The Saturday in F1 Canadian GP saw weather play a big role but Max Verstappen held his ground all-through, as Fernando Alonso made the most of the situation.
The wet weather on Saturday of F1 Canadian GP changed the order a bit but Red Bull’s Max Verstappen held his ground to take pole whereas his nearest rivals Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc are due to start from far end of the grid.
While Leclerc took a gamble with an extra engine in his pool, teammate Perez made a mistake at the start of Q2 to deny Red Bull a good chance of extending its lead in the constructors’ championship with a better start position for both its drivers.
This allowed Carlos Sainz to secure a Top 3 start where a front-row was given until his final corner mistake which allowed Alpine’s Fernando Alonso to sneak in and take the front-row spot. His teammate Esteban Ocon made it a double Top 10 for Alpine.
On Mercedes side, Lewis Hamilton was surprised to find himself in fourth even though he felt he didn’t have the greatest of ends in Q3. Teammate George Russell took a soft tyre gamble, which he doesn’t regret, but one which put in only eighth.
Verstappen: “It was just very tricky out there. You know, just especially in Q1, like visibility, and of course, people trying to find a bit of a gap, you have to slow down, your tyres cool down and you are really on the edge with the grip. So for me, Q1 was not the easiest out there. But then it started to be more and more enjoyable when the track started to dry. You started to have a little bit more grip in the wet. And yeah, then in Q3, of course, it’s all about trying to put a banker lap in, but also then you have to try and follow the track and be on the track at the right time.
“But yeah, luckily, it all worked out. As for slicks, I mean, that was mainly in Q3, just because the track was dry in some places. And I felt like actually, on the first lap, the tyres were in the best condition. But of course, the track keeps on drying. So that’s why on the second lap, you improve. But tyre grip was not perfect, so you just try to not kill the front tyres, basically in the beginning of the lap, and make sure that towards the end of the lap, you still have that little edge on the front to make sure that the car turns.”
Sainz: “I mean obviously I would like to be in the first row at least. But in general, I felt like… in the wet, I’ve been feeling quite good all weekend. Or FP3 and Q1. Then, when the track started to dry up, I felt like Max started to get a get a bit away from us. Especially there towards Q3, already in the first set he looked particularly competitive, and I knew that going into Q3, run two, I need a very, very good lap if I wanted to steal pole position from him. I think Sector 1 was quite okay, I think I did purple, but then Sector 2, I knew I didn’t just find the grip that I was expecting to find.
“And then into the last corner I said, okay, I’m probably not in pole position already. So I’m going to try and send it. Sending it was probably not the right call and it cost me probably P2. But yeah, a couple of tenths we missed there, I think, for pole position – but overall, a decent feeling with the car. For the race, I think it will all depend a bit on the start. If we can get a good start and get the straight behind Max, then I think we just can try and follow and put some pressure.
“If you lose a bit of time in the first five-ten laps, maybe Fernando does a good start, then the gap could be big enough that then you’re just a bit too far behind for the rest of the of the race But, yeah, the target, as I said, is to get a clean start, a good one, and then race from there. Will we have the pace to fight Max? According to Friday, it should be close – then obviously we know in the race, they’re always very strong on tyre management. But I think we can still be there.”
Alonso: “I think it was a combination of things. For sure it was not a normal qualifying or not a normal day. FP1, we had a very dirty track. Very clean track. FP2, it was getting grippier and more normal. FP3 was wet and qualifying was just semi-dry. So we never had two consecutive sessions with the same conditions so you really had to adapt very fast to those new conditions that you are facing. So it seems that we had the right confidence in the car, and a good set-up. So I think it’s down to the team 50% and down to the driver that – you know – everything was okay today but it doesn’t mean anything because I said the race is tomorrow and you make a mistake and you have zero points. There are no points on Saturday.
“My performance this weekend, I don’t know.. the car was good straight away. We didn’t make huge setup changes, we didn’t experiment too much because the car felt good from the first laps in FP1 so that was a help to build the confidence. It’s also a circuit that I think you need some rhythm into it. You use a lot of curb riding here and it’s quite bumpy. There are a few things that, you know, are there for many, many years. And I guess for half of the grid it’s either the first time they come here or the second time because after the pandemic it was not many races hosted here in Canada.
“So I don’t know, I’ve been racing here 16 or 17 years so as I always said, age and experience is always a help, it’s never a downside. The front row importance? Yeah, I mean, it doesn’t mean much. I know what I’m capable of. Sometimes I do a better job, sometimes not so good and I try to improve. I’ve been working a lot in the last two years but yeah, I mean, it feels good, but it doesn’t mean anything. The race is tomorrow so we need to do a good race tomorrow.”
Perez: “It was a mistake from my side – I messed up. I should have just waited and taken things a bit more cautiously at the time. I was trying to put temperature into the tyres. Unfortunately, I went over the limit and then I became a passenger. I will try my best tomorrow, try to minimise the damage, which would be great if we are able to do that.”
Russell: “I’m not all really. Had I stayed on inters, I would have qualified P3, P4, which okay is not a bad result. But in a scenario like that, you’ve got the opportunity to maybe do something extraordinary and go for pole. In Sochi last year we did that with Williams and qualified P3 and it doesn’t take a lot for that just to change. So, glad I went for it, glad we tried it, obviously was not meant to be today but that’s what you’ve got to do sometimes.” “I think it might be a little bit tricky to overtake because we are lacking a bit of straight-line speed,” admitted Russell. “We’ve got good pace compared to the teams around us, so hopefully we can do something on the strategy to get ahead of Haas and Ocon.”
