Nico Rosberg dealt his Mercedes teammate, and F1 World Championship title rival, Lewis Hamilton, a major blow by claiming pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix, at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a venue where Hamilton has won four times with Rosberg never finishing in the top four.
After playing second fiddle to Hamilton throughout the three Free Practice sessions, Rosberg delivered a solid lap when it mattered while the Briton fumbled his final run when all the ‘smart’ money had been on him doing the business with ease.
Instead Rosberg defied the pundits (and just about everyone else for that matter) by dipping into the 74 second zone with his best lap of 1:14.874, which was 0.079 of a second better than Hamilton and left the 2008 world champion somewhat bemused as he posed for photographers.
The Silver Arrows pair will start 1-2 on the grid for another episode of their ongoing feud, and although they were cordial as they went through the parc ferme rituals, the tension was still palpable.
Up until now Rosberg has never started higher than fourth in Canada, a statistic that may now become redundant,as the record books will show that the German has not yet finished in the top four of this popular race. This is likely to change, come Sunday afternoon.
Rosberg commented, “I know it’s a track where Lewis is really strong. I’m very happy it worked out. It has been a fantastic day and through the weekend we have been progressing all the time and I’m in the best position for tomorrow.”
When asked what it took to trump his teammate, Rosberg replied, “It’s just working at it all the time, looking at the data, working with engineers and trying to understand areas where I can do better. It’s just a process and I’m glad it’s worked out.”
Hamilton was magnanimous when he said afterwards, “Nico did a fantastic job so congratulations to him. It was not a particularly [bad lap], it just wasn’t the greatest Qualifying – sometimes you have a good qualifying, sometimes you have bad qualifying.
“But it’s a great to get a one-two for the team and a fantastic performance. Let’s hope we can make history tomorrow,” added Hamilton in reference to the fact that if the Mercedes duo finish 1-2 it will be the first time in the sport’s history that a team has scored six 1-2 victories in a row.
Red Bull were targeting the third row, but Sebastian Vettel ‘over delivered’ for the world champions by claiming the third best time with an impressive lap, which appeared as if out the blue, and with it he turned around what, to that point, had been a weekend packed with niggles. Teammate Daniel Ricciardo was sixth fastest.
“The start of the last lap was not great,” says the four-time world champion, who will start third. “I still didn’t get the first sector right. The second one I found a significantly better line so all in all it was a very good result.”
“There are four or five cars within about five or six hundredths of each other – the Williams are really quick here. It’s a long race so the strategy could be a bit of a surprise. Williams have a very quick car down the straight,” concluded Vettel.
The meat in a (very thick) Red Bull sandwich is the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa who ended up fourth and fifth respectively – the first time in ten years that the team have had two drivers in the top ten in Qualifying in Canada.
Bottas summed up his thoughts, “We need to be happy with the second row, tomorrow is going to be interesting. I know we have good race pace, unlike last year, so yeah. The last try in Q3 with the second set of tyres was compromised with a slow out lap due to traffic but yeah, it’s OK. We do have really good straight-line speed. We have to have a good start and good strategy. If we can keep both cars in the race, we can get good points. We need to aim for perfection in every single area tomorrow.”
Massa admitted, “I expected third. I think it was not a perfect lap and when you see the difference between third and sixth, it was so close. So definitely I missed some hundredths and third. I’m a bit disappointed for that but feel happy [with] the car we have.”
Much was expected from Ferrari after strong showings in the free practice sessions leading up to Qualifying, but when it mattered the Reds simply did not have enough firepower to match the pace setters, as a result Fernando Alonso will start seventh and Kimi Raikkonen from tenth on the grid.
Alonso claimed, “We made progress compared to the last race. Some of the package and some of the new pieces we brought here, with the hot temperatures, we need to come back to the old ones because they run too hot so we lost a bit of the advantage we expected here.”
“Red Bull and Williams have been better than us here and tomorrow is going to be tough but we need to try and overtake them because we need those points,” explained the Spaniard.
Clearly frustrated by yet another mediocre showing, Raikkonen’s synopsis was short, “I only had one try so what more to expect? I was sliding around a bit on the lap, it didn’t feel right, I could have gone faster but it’s probably where our speed is.”
Jean Eric Vergne gave a good account of himself in the Toro Rosso, which through the speed traps was the fastest of the Renault powered brigade, to claim the eight best time ahead of Jenson Button in his McLaren.
The tight nature of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve can punish the errant as it did when Marcus Ericsson lost control of his Caterham in the dying moments of Q1, tagging the wall and ripping off the left wheel of the car. Midnight oil required for the Caterham mechanics.
Pastor Maldonado’s season from hell continued, as once again he was his session came to a premature halt due to yet another technical issue. He failed to make it beyond Q1 and will start from 17th on the grid.
After crashing out during the morning FP3 session, Esteban Gutierrez did not participate in Qualifying as the car was too damaged to repair between sessions.
Final word to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, “They were really matching each other. It’s exciting having a Williams up at the front too, which hasn’t happened in recent races. They [Hamilton and Rosberg] are pushing each other and they are constantly looking at the data trying to find how they can make up time on each other.”
The scene is thus set for another episode of civil war between the Mercedes teammates, while the rest provide the sideshow. (GP247)
Canadian Grand Prix, Qualifying – Saturday, 7 June 2014