Canadian GP: Sebastian Vettel on pole position as Lewis Hamilton struggles

Sebastian Vettel has claimed pole position for the Canadian GP with world championship rival Lewis Hamilton only fourth.

Vettel’s pole position, secured with a new track record at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, is Ferrari’s first in Montreal since 2001.

“Today we switched on. The car was incredible, it just kept getting quicker,” Vettel said. “In my final lap I had a small mistake otherwise I think there was a little bit more. But it was fantastic.”

After locking up into the hairpin during both of his Q3 runs, championship leader Hamilton was beaten by Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, as well as Vettel.

“It was a difficult session,” Hamilton told Sky F1. “They weren’t great laps. It just didn’t come together.”

Mercedes have been forced to shelve plans to introduce an upgraded engine this weekend, but Hamilton accepted: “This had nothing to do with the engine.”

Verstappen had set the pace in all three practice sessions prior to qualifying but excelled as he claimed a second-row starting berth alongside Hamilton.

Although Renault have introduced an improved engine this weekend, Red Bull believe they are surrendering around three tenths of a second to Ferrari and Mercedes on the Montreal straights – food for thought as the team deliberate the identity of their engine providers for next season.

Like Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen also made an error on his final flying lap, running wide at the second corner, to relegate the Finn to fifth.

As expected, both Ferrari and Mercedes qualified on the slower but more durable ultrasoft tyres. But after experiencing less degradation on the hypersoft tyres during Friday practice, the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo – sixth fastest two weeks after dominating in Monaco – will start Sunday’s race on Pirelli’s quickest tyre.

Ricciardo, sixth quickest, told Sky F1: “We felt if we did the same it would put us in the same running sequence of the others and we decided to do something different.”

On a poor day for McLaren, neither Fernando Alonso nor Stoffel Vandoorne made it through to the top-10 shoot-out.

“We knew this could be a difficult circuit for us and we were uncompetitive today,” said Alonso. “It’s difficult to explain. But we know our weaknesses and we know we have to improve.”

But even McLaren’s disappointing performance paled alongside the struggles of Williams. For the fifth time in seven events, both Williams car were eliminated in Q1 as the fallen superpowers slumped to yet another new low.

Provisional grid: Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Sainz, Perez, Magnussen, Hartley, Leclerc, Alonso, Vandoorne, Gasly, Stroll, Sirotkin, Ericsson, Grosjean.

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