----- good in qualifying, he’s a tough nut to crack. It was one of those laps when I truly felt the grip. Mercedes will be very quick over the race distance, but we will try everything. But just this once, the car felt better and better. It kept shouting, ‘Keep going.’ I wish I could go out and do it again.”
Hamilton, for his part, was not too crestfallen, appearing almost to welcome the semblance of a challenge. The season has been extraordinarily one-sided, with Mercedes securing five one-two finishes in six races, but their arch-rivals at last laid the platform for a true contest.
It might yet prove to be a false dawn – the layout of this circuit favours Ferrari’s formidable straight-line speed like no others – but the Italians’ revival should at least be celebrated while it lasts. “We gave it everything we could,” said Hamilton, who denied Charles Leclerc the chance of a Ferrari front-row lockout. “This is how racing should be. I’m just glad I was able to split the Ferraris.”
Usually, Montreal in the sunshine is Lewis Hamilton’s personal nirvana. The long straights of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve have staged six of his 77 victories already, but after two purple sectors he could not quite piece together the perfect lap. Still, Mercedes’ ominous long-run pace gives him confidence that he can yet overhaul Vettel today for a third consecutive win.
He was made to wait 25 minutes for his 56th pole, after Kevin Magnussen suffered a serious impact at Montreal’s notorious “Wall of Champions”. This concrete barrier alongside the start-finish straight has claimed many victims in its 41 years of existence, from Damon Hill to home favourite Jacques Villeneuve, and from Michael Schumacher to Jenson Button.
It often seems to exert almost a magnetic pull on drivers as they stray as close to the wall as they dare, and the Dane was no exception here, clipping it with his right-rear tyre and spinning across the track, crashing into the opposite wall amid a hail of debris. He escaped unscathed, not that his team-mate Romain Grosjean showed much concern. The Frenchman, who has developed a reputation as one of F1’s most querulous characters, was more upset that Magnussen’s accident had impeded his own flying lap, lamenting: “I can’t believe my luck.”
There was embarrassment, too, for Red Bull, after a strategic error led to Max Verstappen becoming caught up in traffic at the hairpin and failing to advance to the final phase of qualifying. While he has been stunningly quick all year, outperforming Pierre Gasly by a wide margin, he needs a typically audacious overtaking display today to make much of his 11th-place start on the grid.
“I guess that’s it,” he said over the radio. “Yeah, you guessed right,” replied his chastened race engineer. One could be sure that the conversation continued last night, in far less polite terms, behind closed doors.
Final Positions after Qualifying:
- Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1min 10.240secs
- Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:10.446
- Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:10.920
- Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:11.071
- Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull 1:11.079
- Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:11.101
- Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:11.324
- Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:11.863
- Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 1:13.981
- Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 No Time Set
- Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:11.800
- Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:11.921
- Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:12.136
- Alexander Albon (Tha) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:12.193
- Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 No Time Set
- Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:12.197
- Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:12.230
- Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:12.266
- George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:13.617
- Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1:14.393
That's it from me today
Thanks for joining me. We really needed that didn't we? Vettel on pole, Bottas down in sixth, Leclerc up there in third as well. Gasly the lead Red Bull, Ricciardo out-qualifying Bottas and Gasly! Both McLarens into Q3. Yep. It's all set up for a great race tomorrow, right?
How much did he need that?
Despite all of his on-track problems, Vettel is still super quick over one lap. His form has been a bit patchy this season but he drove superbly under pressure to snatch pole from Lewis Hamilton.
Have you missed Vettel's digit?
Toto Wolff reacts to Mercedes qualifying
I think credit to Ferrari, they had the fastest car and Sebastian had a stunning lap to be on pole. Lewis [made] a mistake in the hairpin and that's why it wasn't enough.
On Lance Stroll's Mercedes engine blowing up in flames in practice
Lots of concern. We don't know yet what really happened - it just went up on flames. We need to analyse what it was and hope we don't have the problem on our cars.
When was the last time a Renault qualified in fourth?!
I am still in awe of that lap by Daniel Ricciardo. Renault much closer to the top three teams here, well ahead of McLaren on raw pace. They have been well off it so far this season. This is hugely encouraging for them. Hugely.
