As Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton streak away towards their respective sixth Formula One world championships, the 2019 season at the front has largely been a tale of contrasting fortunes for rivals Ferrari and Red Bull.
It was a glorious sunny afternoon in Montreal with an air temperature of 22°C and a toasty track temperature of 45°C.
This may have pleased the spectators in the packed grandstands, but not George Russell who said on team radio that the “track feels hideous”.
This was not the only problem that Williams has suffered this weekend as they have had some problems with braking as Russell and his teammate Robert Kubica just don’t know what will happen when they push the brake pedal. The two Williams line up on the back row again with Russell outqualifying Kubica, who won the Canadian Grand Prix 11 years ago today in Montreal.
Racing Point were the other major casualties of Q1 with both Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, in his home grand prix, being knocked out of qualifying. Stroll nearly came a cropper coming through the final chicane, narrowly avoiding a one-way trip to the Wall of Champions.
Stroll told the BBC’s Jennie Gow, “We got a couple of tenths in performance going back to the old spec [after the engine change]. It didn’t look like it would be the case to have both cars out in Q1 but we look forward to tomorrow.”
Kimi Raikkonen was also knocked out of Q1 in a continuation of a difficult weekend for the Finn.
Q2 was incredibly difficult for Max Verstappen. His flying laps on the medium tyre were compromised by traffic, leading the Dutchman to find himself in the drop zone with seven minutes to go in the session, despite being just six tenths off the fastest lap set by Vettel.
The ultimate nail in the coffin for Verstappen was the crash of Kevin Magnussen. The Dane made contact with the Wall of Champions, sending his Haas into a spin across the track before his slammed into the pit lane barrier.
At time of writing, Magnussen has not incurred any penalties because of repairs to the car but it is likely that his gearbox was damaged in the crash so he may not keep his tenth position on the grid.
Q3 was a thriller with Ferrari and Mercedes going hammer and tongs.
However, it wasn’t a good session for Valterri Bottas. On his first flying lap, he spun coming out of turn 2, being both lucky and skilful enough to avoid hitting the wall. Then, on his final flying lap, he had a very scruffy start to the lap, not having the smoothest of lines through turns 1 and 2 then locking up into turn 5 before finally going wide at the turn 10 hairpin. He lines up sixth on the grid tomorrow.
An honourable mention should go to Daniel Ricciardo who managed to qualify fourth ahead of Pierre Gasly in the Red Bull and the lacklustre Bottas in his Mercedes.
At the end of it all though it was Sebastian Vettel who was on pole, conquering the challenge set by Lewis Hamilton to get his first pole since last year’s German Grand Prix. It’s also his fifth pole in Montreal, just one behind the joint record-holders of Michael Schumacher and Hamilton who have six poles each.
Sebastian Vettel told Jenson Button, “I’m full of adrenaline. You know the feeling in the car when it just keeps coming and you feel the grip and you just go for it? Today the car was a lot better.”
Hamilton was quite pleased when he talked to Button, “I don’t particularly feel disappointment. I think we gave everything we could. We knew that they [Ferrari] were quick. This is good, this is how racing should be. Hopefully we can put on a good show tomorrow.”
We should have a good race tomorrow. If you fancy an early start, the race is on just after 4am Monday morning (AEST).
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 8, 2019