Montreal: Sebastian Vettel ended Mercedes’ run of early-season qualifying supremacy yesterday when he claimed a dramatic late pole position for Ferrari in a crash-hit showdown at the Canadian Grand Prix.
The four-time champion repeated his 2018 success, when he won from pole, by outpacing championship leader Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes by two-tenths of a second at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
It was Vettel’s first pole position triumph of the season, his first pole in 17 races since last year’s German Grand Prix and a signal that Ferrari’s superior straight-line speed was well-suited to the track.
Vettel clocked a best lap of one minute and 10.240 seconds to beat Hamilton’s lap in 1:10.446. “He’s good in qualifying,” said Vettel, pointing to Hamilton. “Hard to crack ... I really enjoyed it.”
Mercedes had been fastest in qualifying in all six races since the start of the year and will now face a battle to extend their record run of six season-opening wins in today’s race. It was the 56th pole position of Vettel’s career and came after Kevin Magnussen had crashed into the “wall of champions” in his Haas car at the end of Q2. He was unhurt.
“I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, I don’t feel disappointed,” said defending five-time champion Hamilton, who apologised to his team on radio. “This is good. This is how racing should be.”
Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc was third fastest ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Renault, Pierre Gasly of Red Bull and Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes. The Finn spun in Q3 and was unable to recover and clock an improved lap.
Nico Hulkenberg was seventh in the second Renault ahead of the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz. Magnussen qualified 10th.
In warm sunshine with a track temperature of 48 degrees Celsius (118.4 Fahrenheit), Mercedes were wary of the challenge from Ferrari.
“We’ve got a fight on our hands,” warned Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff after final practice. “Their straight-line speed is enormous!” He suggested their advantage was 8km/h and was costing Mercedes six-tenths of a second per lap.
As Q1 ended, with Vettel on top ahead of Leclerc, Bottas and Hamilton, with Verstappen fifth, the top five were separated by only four-tenths.
To the dismay of local fans, out went both Racing Points, Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, 16th and 18th, together with Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo and the two Williams. “Very unfortunate for us,” said Stroll.