Hamilton reacts to his second place
Honestly, I don't feel disappointment. We gave it everything we could. Particularly that last sector they were killing us. Thoroughly happy with the job. This is good, this is how racing should be. Tomorrow is going to be interesting.
Vettel reacts to his first pole for 17 races
He's [Hamilton] bloody good in qualifying. Hard to crack. I am full of adrenaline. That was one of those laps. Really, really, really nice. Very happy for the team. The last weeks have been quite tough for us. Today the car was a lot better. We also avoid the red, soft tyre in the race because we managed to go through with the medium. The car felt good but I think we can carry that into the race.
Bottas made a REAL big mess of his lap, numerous mistakes, tyres not warm enough, no confidence. Ferrari's second pole of the year and their first since Bahrain.
SEBASTIAN VETTEL TAKES POLE POSITION FOR THE CANADIAN GRAND PRIX
He's back to his happy self on the radio.
"Awesome lap," he is told on his radio. Toto Wolff looks on, worried. He kept with Hamilton in the first two sectors and then beat him in the last.
RICCIARDO IN FOURTH! How did that happen? He's ahead of Bottas and Gasly! Did he cut the final chicane?!
Q3 - Vettel flying...
...can he find the time in the final sector? Hamilton has already improved. Ferrari are strong there...
Yes! He does! Pole by two tenths of a second! Nice one!
Q3 - Can Hamilton do it?!
Hamilton goes quickest in sector two, Vettel under a tenth behind. This could be close.
Bottas only fifth!
Q3 - Final runs underway
Bottas gets very twitchy in turns one and two...how's his fiest sector? Not great. Hamilton goes better though by over a tenth! Vettel isn't too far away, though!
Q3 - Out they come again...
...everyone apart from Hamilton needs to find time. Is his time good enough at the moment? What can McLaren do here? Bottas in a bit of traffic on his out lap, he's behind two McLarens and in a bit of trouble and he's backing Hamilton up as well!
Well, the idea of Ferrari matching Mercedes was nice while it lasted
Q3 - Top 7 and gaps
- VET +0.188
- LEC +0.695
- HUL +1.615
- GAS +1.692
- RIC +2.075
- SAI +3.488
Leclerc is going again on the same tyres but he's not looking like improving. Indeed he doesn't. Ferrari not looking like having an answer for Mercedes, here. Three drivers yet to set times. Magnussen obviously won't.
Q3 - Hamilton goes quickest!
Leclerc was briefly top and then Vettel. But Hamilton beats them all with a 1.10.493 to better them both by nearly two tenths. Bottas spun on the exit of turn three, spins and somehow manages to keep it out of the wall! Lucky, lucky.
Q3 - First runs underway
Leclerc's S1 time is quick, but Vettel's is quicker.
Hamilton's is the best of the lot! A brief yellow flag in sector one, possibly Bottas has locked up, spun or made a mistake.
Q3 - A 19.993 for Gasly in sector one...
...is that any good? Hard to tell at this moment but you'd imagine Ferrari and Mercedes will have cranked it up. He ends with a 1.12.185 which is not great. Not great at all. But track conditions will have worsened with added heat and dust, now.
Pierre Gasly goes out first. Red Bull's hopes rest on him. Is he up to it? He has been incrementally improving throughout the year but is still a bit far away from Verstappen's time. 12 minutes to go.
A better quality photo of Magnussen's shunt...
...or the end of it.
It's nearly time for Q3
Decent lap from George there...
It was over 0.7s quicker than Robert Kubica's time. Which is an absolute age.
Grosjean was on a decent lap before the red flag...
...tough for him. But that's his luck at the moment. Despite the crash, he is still out-qualified by Magnussen.
You might have seen the @MercedesAMGF1 and @ScuderiaFerrari cars on soft tyres at the end of #Q2, but the mediums were the ones they set their fastest times on – so they will use those to start the race tomorrow #CanadianGP— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) June 8, 2019
They are taking their sweet time to get rid of this car...
Bit of a delay now...
...whilst they wait for them to remove Kevin Magnussen's Haas and any debris (there was a lot of this). Q3 won't be too far away though.