The Top 10 also saw a fantastic result for Haas pair as Kevin Magnussen ended up fifth from teammate Mick Schumacher, who secured his best F1 qualifying result as he chases his first points. The duo worked their way through from Q1 to Q3 without any hiccups.
They made the most of the situation where Schumacher took a lot of confidence. McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo kept the F1 team’s hopes for points in Canada after teammate Lando Norris faced power unit issues which knocked him out in Q2.
Like Schumacher, it was a solid day for Zhou Guanyu too after he scored his first-ever Top 10 qualifying result. The Chinese driver managed to beat teammate Valtteri Bottas, who felt the track improved and since he was first to set the time, others imrpoved.
Magnussen: “It was good run. I love these conditions, and this year our car seems to love it too. We had these similar conditions, or at least intermediate conditions, in Imola and we got P4 [in qualifying] and now this time we got P5, so it’s a lot of fun. We’ve just got to try and take advantage of that tomorrow. It certainly helped our chances of scoring points I think, so yeah, it’s a good day. In conditions like this it’s a real team effort. Communication is so important, and I got everything I needed from the team today, both in terms of the balance of the car – of course the car has something extra in these conditions – and also in terms of just communicating, getting me out at the right times, getting me in front of the queue, and doing the right thing all the way along. So it was a really good effort from the whole team.”
Schumacher: “It was pretty good. Still not maximised what we had… We had to abort one lap because of traffic and then everything got a bit cold which I didn’t want. But still very happy with the P6 and a good position to start in tomorrow’s race. I don’t envision us going further forwards, just because of the pace most cars have around us, but we will try our best see where we end up.”
Ricciardo: “Another Q3 is nice. When you get into Q3 and the top ten, to leave with ninth, part of me thinks it could have been better, but as the track dried we lost just a little bit of our advantage. Weirdly, I felt a bit more competitive in the wetter conditions, and then as it dried, trying to use the rears, we struggled maybe a little bit more to lean on the tyre. With that being said, I think it’s been a positive weekend so far. It’s definitely been a step in the right direction again. We really hit the ground running in both dry and wet conditions and we’ve been on the pace, showing some good signs. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, when hopefully we can get a bit deeper into the points and end the weekend on a high. There’s maybe a few cars out of position as well, and you never know how that could sway the race. There’s potentially slower cars in front, but to be honest, there’s also a couple of quicker ones behind with Charles [Leclerc] and Sergio [Perez], so it could be an interesting race. I’m looking forward to it.”
Guanyu: “I’m extremely happy to get into Q3, especially as it was my first time having a fully wet qualifying session on only my third rainy session overall, after Imola and FP3 today. From the moment I woke up this morning and saw the conditions, I knew that anything could happen. We’ve been often close to Q3 in the past, but I was not expecting to reach it here in Montreal, which is a completely new track for me. Nevertheless, we’ve showed good pace and good progress during the season so far and this is the result. I enjoyed driving in these conditions, and with the added pressure for us drivers, because every little mistake could affect your performance. It was really tough out there today, the track was slippery and it was almost impossible to see the other drivers in front. I’m happy to have been able to give everything I got, my laps in Q3 have been a bit messy but I am glad to have extracted the full potential from the car. In terms of race pace, we have always been quite strong in the past in dry conditions, so we will try to give our best tomorrow and fight for a Top 10 finish.”
It was a strange Q2 where three cars were already done and dusted, leaving only Bottas and Williams’ Alexander Albon to be knocked out. The Thai racer, though, was pleased with a 12th place finish despite the barrier brush he had at the start of the session.
While there was plenty to cheer about at the front of the field, AlphaTauri and Aston Martin couldn’t replicate their FP3 performance like Alpine in qualifying. All four drivers were knocked out in Q1 itself which was frustrating to the core for them.
Albon: “We had quite good pace in the car today with our best Qualifying of the year. We made some changes to how we approached Qualifying and that paid off for us, so I’m happy with today and think we did a good job. Despite running into the barrier at Turn 6, I only damaged the front wing. Normally our race pace is better than our Qualifying, so I think we’re in a better starting position to do a good job tomorrow. Points are obviously my goal and it’s satisfying that we’re near P10 so that’s my focus.”
Gasly: “I’m extremely disappointed with that Qualifying, it’s very frustrating. FP3 was great for us so we knew we had the potential to do well this afternoon, but we just completely missed the mark in Quali. The start of Q1 was going well for us, and I was quite happy with our performance, but we came in to box and after that I had an issue with the brakes, which made it really difficult and I couldn’t get through to Q2. It’s obviously tough right now, but we’ll look at everything tonight and see how we can move forward tomorrow.”
Vettel: “I do not know where our pace went. We did not change much between FP3 and qualifying – but we were too slow and we do not understand it. It is a pity, because we could have gone very well in these conditions. Given how the car felt out there, our lap times are not a surprise. The car was very difficult to drive – it was sliding and had a very poor rear end. We need to have a look at the data because something clearly did not work. Still, I am optimistic for tomorrow’s race. Today’s result puts us on the back foot, but we showed good pace in Friday practice, and we can come back from this.”
Here’s how F1 Canadian GP qualifying panned out