F1 returned to the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit outside Montreal and Lewis Hamilton dominated the Saturday Qualifying sessions as he scored the fastest times in each sessions en route to wrapping up Pole position for the race. It was his third consecutive pole position at the Canadian Grand Prix – he had won from pole in 2007 and crashed into the back of Kimi Raikkonen in 2008.
Mark Webber will start 2nd with Sebastian Vettel 3rd. Ferrari seemed to be back on track with Fernando Alonso taking 4th place whereas Jenson Button could only manage 5th. Vitantonio Liuzzi scored his best quali position in 6th with Felipe Massa 7th, Robert Kubica 8th, Adrian Sutil 9th and Nico Rosberg completing the top ten.
Q1 got off to a sedate start with the top teams content to let the lesser ones take to the track and rubber it up nicely before making their move. Renault, Force India, Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren all held P1 at some time or the other but as the clock wound down, it was the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timesheets, heading the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso. Force India were the surprise team as both cars were in the top seven at one time. The ones to drop out at the end of the session were Kamui Kobayashi, Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock, Lucas di Grassi, Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok.
Q2 saw the times a-tumbling with the fastest times set in the range of the 1:15.5s and it was again the same drivers in the top three positions – Lewis Hamilton heading the charts, with Sebastian Vettel & Fernando Alonso behind him. Jenson Button almost didn’t make the cut but he salvaged that with a last-ditch lap that took him upto 8th fastest but one driver who didn’t get that lucky was seven-time winner Michael Schumacher, who could only manage the 12th fastest time. Joining him in the relegation were Rubens Barrichello, Nico Hulkenberg, Vitaly Petrov, Sebastian Buemi, Jaime Algersuari & Pedro de la Rosa.
Q3 started with Hamilton again at the head of the order but both Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso ran him close and it was as close as it could get, with Alonso taking P1 a few seconds below the Chequered Flag fell only to see Mark Webber usurp him milli-seconds later. Vettel slotted in between Webber and Hamilton could only manage fourth fastest behind them. But crucially, he had crossed the start-finish line before the flag fell and that meant he had one more flying lap in him. And he gave it all on that lap, wrapping up pole with a 1:15.105. Bizarrely, he ran out of fuel after he wrapped up pole and had to park his car on the back straight and hop onto the Safety Car to get back to parc ferme!
The Canadian Grand Prix last was on the calendar in 2008 and it was memorable one for more than one reasons. Of course, it was good for BMW Sauber and Robert Kubica, who scored their maiden win back then. But it will always be remembered as the race where Lewis Hamilton clattered into the back of a stationary Kimi Raikkonen at the end of the pit lane! Hope tomorrow’s race doesn’t have any such lameass incidents.
McLaren might be on pole but the Red Bulls are right behind and that too on the harder compound of tyres, which is said to be lasting longer than the ‘softer’ one so strategy-wise it can be quite an interesting race. Of course, there is a great chance of the Safety Car coming into play at Montreal and I’m betting it would do so tomorrow as well. My outside bet for the race win is Fernando Alonso (McLaren botch up their tyres and Red Bulls clash again!)
First to crash out: Michael Schumacher
Retirements (various reasons): Nearly 1/3rd of the field
Drive of the Race: Nico Rosberg
Fantabulous Overtaking: Fernando Alonso