Verstappen reacts to his Q2 elimination
We tried it on the medium, the tyre didn't feel fantastic...but also the traffic didn't help. We went onto the soft tyre but got the red flag. We will find out tomorrow how it's going to go. We are not really on pace with Ferrari and Mercedes and it will be tricky to fight with them tomorrow.
Red Bull just couldn't make the medium tyres work. Gasly went out on the soft, so he was okay. Verstappen had to do another run on the softs but then the red flag happened and that was that. Could be a good race for him tomorrow, mind you, scything his way through the field.
Can Mercedes pull this one out of the bag?
Q2 - Top 10 - Hamilton quickest
These lads are through to Q3 and the "pole position shoot out*".
*Cars other than Ferrari and Mercedes need not apply.
The good news for Gasly is that makes it the first time he's out-qualified Verstappen this season!
Q2 - Drivers out
As you can see that crash by Magnussen meant Grosjean didn't get a lap in and is out. That was his only run in the session. Bit risky to do that but there you go. He's out.
What happened to Magnussen?
He lost it on entry to the chicane, hit the outside wall, kept his foot in and then came back and hit the pit wall. His car is quite a mess.
...that's the end of the session. That means Max Verstappen is out!
Q2 - Verstappen goes out on the softs
Norris not improving, Magnussen is, he's currently in P10 and very close to the bubble. Verstappen will surely move him down if he doesn't improve. Magnussen is setting his best sector times so far.
He gives it everything into the final chicane AND SHOVES IT INTO THE WALL...
Q2 - Kvyat improves to P12...
Think the Toro Rosso's will struggle to get into Q3 here. Renault looking to have an advantage. Albon improves but stays 14th.
Can Norris keep his place in the top 10?
Speed trap times so far
Q2 - Hamilton goes quickest...
...both Mercedes taking advantage of a quiet track. That should be enough for him to get through to Q3 and to start on the mediums. Bottas looking to do the same here, he's up in sector one. And improves on his own time in sector two. Final sector is not brilliant but it's enough for him to get within a tenth of Hamilton at the top.
Q2 - Top 10 after the first runs
Drivers in the drop zone:
Q2 - Gasly is indeed close to quickest...
...he's in P2 and within a tenth of Vettel. Verstappen went for another lap on the mediums and it wasn't great. He will also need to go onto the softs. Not looking great for the race for Red Bull, then. He's currently down in P11. He says he was held up by traffic and had little grip on his rears.
Q2 - Leclerc finds some time out there...
...for a 1.11.205. He's top for a matter of seconds, though, as Vettel puts in a time 0.063 quicker. Ricciardo being blocked - almost - by a Red Bull. Leclerc went the wrong side of the bollards when he missed the chicane and that is also being looked at by the stewards. All being well Gasly (on the soft tyres) should set a time that's close to quickest here.
Q2 - Verstappen goes P4...
...with a decent lap, 0.4s behind Bottas. Not amazing. He was also on the mediums as well. Not sure they will send Gasly out on those.
Q2 - Vettel goes quickest...but just...
Leclerc, like Bottas, has to abandon his lap after locking up and missing a chicane.
Bottas lines up another quick lap. What can he do? It's good enough for third only, 0.178 off Vettel's time.
Q2 - Hamilton goes quickest...
...as Bottas abandons his lap. He had a bit sideways moment into the first chicane.
Q2 - Both Ferrari on the mediums as well..
...so no is the answer to that question. Unless Mercedes can put in times that are significantly better than both Ferraris, forcing them to go onto the softs. Bottas makes a mess of the first sector on his hot lap. Over half a second behind Hamilton.
15 minutes to go. Both Mercedes out on the medium tyres. Will it be quick enough for them to get into Q3 and start the race on those tyres? We will see. They have not shown superb pace but the soft tyre is not looking too good as a race tyre. Could this be where they try and get one over on Ferrari with a better strategy?
Do Red Bull have an outside chance here?
It's very far outside if so. If Verstappen really hooks it up he could be ahead of one Mercedes.
Q1 - Top 10, Vettel quickest
Looks like Sainz may be penalised for blocking Albon in turns one and two. Albon previously got out of the Spaniard's way towards the end of his hot lap but Sainz did not repay the favour.
