Ambient 16° Track 42° Humidity 30% Wind 4-7 kmh
The sun hammered down on the track as memories of yesterday’s rain were obliterated by the relentless good weather. Plenty of shiny New engines with Ferrari having bought with 3 tokens some combustion changes with Shell bringing a new fuel to boot, and Honda spending 2 of its tokens on their MGU-H. Nevertheless it all promptly went sideways when Jenson ground to a halt at the end of FP3 bringing out the red flags for a 2nd time in the session and forcing McHonda to throw themselves on the mercy of the stewards just so Button can race tomorrow, as they would be unable to mend the car in time for quali.
The first red flag was the result of Nasr being viciously attacked by a wall as he was weaving, DRS open, down the back straight to warm his tyres. Despite a rather smashed looking Sauber, the team were on song to get him back out for quali. The end result of that excursion was to limit Hamilton to just 9 laps for the session, not what he wanted after having had his front end rebuilt overnight, along with rather limited running in FP2. Ferrari were not faring much better as down the road Vettel began suffering mysterious power loss issues, not what you want with only 2 hours to sort it all out.
Thus it was all to play for as everyone’s attention settled on track for Q1.
Clearly in an effort to make up for lost running it was Hamilton for once leading the early charge out of the gates. Ricciardo and Alonso were right there with him as the rest of the field began to trickle out.
AS the clock ticked below 15 minutes the first laps began to take shape, with only Manor, Toro Rosso and Sauber opting for the SuperSoft tyres.
Early days it was Vettel throwing the first surprise as he reported serious issues and bailed for his pits as Hamilton led the early times, into the 1:16’s with Raikkonen P2 almost a second behind him and Rosberg on his way. It wasn’t to be as Nico slotted P2 for the moment and Raikkonen was onto his second go at a time.
In the pits it was bad news indeed for Vettel as early reports were of an ailing MGU-H, meaning unless they could get it sorted he would be down roughly 160 bhp, if they could even get back on track at all.
Raikkonen reclaimed P2 with his second go then Ericsson made everyone revise their cutoff time down by going P4 with a pair of options strapped on. Hamilton improved to the 1:15’s and Alonso thoroughly entertained the crowd with a massive power slide, since using speed was not an option with the McHonda.
Jealous of the attention, Maldonado stole focus by having a spin and then beaching himself on the kerb at T1. Having gotten the push from the marshals, he then drove the wrong way down the track to swing a big U-turn and possibly unwanted attention from the stewards as well. Whilst that all played out, Rosberg claimed P1 by the mostr remarkable .002s and Verstappen took Kvyat out of P6.
With Vettel in serious trouble and Button already out Q1 was shaping up to be an onanistic dream for the midfield teams as 2 spots in the drop zone were already accounted for. As the field reset themselves in the pit a no doubt rather thoroughly chagrined Nasr made his lonely way onto the track with less than 8 minutes left in the session.
Perez, Massa, Stevens, Merhi and Vettel occupied the danger zone with Nasr P14 in the hot seat. AS Ricciardo took his outlap Hamilton climbed out of the car as Mercedes were in no doubt as to being through to the next session.
Maldonado put in a strong lap for P5 and Ferrari, having run short of time shoved Vettel out to see if he could manage to get into Q2 with his ailing car and give them a bit more time to mend it.
Nasr was first to come through with P12 and as Vettel sputtered round the track Alonso managed to go P15. With the Checkers having fallen just after he hit the line Vettel gave it one more go but it was simply not to be as he could only make P16 in a rather shocking result for Ferrari. Massa too was excluded from further participation as his Williams as well suffered a significant and as yet undiagnosed power loss. Joining them was of course Button, who hadn’t started the session, and Stevens and Merhi who were no doubt rather amused at the company they were keeping in Montreal.
Nasr was first out in the session, probably wanting to make amends for his silliness in FP3. Verstappen, Ericcson and Maldonado decided to join the party as well, with the bigwigs loitering in their garages.
Again no time was wasted with all the runners getting the early start as soon as the lights went green. Teammate drama immediately bubbled to the forefront as Nico complained about Hamilton going too slow in the pitlane to create a nice gap in front of him. This would ultimately prove to be a non issue as all the top teams again were running a 2 lap strategy to get the tyres warmed.
Finally, as the clock hit the 12 minute mark the top teams emerged just as the midfield were starting to set times. The early wave was led by Grosjean and Maldonado and it was becoming apparent that Mercedes were willing to spend an extra lap warming their tyres, even compared to the remaining Ferrari and Williams.
Thus it was Raikkonen that held sway at the top as the Mercedes duo just started their first timed laps. As per their internal rules, Nico trailed Lewis throught the session, the choice of position belonging to Rosberg for this GP.
