World champion and series leader Max Verstappen rode expertly through tough wet conditions in his Red Bull on Saturday to secure pole position in the Canadian Grand Prix. In an intriguing and entertaining qualifying session, the 24-year-old Dutchman set the fastest lap in one minute and 21.299 seconds, beating Alpine’s two-time world champion Fernando Alonso by seven tenths of a second. Verstappen will start his 150th race from the top starting spot after taking his 15th pole in pursuit of a 26th career victory.
His pole cap ends a run of four in a row by defending rival Charles Leclerc who starts Sunday’s race from the back of the grid after taking a new power unit from his Ferrari.
“We stayed calm, we didn’t make any mistakes, so of course super happy with that, with pole position here – and also to be back here in Montreal,” Verstappen said.
Alonso, 40, put in a dazzling late lap to delight the crowd and edge ahead of fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Ferrari who qualified third ahead of a reinvigorated Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
“It’s been great. It’s been an amazing weekend so far for us, thanks to the wet conditions. The car was mega,” Alonso said.
Kevin Magnussen finished fifth ahead of Haas teammate Mick Schumacher, Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine and George Russell in the second Mercedes.
Firsts for Schumacher, Zhou
It was Schumacher’s best qualifying performance since joining Formula 1 last year.
Daniel Ricciardo finished ninth for McLaren ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, with the Chinese driver reaching the top ten for the first time on an unexpected day.
After heavy rain overnight and throughout the morning, the temperature was only 11 degrees when Race Control declared Circuit Gilles Villeneuve an official “wet track” for the session.
Another large crowd showed up, decked out in colorful plastic ponchos and anoraks to greet F1’s return after a three-year absence caused by Covid.
All 20 riders went out immediately to test the conditions in the opening qualifying session, with the entire field running on wet tyres.
The track seemed wetter than it had been in recent practice when Alonso was fastest.
Russell set the pace early before Verstappen and Sainz took over only for the Mercedes man to respond again before Magnussen was quickest for Haas.
As a dry line began to emerge, Valtteri Bottas took the upper hand as the times tumbled to dramatic effect, Sainz again taking his Ferrari top before racing into turn three and reversing to join the fray.
Amid the chaos, Verstappen stayed calm to go fastest again ahead of Alonso while, unexpectedly after shining on third down, the two Aston Martin men, hometown star Lance Stroll and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, have been eliminated.
With them, Pierre Gasly from AlphaTauri, the second Canadian prospect Nicholas Latifi from Williams and Yuki Tsunoda in the second Alpha Tauri.
The second session started with some drivers, including Sainz and Perez, trying intermediate tires only for Alex Albon to come out at turn six in his Williams, then Perez to slide into the barriers, more heavily, at turn three.
Perez’s accident triggered a red flag to stop the action, dashing his hopes of beating Verstappen to qualify for a third straight weekend to boost his title bid.
The session resumed with nine minutes remaining, a wider dry line and everyone on the intermediates except Leclerc who remained in the pits, knowing that he will start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid after having took a new powertrain.
In a frantic finish, Verstappen edged Alonso to the top while Alfa Romeo’s Bottas, Albon, Perez, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Leclerc missed the cut.
Russell set an early scorer in 1:24.006 before Verstappen showed power in 1:22.701. It was a statement trick.
On his second moto, Russell bet on slicks as the Dutchman cut his best time to 1:21.620 – a bet that fell through as he pulled away at turn two.
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