Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel took an impressive pole position after a qualifying session where he rarely looked like relinquishing top spot.
The nearest challenger to Vettel’s time of 1:13.784 was McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, three tenths behind, and Fernando Alonso made it three manufacturers in the top three, seven-hundredths behind Hamilton.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve imposes some peculiar demands upon an F1 and so qualifying was a mixed affair. The front runners started on the soft tyre but most had to switch to the supersoft in Q1 to guarantee their further participation. Vettel bided his time and was the last man out on track with only nine minutes of the session remaining, Straight away he took P1. The real interest, however, was at the back of the field where Jean-Eric Vergne was struggling to avoid the drop. Having missed much of FP3 after crashing at the beginning of the session, Vergne was struggling in qualifying. On his last run he had to back off while on a better lap and then made a mistake on his final flyer. He went out along with the usual backmarkers, but behind the Caterhams, two-tenths adrift of Vitaly Petrov and four-tenths down on Heikki Kovalainen. The seventeen drivers who progressed were separated by less than a second.
Q2 saw most cars starting on the supersofts but Ferrari sticking to the soft tyres. For a while the top of the order was dominated by Mercedes-powered cars but Vettel appeared and went to the head of the order again. Ferrarri soon switched to the supersoft as well with the times starting to tumble and Alonso slotted in behind Vettel. The top six of Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Webber, Rosberg and Schumacher elected to stay in the garage but the remaining 11 cars were all fighting for the remaining six slots. The focus of attention was firmly on Jenson Button. The McLaren man had missed a lot of running on Friday with a gearbox issue and had looked out of sorts for the last few qualifying sessions. He completed his run early and was eighth, but as times fell at the end of the session he was falling down the order. In P10 with the chequered flag out, he looked like being eliminated by a flying Pastor Maldonado – but the Venezuelan driver hit the Wall of Champions and was unable to improve his time. Button survived by eight-thousandths ahead of Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber. Also eliminated were Kimi Räikkönen, Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Pérez, and Bruno Senna.
Hamilton was first out of the garage in Q3 but both he and Button cruised around their first timed lap five seconds off the pace. Paul di Resta elected to stay in the garage and conserve his tyres but everyone else was on track. Vettel was the first man to go under 1m14s. He had Alonso in close attendance. Button called it a day after his first run, having used the soft tyre, deciding to accept a lowly grid position and save his rubber for the race. Out on track it was all about Vettel who lowered his provisional pole time by another tenth to 1:13.784. Hamilton looked most likely to match that, but ultimately fell three-tenths short, just ahead of the charging Alonso. Mark Webber couldn’t repeat his Monaco performance and completed the second row. Nico Rosberg was ahead of Felipe Massa on row three, Romain Grosjean and the excellent Paul di Resta had row four, while Michael Schumacher and Button completed the top ten.
Vettel professed himself delighted with back-to-back poles in Canada but it was left to Alonso to point out that Montreal rarely provides a straightforward race. “What we think on Saturday afternoon is normally not what happens on a Sunday afternoon!” he said with a smile.