Perez flashed to P3 while the crowd waited and then with little surprise, it was Lewis to the top and well into the 1:14’s to boot. The first two sectors had looked good for Nico, but coming past the lane he had not been able to sustain his effort and fell agonisingly behind by 0.012s in the 3rd sector, for P2
Following their new strategic pattern the men from Mercedes returned to the pits as Bottas in the Williams stepped up for his lap, with the 6:00 minute mark approaching. Verstappen, Nasr, Alonso adn Ericsson had it all to do as Bottas didi his best to get clear of the hot seat. Sainz snagged P10 and then Bottas went P3 putting Kvyat into danger. With the clock ticking it was looking more and more like a death match between the Bulls to get into Q3.
In the pits it was an unhappy Rosberg this time questioning his team’s judgement as he wanted to know who exactly was not going to let them go out for another run. The reply was short that Vowles preferred to save a pair of tyres for Q3 for two solid shots at pole. Meanwhile it was also apparent that Hamilton’s session had not been trouble free as coming into the pits he managed to hit the new kerb so thoughtfully installed by Charlie Whiting overnight at Turn 13, which made for delightful replays on the telly.
Out on track both Maldonado and Grosjean continued to take advantage of their fresh engines by going P5 and then P3 respectively and as the clock dipped under the one minute mark, Kvyat Ericsson Verstappen, Nasr and Alonso were on the outs with Sainz lingering in P10 with all of them on track trying desperately to make the final session.
After the checkers fell it was Alonso first, up to P13 but no better, then ultimately Ricciardo and Kvyat getting the better of it over the youngsters at Toro Rosso, in P9 an P8 compared to Sainz in P11 and Verstappen in P12. Of course with penalties that would be P27, which having been converted to time penalties should allow the Dutchman just enough time for Movie and a Pizza whilst serving them during tomorrow’s race. Good result for Force India as Perez made it to Q3 for the first time.
The first minute of the session saw Hulkenberg the only runner out, followed by Hamilton and Rosberg as the first minute of the session evaporated from the clock. Again, the early wave of runners was led by Raikkonen into the 1:15.1’s as the first laps were completed and again, Mercedes were going to force us to wait that extra lap to see who would have provisional pole. AS the pair got their tyres up to temperature, Maldonado went P2 before ultimately being displaced by his teammate, who was just 0.2s off Raikkonnen’s time.
IT was Hamilton purple through the first 2 sectors and Rosberg behind him purple as well, marginally better as Hamilton crossed first, posting a crushing 1:14.393 and as Rosberg hit the line, it was a disappointing 1:14.702 as he complained about a loss of grip at the rear over the radio. His engineer replied rather fascinatingly that the tyres he was on were not the best set and his second run would be better, even though he had set his time on new tyres. Behind them it was Raikkonen, Grosjean, Bottas and Maldonado rounding out the top 5.
While the cars were turned around in the garage there was a lengthy discussion as a slightly unsettled Rosberg pressed his engineers for set up changes and they repeatedly demurred, thinking that the car was ready to go and that the better tyres would make the difference to the oversteer he had felt in his first lap.
Back on track with 4 minutes to go it was a race in the pitlane with both Lotii having been released simultaneously that was perhaps the most entertaining moment of the session. One can forgive them,however, as they’ve not had much practice with both cars in Q3. On his outlap Kimi was told he’d been fueled for 2 timed efforts and as the last laps got underway, once again it was Mercedes taking it’s time warming tyres and giving each of their drivers only one shot at improving.
It was Kimi’s first lap that told the real story as his improvement was marginal, knocking perhaps a 0.1s off his first lap. With thte last seconds coming off the clock it was Grosjean ahead of Bottas on track and provisionally P3, but not for long as he failed to improve as well, but Bottas with the new tyres could and went P3 for his patience. The trend continued as Lewis came round giving it his all but still not improving and leaving the door open for Rosberg. It was clear from his sector times however, that it wasn’t going to happen and whatever he’d had in Q1 and Q2 had just utterly evaporated in Q3. Whether it was down to the tyres or missing the rhythm of a second Q2 run or perhaps just the subtle rise in track temperatures, it was a discussion his engineer quickly tabled until he was back in the garage and off the radio, though not before Nico could opine that “it was a rubbish end of qualifying”.
Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Bottas and Grosjean make up the top 5 and the rest of the top 10 are Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Ricciardo and Perez. Tomorrow’s race will no doubt feature a rather large number of overtakes and with Maldonado firmly in the top 10 for the start no doubt even the secret NASCAR fans will be pleased.
Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on his 44th pole, and his 4th in Montreal.
Happy Race Watching everyone!