Sebastian Vettel says his pole at the Canadian GP “means something extra” given Ferrari’s association with Gilles Villeneuve.
The four-time world champion set a new absolute lap record of 1:10.764 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to pip Valtteri Bottas to pole by 0.093s. Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull, with Vettel’s championship rival Lewis Hamilton only fourth.
Villeneuve drove for Ferrari for five years, claiming six victories, before he was tragically killed in qualifying for the 1982 Belgian GP, and Vettel savoured claiming the Scuderia’s first pole in Montreal since 2001.
“It was a big relief when I heard it was enough and we’d made it,” Vettel said.
“Being on pole here with Ferrari means something extra. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the meaning of Gilles for Ferrari is huge. I think motorsport in Canada is linked to that name.
“It’s a great result, a lot of Ferrari fans out there. It’s great to carry the momentum that we’ve had this year so far in qualifying, even if the last races were a little bit less strong.
“Overall the performance has been there and it’s great when you have a session like that.”
Vettel expecting tight race as Max eyes forward moves
Vettel’s sole Canadian GP victory came when he last qualified on pole in 2013 when he was still driving for Red Bull.
The German is seeking to reduce his 14-point deficit to championship leader Hamilton but predicted a closely-fought 70 laps given the similar long-run pace between Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.
“I’m not a bookmaker but I think my [victory chances] are pretty good. Today I was a lot happier with the car and I think we can carry that into the race,” Vettel said.
“For myself and for the team I think we start on the right tyre but we will see. It’s a long race and a lot of laps, a lot of things to look out for so we will see.
“In terms of race pace, we have seen many times this year it’s very close between the three teams and the six drivers. But if you start on pole you want to win.”
Verstappen had topped each practice session but ultimately the lack of extra power in the Renault engine cost the Red Bull driver as he had to settle for third, 0.173s off Vettel’s time.
The Dutchman was buoyed by how close he could get to the Ferrari and believes Red Bull’s race performance, and starting on the hypersoft tyres, will enable him to take the fight to Vettel and Bottas.
“We extracted the best we could have from qualifying,” he added. “We knew that in Q3 it was going to be a bit harder for us, but to still be so close was good.
“We are just lacking power so we try and compensate with that. With the long straights it’s hard to fight for pole position. But in the race it calms down a bit. We are always a bit more competitive in the race.”