Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘on track correspondent’: James Parker
Sebastian Vettel has captured his 3rd pole position of the season in changing conditions in Montreal. With rain getting heavier during the final part of Q3, Vettel’s first flying run was enough to propel him up to the pointy end of the top 10. 2nd was the Mercedes of Hamilton who out qualified his team-mate for the first time in 3 races, but the big surprise was 3rd place man Bottas in the Williams who produced the performance of qualifying.
Q1 set the tone for the rest of Qualifying as rain began to fall in the opening minutes. All drivers had opted to try slicks on their first run, however found the track to be far too greasy, causing hordes of activity in the pitlane as the switch to intermediate compounds was made.
The Redbull’s had looked very racy all weekend, and during the opening minutes of Q1, they dominated the head of the field alongside the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.
The two Lotus cars however were really struggling with the 17c ambient temperature, unable to generate enough heat in their tyres. Both Raikkonen and Grosjean were flirting with the drop zone, and they were joined by the McLaren of Jenson Button who was in the bottom 6 with 5 minutes left to go.
Massa who was finding the conditions hard down in 16th recovered up to 6th, whilst Button also produced a solid lap to climb up into 5th place with a 1.23.9, just by the skin of his teeth.
Two drivers who were not able to recover however were Paul Di Resta and Romain Grosjean. As rain started to fall heavier with only 2 minutes left, they found themselves unable to capatilise on clear air and were steadily getting slower as conditions deteriorated on used Intermediates.
Di Resta, who experienced a gearbox glitch at the end of Practice 3 missed the first few minutes of Qualifying and could not recover only capturing 17th. Grosjean was a disastrous 19th (starts 22nd after penalty) behind the Caterham of Charles Pic. They were joined by the two Marussia’s of Chilton and Bianchi as well as Pic’s team-mate Van Der Garde.
The rain continued to fall as Q2 began and the whole of the pack went straight out to get early bankers in. Hamilton took the initiative going fastest with a 1.29.259 with Webber keeping him on his toes just behind.
Vettel who had yet to set a time down in 16th, was going very quickly indeed. After setting 2 purple sectors on his first run, he overran the final chicane, rejoined after the rather large sleeping policeman and was still able to capture 6th.
A lot of drivers were out for their first runs on used intermediates and found the wetter track conditions very tricky – straight lining the chicane, but it was not fazing Vettel who was going 1.1 seconds faster than anyone else.
Massa, Button and Perez were all struggling down in the drop zone, but the man on the move was Williams driver Valterri Bottas – who was proving there was grip to be found and went 3rd, an incredibly strong performance given he finished Q1 in 2nd place as well.
When Massa thought his afternoon could not get any worse however, for the 2nd Grand Prix weekend in a row, he found himself ploughing his Ferrari directly into the barriers. Going into turns 3 and 4, the Ferrari man locked up his left front, skidded across onto the white line and the back end swung round sending him out of Qualifying with 2 minutes to go and causing a red flag.
A brief stop in the session allowed the bottom 6 some restpite; ahead of what would be a frantic 2 minutes to the end. As the minute mark to restart was hit, all 15 drivers hit the pitlane exit creating the world’s most expensive traffic jam whilst they waited for the green light to show.
As the 15 drivers fought for a piece of race track on their out lap, inevitably, at the final chicane congestion did become quite a big problem. For Button this was to be incredibly detrimental. With McLaren unable to get him out at the front of the queue, he found himself crowded out at the back of the pack and crossed the line to start his final hot lap of Q2 two seconds too late.
Sutil managed to escape the drop zone with a fantastic 7th, and it meant for the first time in 10 years no McLaren was in the final part of Qualifying at Montreal – Perez also not able to produce the goods. Joining them were Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Guttiererz and the helpless Felipe Massa in 16th.
For the start of Q3, the track continued to dry, however there was talk of heavier rain on its way towards the end of the session. Intermediates were once again bolted on to the top 10 and they went out for their first runs
Both Raikkonen and Webber made mistakes on their first runs, with Raikkonen ending up 5th and Webber 7th. Webber stayed out for a second timed lap and recovered to 5th, but the Lotus driver was unable to improve.
Vettel was setting the pace up the front with a 1.25.4 however. Hamilton was next up just a tenth off in 2nd, but the man who stole the show was once again Valterri Bottas, the Williams man producing a sensational lap to go 3rd quickest ahead of the other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in 4th.
In the last 5 minutes of the session, the predicted rain came, falling heavily in the final chicane meaning 2nd runs were left meaningless in terms of defining the grid. Alonso who had a scruffy qualifying after showing promising practice pace, made a mistake on his 2nd run going straight on at the turn 11 hairpin meaning he could only go 6th fastest.
Jean Eric Vergne had a great 7th for Torro Rosso, the car once again proving its potential in changeable conditions, whilst Sutil was the only man to go faster on his 2nd run and capture 8th ahead of the frustrated Kimi Raikkonen. Rounding out the top 10 was Vergne’s team-mate Ricciardo meaning it was the best combined Qualifying performance of the season for the Torro Rosso team getting both drivers into the top 10.
Driver of the day and strategy
There simply is no other contender for driver of the day other than Valterri Bottas, who once again outperformed team-mate Maldonado, and started to show the potential which had led to Williams praising the Finn so much in 2012. It offered the first glimmer of hope to a season which has been the worst in the team’s history since the mid 70’s.
Strategy for tomorrow is set to be very interesting. Given the changeable conditions, all of the top 10 will only have 1 set of fresh intermediate tyres going into the race which may shake up things quite considerably.
If temperatures are warmer for the Grand Prix however, it will be fascinating to see what progress Raikkonen makes from 9th with the Lotus, and how long those Mercedes rear tyres last. Vettel will surely be hoping to scamper off into the distance and drive to a delta to help preserve his rears but the key to his race will surely be hinged on the progress Alonso makes from 6th on his opening stint.
The Pirelli mystery strategy predictor:
The biggest influence on strategy in Canada will be the weather, and of course safety cars. But if it stays dry, the fastest strategy for the 70-lap race is a two-stopper. Degradation and wear is low, despite the severity of the track, which will allow the drivers to push to the maximum from start to finish. The ideal strategy: start on the supersoft, change to supersoft again on lap 20 and then finally to the medium on lap 40.
An alternative strategy is another two-stopper, but theoretically it’s not as fast. Start on supersoft, change to medium on lap 20 and then medium again on lap 45.
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull–Renault||1.22.318||1.28.166||1.25.425||1|
|5||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull–Renault||1.23.247||1.28.145||1.26.208||5|
|7||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso–Ferrari||1.24.159||1.28.527||1.26.543||7|
|8||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India–Mercedes||1.24.551||1.28.799||1.27.348||8|
|10||19||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso–Ferrari||1.24.770||1.29.359||1.27.946||10|
|17||14||Paul di Resta||Force India–Mercedes||1:24.908||17|
|22||21||NetherlandsGiedo van der Garde||Caterham–Renault||1:27.110||21|