First resolved and now resilient, Lewis Hamilton proved his intent to take a third world championship is also rock solid with a commanding pole position in Montreal.
The British driver had begun the weekend so insistent that he would put the team’s error in Monaco behind him that he was unwilling to discuss it. Having done so he duly moved on in the best possible way by yet again beating his team-mate, Nico Rosberg, who he leads by 10 points in the world championship, into second place in qualifying.
This was his sixth pole of the season from seven races, and continued his dominance over Rosberg, who has claimed only one front of grid in Spain. When it counted, he made a by-the-numbers run, appropriately so here in Canada where the No44 driver claimed the 44th pole of his career, and to round it off his fourth pole in Montreal, the first he has claimed since 2010, which clearly gave him considerable pleasure.
“It really is special, I feel amazing today,” Hamilton said. “I won my first GP here in 2007 that was incredibly special and to get another pole here was very special.”
After the team’s pit strategy mistake in Monaco that cost him the win, and having sent him out in the wet during free practice two on Friday that led to his car aquaplaning off at turn 10, damaging the front wing, their qualifying strategy when it mattered was exemplary. “The car felt great this afternoon and the team did an amazing job,” Hamilton said. “It is definitely a positive to come back into this weekend on the right foot. To come back with the good pace I had from the last race, after a difficult time. There are no points for today and there is a big race to come, it is going to be challenging for us all but I feel in a good position.”
Hamilton had managed only nine laps in the third practice session, which was interrupted by two red flags, and locked up twice, giving him little time to fine-tune his set-up. But he was straight on the pace for the real business of the day. “I even surprised myself just how quickly I got back to it,” he said.
Hamilton had already gone quickest in Q2, and put in a fine first lap in Q3 on the super-soft tyres with a time of 1min 14.393sec , three-tenths clear of his team-mate. Both returned for another run but neither could improve their times, with Hamilton suffering from a “snap oversteer moment” in turn two, that compromised his final lap.
Rosberg described his final run as “a rubbish end to qualifying” but was again unable to identify why the British driver has him outclassed. “I was really on a roll but in the end it just didn’t come together at all,” he said. “It didn’t work out and we need to analyse now why that was.”
Ferrari had more mixed fortunes. Having brought a new power unit, the third of the four they are allowed and spent three of their engine upgrade tokens, they were hoping to move closer to Mercedes. Kimi Raikkonen posted his best qualifying position of the season with third place, only three-tenths behind Rosberg but still six-tenths from the lead Mercedes. The Ferrari might well yet show more form in race pace.
However, his team-mate Sebastian Vettel was hit with engine problems and a five-place grid penalty for overtaking under a red flag in practice, meaning he will start from 18th on the grid on Sunday. He may even opt to try a one-stop strategy but while the track is one of the better ones for overtaking he will have a busy afternoon ahead.
With Mercedes running with a brand new engine here, they could make the most of the long straights, something the Mercedes-powered Williams of Valtteri Bottas also enjoyed as he took fourth place on the grid. As did the Lotus cars of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, who were in fifth and sixth.
McLaren, however, must be wondering just when their season will start improving. Honda used two of their engine upgrade tokens for this race, aimed at improving efficiency and reliability rather than power but even that seems beyond them currently.
Jenson Button was forced to retire from final practice with an ERS problem and having not taken part in qualifying, will start from last place. His team-mate, Fernando Alonso, had to change his engine before practice and while he just squeezed through to Q2, could manage only 14th fastest.
Max Verstappen qualified his Toro Rosso in 12th but with a five-place grid penalty from Monaco compounded by a further 10 places for having to use his fifth engine, will start at the back in front of only Button.
Verstappen’s team-mate Carlos Sainz put in a fine run, just missing Q3 by two-tenths in 11th place, with the two Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr in 13th and 15th respectively, Felipe Massa, also struggling with power issues, finished in 16th, while the Manors of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi went out in Q1.
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