MONTREAL — A heavy downpour and a drying track have been box office hits at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve before, and it proved to be true again on Saturday.
Max Verstappen claimed dominant pole position, Fernando Alonso made a popular return to the front row of the grid, and Lewis Hamilton delivered an impressive performance just six days after narrowly climbing out of his car in Baku.
Here’s a summary of some of the main topics to discuss qualifying for the first Canadian Grand Prix since 2019.
Vintage Alonso Shows Why All The Fuss Is About
The only disappointing thing about Alonso finishing second in qualifying – his first front-row start since the 2012 German Grand Prix – is that he wasn’t on pole.
Formula One has gained a legion of new fans over the past few years and performances like these help show just how good Alonso is. The Spaniard is still regarded by many in the paddock as the most accomplished driver of the modern era, even if he has not won a Grand Prix since 2013.
It is noteworthy that the career of Michael Schumacher, who ended the championship streak, also had a 10-year gap between starts in the front row, but this is one of the features that made Alonso such a convincing driver to watch all these years.
Alonso has put in a plethora of impressive F1 performances since returning to the grid with the Alpine team formerly known as Renault last year, but this could be the best of them all.
In recent races, the French team’s car has gradually improved, with Alonso showing excellent results in practice this week.
Alonso, the 2005 and 2006 world champion, clearly wants to have some fun at the start of the race.
After getting out of the car, he grinned and said: “I think we will attack Max at the first turn!” repeated more seriously at the press conference that followed.
In a regular race, Alonso has little chance of rivaling Verstappen and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who starts in third place, but he has put himself in the perfect position to capitalize on any major drama ahead.
Joy for Hamilton, Russell’s gamble backfires
Qualifying reversed what had been usual for Mercedes for most of this season, with Hamilton in form and George Russell driving away wondering what could have been after he had failed to exploit his car’s potential and the situation.
Some of the best performances of Hamilton’s career have been in rainy or dry weather, and on Saturday he again excelled with a fourth-place finish in qualifying.
Hamilton was in a jubilant post-session mood, smiling and shaking his fist as he made his way to the print media interview.
“Ah, I can’t tell you how happy I am,” a beaming Hamilton said upon arrival, before referring to the work he and coach Angela Cullen have done this week to make sure he’s fully fit to race. this weekend.
Hamilton was suffering from severe back pain due to his car bouncing heavily at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last week.
“Ange and I got a big hug in the back of the garage because we both worked so hard. The past week has been a real challenge and I am very grateful that she was with me to deal with the pain and get my body right.”
Like Alonso, Hamilton doesn’t expect to challenge Verstappen under normal conditions, but it was clear how much the qualifying result meant to him.
“Coming here by car… we’re still struggling, we’re still a long way off in the dry, but getting into the top four in qualifying in these conditions is great.”
He added: “It feels very, very similar to my first Australian qualification in 2007 in terms of excitement.”
Remarkably, for a man with more pole positions than anyone in the history of the sport, fourth on the grid is Hamilton’s best qualifying result in nine races.
While Hamilton’s form has changed throughout the year, teammate George Russell has been Mr. Consistency all year, but he starts from eighth on Sunday.
Russell deserves credit for throwing the dice in the last minutes as the only driver to risk going dry, which was a classic win-or-sit decision. It didn’t work out in the end, with still water at Turn 1 taking him by surprise, but it was clear that a dry lane formed around the rest of the track.
“It’s a high risk, high reward,” Russell later said. “I think it was literally just the first corner. If it was as dry as the other corners, we could be in a really good spot.
“I’m surprised we’re still only half a second away from 4th place. Today we showed a really strong place, but as I said on the radio, I’m not here to stop at 4th or 5th place, we need to try. tomorrow and I’m glad we tried something different.”
Russell confirmed that he had called.
When asked if he considered the same crossing, Hamilton said he thought it was another 10 minutes to the perfect crossing point. Max Verstappen referred to the still water at turn one, explaining why he backed down on the same decision.
Return to form for Haas
Haas needed it.
After a fabulous start to the season with a few points, Haas has faced some setbacks in recent races. He still hasn’t scored a single point since the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, but with Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher starting races five and six on Sunday, it’s a great opportunity to end this drought.
The results are particularly encouraging for Schumacher, who, due to his habit of charging very expensive repair bills this season, has him pushing for more and more results. This is Schumacher’s best performance in qualifying and the team hopes the seven-time world champion’s son Michael can finally score his first F1 point on Sunday for the 30th time.
Can anyone stop Max Verstappen?
The last word belongs to the person in pole position. With no rain predicted for Sunday, and unless Verstappen gets into trouble at the start, it’s hard to imagine any other result other than a very easy victory for the man in the #1 car.
Recent races have shown Red Bull to have a stronger race day package than Ferrari, and Verstappen’s two main title rivals, teammate Sergio Pérez and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, face struggles on the field from starting positions in the bottom half of the order.
Pérez berated himself after the session after he slid off the track in the second quarter and went straight into turn three. Despite being told the procedure by his race engineer, Pérez was unable to get his car to come out of the wall and start the start. in the 14th.
Leclerc will be 19th after Ferrari completely changed his engine after his retirement in Baku.
Leclerc’s teammate Sainz can count on his chances to challenge from third place, but the Spanish driver hasn’t looked entirely happy with his car this year. The same cannot be said for Verstappen, who has been nearly untouchable in every race he has finished this year, with the exception of the Monaco Grand Prix.
After eight seasons, it’s easy to start taking Verstappen’s huge talent for granted, but on Saturday he was in a different league than the rest. For the sake of the season and title shot, neutral fans should probably be rooting for Verstappen, who won on Sunday and cemented an already healthy championship lead, but that the Dutchman is doing just that seems like the logical outcome for the Canadian Grand Prix.