Q1 ends - Gasly safe...
Who is out?
Stroll out in Q1 for the 11th (ELEVENTH) race in a row. Think he nearly tagged the wall of champions, there. Giovinazzi safe in the end. Gasly safe by two tenths, so it worked out fine in the end.
Q1 - Final runs underway
Stroll needs to get out of danger and he does. Just. Can't see it being enough. 14th. Sainz improves a lot, into sixth...Gasly is slipping down here...only a few tenths. Giovinazzi gets out of the drop zone. Raikkonen does not! Nor does Perez! Gasly should be safe now...
Q1 - Drivers coming out for their final runs...
...who is in danger?
16. Stroll 17. Hulkenberg 18. Sainz 19. Russell 20. Kubica
That is going to change very shortly. It's going to be a manic end to the session. Albon has moved up to P7, head of Gasly. Red Bull aren't sending Gasly out for another run. They think his time is good enough? I am not sure it is for sure, he only has about three tenths in his pocket.
Q1 - Three minutes remaining...
Decent lap, Daniel
Currently best of the rest. Renault need a good weekend here.
Q1 - Vettel goes quickest...
...he beats his team-mate by 0.014, who had just toppled Bottas by a similar time. Okay. Around 0.6s from P7 to P18 at the moment. Close.
Q1 - Hamilton goes again...
...and goes second. Bottas beats that and Lerclerc's time to go quickest. Times are a tumbling...
Q1 - Six minutes remain
Drivers in the drop zone:
16. Albon 17. Grosjean 18. Raikkonen 19. Russell 20. Kubica
Q1 - Vettel improves...
...up to second. Verstappen on another hot lap.
Top 10 as it stands:
Q1 - Hamilton's time only good enough for third...
...he's 0.313 off Leclerc's time. Verstappen ahead of him too, currently in second. Interesting. Norris's time still standing up. Ferrari going again on the same tyre...
Q1 - Leclerc moves to the top of the pack...
...It's not massively quicker than Lando's time. In fact only 0.621s. Vettel only sets a time good enough for second, over half-a-second behind his team-mate. Norris right in there at the moment.
Q1 - Lando Norris goes quickest with a tidy 1.12.407...
...quicker than Magnussen by three-tenths. Leclerc on a hot lap...will it be at least 1.5s quicker than Norris?
Q1 - Kubica sets a 1.16.564...
...which is going to be beaten heavily very shortly. Yep, there it is. 1.551s quicker is his team-mate Russell. Stroll goes quicker than him by 1.8s too. Ouch.
"Track feels hideous," is what Russell says after his hot lap.
Q1 - Kubica comes out to a smattering of applause...
He won here in 2008, remember, his only grand prix victory. Russell and Stroll also out.
18 minutes to go.
Nobody in much of a rush to go out. Which means it's likely to be a mad scramble towards the middle and end of the session. Not an especially long lap time. Reckon we'll get at least one driver with a grid penalty for blocking.
A word on the midfield this weekend...
...it's all quite close and might well be a bit mixed up. It's so important to get it hooked up here and confidence over the kerbs is crucial. Think Alfa look to be struggling a little.
I cannot stress how important it is that Ferrari get their act together this weekend...
...and I cannot stress how important it is for them to do well in qualifying for this to be the case. Of course, one swallow does not make a summer but we really need someone to challenge Mercedes this season.
Can Ferrari do it? We're going to find out shortly. Q1 begins in five minutes. Who will be eliminated in that mini-session? My (boring) guess: both Williams, Stroll, Giovinazzi and...Grosjean.
It looks like Lance Stroll's new power unit/engine...
...will be in place for qualifying in 10 minutes. Quick, nice work, everybody.
CONFIRMED: @lance_stroll suffered an engine failure in FP3 - cause as yet unknown ��— SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team (@RacingPointF1) June 8, 2019
We've reverted his car to PU1 and he will be back out on track for Qualifying ��
Top job from the crew in the garage for turning it around in time ��#MakeItCount#F1#CanadianGPpic.twitter.com/Jw6QqzhtvU
Bottas has been in superb form in qualifying this season...
