CANADIAN GP – Max Verstappen takes pole as Fernando Alonso returns to the front row admits changeable conditions

Testing & Race Reports

Max Verstappen has taken pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix in changeable conditions after beating Fernando Alonso by six-tenths of a second. The Red Bull driver set a 21.299 on the intermediates as the track continued to dry out following heavy rain throughout the last twenty-four hours.

The Dutchman’s fastest time came once a dry line developed towards the end of the session allowing him to take a fifteenth career pole. While looking to demonstrate control through the session as the track dried, topping Q3 through out. Alonso looked quick all weekend as the Alpine looked to make good progress allowing him to take his first front row in just under a decade.

The forty-year-old also becomes the oldest driver to start on the front row since Michael Schumacher did aged forty-three in Shanghai 2012 and his first front row start since Hockenheim the same year. He has however proved to be on the pace going in the top five in FP1 and FP2, before topping FP3 in the changeable conditions, he will be looking for his first podium since Doha in November.

Carlos Sainz put his Ferrari third fastest a tenth and a half behind Alonso and was the only Ferrari to take part in Q3 after Charles Leclerc played no further part after Q1. Leclerc opted to take a fresh power unit following an engine failure in Baku meaning he exceeded his allocation for the year meaning he starts nineteenth.

Sainz had looked able to challenge Verstappen for pole, going fastest in the first sector with a personal best in the middle sector despite losing time he remained in contention until the final corner. Through The Wall of Champions, the Spaniard slid while he kept it out the wall, but it threw away his chance of a maiden pole.

Verstappen said, “I still expect it not to be a straightforward race. But today with the tricky conditions we stayed calm and didn’t make mistakes.”

Alonso said, “We were P1 in FP3 this morning so it seemed we were quick in the wet but it was not really wet at the end, it was almost dry. But the car was fast in the dry and in the wet today so it has been a very competitive weekend.”

Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes fourth, but the Englishman was eight tenths behind Sainz, the best qualifying for the seven time champion this season at a circuit he has excelled at throughout his career. The Englishman describing it has his best qualifying of the season comparing it to his debut race in Melbourne 2007.

The car didn’t appear to porpoise as much in the wet conditions and looked to be a threat in the changeable conditions at a circuit which has always suited the seven-time champions driving style, going ahead of the two Haas’s by seven hundredths.

Hamilton had been out-qualified by Russell for three consecutive races and it looked set to be four until the younger man took a gamble that the track might be ready for slick tyres on the final runs.

Kevin Magnussen starts fifth after beating Mick Schumacher by almost four-tenths, but for the American team it marked their best qualifying Hockenheim 2018. The team will be looking to follow that up with their first double points finish and the German’s first, since that race almost four years ago, also defined by changeable conditions.

George Russell’s gamble of going to slick tyres at the end of Q3 left him eighth and two seconds off the pace as the Englishman struggled to generate heat into the tyres. Russell was out-qualified by Hamilton for the first time since the opening race in Sakhir after spinning through Senna at the start of his final run.

That left him ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Guanyu Zhou, the Chinese driver making it through to Q3 for the first time in his career. But is one of several drivers to face a post-session investigation for their driving during a slew of off-track moments throughout qualifying or trying to find space in the traffic during the earlier segments.

Zhou starts ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas, who was seven hundredths ahead of Alex Albon’s Williams. Sergio Perez was the final car to set a time in Q2 but it was unrepresented and then his afternoon fell apart as he brought out the red flag going down the escape road at Turn Three.

The Mexican locked up on inters, as his right front brake locked with the left appearing to snatch away, that sent him onto the grass and into the wall. With him buried in the wall that ended his session bringing out the red flag so the Red Bull could be recovered.

Lando Norris also didn’t set a time in Q2 after first his banker lap being abandoned when Perez crashed, then an engine issue prevented Norris from getting back out following the red flag. While Leclerc didn’t set a time.

Throughout both Q3 and Q2 times improved by six seconds from the start with the circuit largely developing a dry line, apart from Turns One and Two as well as L’Epingle hairpin.

Pierre Gasly was another driver to complain about braking issues going off at Turn Eight-Nine towards the end of Q1. That left him sixteenth but under investigation after failing to staying to the left of the bollard in the runoff ahead of the short straight down to the hairpin, he did not follow the race directors’ instructions and is under  investigation.

Aston Martin looked to be competitive in the wet conditions in FP3 with Sebastian Vettel third, the performance though didn’t carry into qualifying, he was frustrated with seventeenth. The four-time champion going a hundredth faster than teammate Lance Stroll with Nicolas Latifi nineteenth

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