Sebastian Vettel’s reputation as a rain man was enhanced as he conquered tricky conditions to claim pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix, overcoming a strong challenge from Lewis Hamilton who was next best, while rookie Valterri Bottas drove sensationally to take third.
Rain ruled the day, as all forecasts predicting a dry qualifying session were rubbished by Mother Nature who decided that it would be wet and miserable over Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the entire day.
When the track went green to start Q1, just about everyone left the pits immediately with the Pirelli super softs, and within a lap were all back in for intermediates which thereafter remained the tyre of choice.
From the outset it was clearly a Red Bull versus Mercedes affair; Vettel, Hamilton, Webber and Rosberg were always at the sharp end of the timing screens at the end of each session.
Vettel topped Q1 and oozed confidence throughout, and early on in Q3 set the fastest lap which was enough for pole position as more rain fell towards the end of the session, which prevented anyone going any faster.
Vettel said afterwards, “I’m looking forward to the race, I think we had strong performance yesterday so whatever happens in terms of conditions it should be good. We expect dry conditions tomorrow, but it doesn’t matter. We have both sets of tyres left, but even if it rains we should be in decent shape. But it’s a long race, 70 laps here, so anything can happen.”
Hamilton gave it his best shot and on his final stab at the top time he was up on pole in the first two sectors, but arrived at the last chicane too hot and cut across it, gallant attempt foiled. In the end the Briton was only 0.087 of a second shy of the top time.
He appeared glum throughout the post qualifying formalities, summing up his session, “I was doing a pretty good final lap but I ran wide, so it was unfortunate but I’m still happy.”
He added, “We don’t have any tyre degradation. When you compare the long runs, it looks like Ferrari and Red Bull were half a second quicker on long run but we don’t know about fuel loads. Our car felt great yesterday, so hopefully tomorrow is dry and we can have a good shot.”
Star of the show, on the day, was undoubtedly young Bottas who wrung all he could out of the Williams and sensationally claimed the third spot on the grid, on a circuit where he has never raced before. The Finn, contesting his seventh grand prix weekend, delivering the kind of performance that will have boosted his shares enormously in the F1 paddock. (Apex.)
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With the track at its trickiest, in Q2, he gave an inkling of what was to come when he popped up fourth fastest – fluke one would be forgiven for saying – but when he went one better in Q3, you knew it was not a luck thing. The youngster is clearly very good in the wet, and we all know what that means…
“This means a lot. It’s way more up in the grid than we could have imagined. The first six races have been so difficult, so this will be a nice boost for the team. We got everything just right today,” said Bottas.
The Williams split the Red Bull and Mercedes quartet, as lining up fourth on the grid will be Rosberg, with Mark Webber fifth and heading up row three.
Rosberg, who had a fourth consecutive pole start denieds, was not happy, “It’s not so nice, because the car felt good. The big excuse today is that the radio wasn’t working. In these conditions, you need the radio working. At the very end, I didn’t know I had three laps. On the last lap I thought it was finished and then I got stuck behind a Lotus. It’s very disappointing.”
Webber gave insight into the conditions, “There was a very fine mist at different sections of the track. You never knew if the lap you were on was going to have to be one. It was tricky for everybody.”
“I would have liked to be more comfortable than fifth, but in the end that’s what we got. Let’s see how it unfolds. Dry conditions tomorrow would be nicer for everyone round here, visibility is not great if it heavily rains,” added the Australian.
Fernando Alonso will line up in sixth place as the Ferrari again appeared to lack qualifying pace, nevertheless their strong race pace may enable the Spaniard to find a way onto the podium.
He said, “In the dry, we were very competitive. This year, every time we are competitive, it rains in qualifying but it’s the way it is. Overall, we need to be satisfied. It’s not easy to get it right but very easy to get it wrong. We start sixth with mixed cars at front, it gives us the possibility to have a good race and hopefully finish on podium. Sebastian starts on the front and we need a perfect race to finish ahead of him.”
On the other side of the Ferrari garage, Felipe Massa, was in the wars as he crashed for the third time in two weeks, thoroughly bending the F138 yet again. This time he made a rookie error. He tagged the slippery when wet white line that demarcates the track going into the first chicane, which promptly flicked the Ferrari sideways and into the barriers. Game over – the Brazilian will start from 16th.
Q2 was stopped, to remove the wrecked Ferrari, with less than two minutes still on the clock. As a result the likes of McLaren and Sauber, whose drivers looked capable of a Q3 slot, were caught out with the restart and failed to make it through to the final stanza of qualifying.
Another scalp to go in Q2 was Pastor Maldonado who was down in 13th while his rookie teammate Bottas was up to fourth on the timing screens.
Toro Rosso played their cards very well as both their drivers made it into Q3, with Jean Eric Vergne ending the day seventh and Daniel Ricciardo set to start from 10th.
Force India started the weekend by topping the wet opening practice session in Montreal. Their car looked handy in the damp/ dry conditions and although Adrian Sutil managed the eighth best time it was disappointment for Paul Di Resta who once again was caught out when it mattered and failed to make it beyond Q1. He will start 17th with a car which was good for top spot 24 hours earlier.
Struggling for grip all weekend were Lotus, but Kimi Raikkonen dug deep and hauled the stubborn E21 around the man made island to take ninth on the grid.
It was an early shower for his team mate Romain Grosjean who tripped up in Q1, ending 19th on the timing sheets. With a 10 place grid penalty, for his Monaco shenanigans, the Frenchman will start from last on the grid.
For the Williams team 2013 has not been a good year. For Claire Williams her recent promotion to deputy team principal could not have come at a worse time in terms of the team’s performance.
Thus it was understandable that she was delighted with Bottas’ remarkable achievement on an afternoon of considerable duress.
Final word to her: “Valtteri did such a brilliant job. I can’t tell you how excited everyone is. It’s only P3, but it’s so exiting considering the season we have had. It means a lot to everyone at Williams. Valtteri is so consistent, those lap times, it’s continuous. Even in the wet, he held it together, he’s fantastic.”
Canadian Grand Prix, Qualifying – Saturday 8 June 2013
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:22.318||1:28.166||1:25.425||25|
|5||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:23.247||1:28.145||1:26.208||30|
|8||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:24.551||1:28.799||1:27.348||29|
|17||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:24.908||12|
|22||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:27.110||10|
|Q1 107% Time||1:28.080|
Note – Grosjean qualified 19th but penalised 10 grid spots for causing collision at previous round.