He took three consecutive pole positions in China, Azerbaijan and Spain. He has, quite often, been able to put together his best three sectors in one lap. Hamilton has struggled in that regard and has left a bit of time out there a bit too often. Can he take pole here today for his fourth in five rounds?
Lando Norris takes issue with Lewis Hamilton's comments on young F1 drivers
Lando Norris, McLaren’s 19-year-old rookie, did not disguise his irritation on Thursday at being told by Lewis Hamilton that Formula One should be a “man’s sport”. Ahead of Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix, the five-time world champion argued that the highest level of motorsport needed to be more strenuous, to prevent youngsters from adapting to its demands with such ease.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve...
Where does it rank among all of the 21 tracks on the calendar? Read my rundown of them all from a couple of weeks ago.
Robert Kubica had a HUGE crash here in 2007...
Clearly the image below shows it pretty well...
...but I do love this video from the stands which shows the true nature of it.
Thankfully he walked away without serious injury and went on to win the race the following year. Nice one, Robert.
Constructor standings - Mercedes bossing it
Driver standings so far in 2019
Hamilton with a healthy if not massive lead. It could all disappear with one crash, failure or error, though. Not that those have really been part of Mercedes' game in 2019.
How the Wall of Champions got its name
You may or may not know that the wall on the outside of the final chicane is informally known as the Wall of Champions. But how did it get its name? Well, one day in 1999...
To me, Montreal means three things: ice hockey, poutine and...
...groundhogs at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Final Times after Third Practice
- Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1min 10.843secs
- Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:10.982
- Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:11.236
- Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:11.531
- Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:11.842
- Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull 1:11.914
- Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:12.045
- Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:12.154
- Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:12.175
- Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:12.298
- Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:12.305
- Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:12.337,
- Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 1:12.399
- Alexander Albon (Tha) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:12.423
- Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:12.627
- Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:12.708
- Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:13.197
- George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:13.966
- Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1:14.426
- Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point No Time Set
Home lad Lance Stroll had an eventful final practice...
...by eventful I mean it ended in flames and without him setting a lap time. He's been eliminated in Q1 for as long as I can remember. Slim chance of him getting out of it now: he needs an entirely new power unit. Will he even make it out for qualifying?
Good evening F1 fans...
...and welcome to our liveblog for Canadian Grand Prix qualifying, taking place at the wonderful Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the equally wonderful city of Montreal. Mercedes have been the dominant team this year and have won every race, six in total. They had a record five 1-2s at the start of the season and a 1-3 in Monaco two weeks ago.
It really does look like it is - at best - a fight between their two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, for the title. When Ferrari have had the opportunity to challenge them - in Bahrain and Azerbaijan - they have not managed it, either through driver error or car failure. Still, it might look like the Scuderia will put up a half-decent challenge in Montreal, where the longer straights and shorter corners seems to be playing a little more to their strengths.
Second and third practice seemed to hint at that, with Ferrari quickest in both sessions - Charles Leclerc in FP2 and Sebastian Vettel in FP3. Whilst second practice on Friday had some fairly obvious mitigating factors - Hamilton only completed eight laps after sliding into the wall - final practice had few of them. Whilst we don't know the full picture about engine modes and fuel loads, it looks to be a four-way fight for pole. But we have said that before and Mercedes have come out and blitzed the competition. Still, hope springs eternal and the Ferrari does look mighty on the straights here.
Could Hamilton's crash be costly in terms of track time? Possibly, he thought yesterday.
“It was an innocent mistake. I’d been multiple laps on the medium tyre and was just really trying to find the limits, trying to find the boundaries – and obviously went slightly over and had a big snap out of Turn 9. I was drifting for a long period of time hoping that I would survive," he said.
“You know, these things happen and from a psyche point it’s a real bummer, because you lose a lot of the session. You lose your long runs, you lose your laps of understanding – I only did eight laps – and then I didn’t do the long runs.”
Still, I wouldn't bet against him to turn it around and take pole. It's what he often does. Should he win here this weekend he will equal Michael Schumacher's record of seven victories at the Montreal track. It'd be nice to see a race where Ferrari are ahead, though. Heaven knows they, and the championship in general, needs it.
I'll be here for the next couple of hours with all the build-up, live updates and reaction. Qualifying here last year was a blast. Fingers crossed for a repeat.