Sebastian Vettel took his sixth pole in seven races and the 21st of his career at the Canadian Grand Prix.
It was a close session with the Ferraris looking very competitive with Alonso and Massa right on Vettel’s tail. Mark Webber was fourth for Red Bull having lost the morning practice session to a KERS problem and it was not overcome before qualifying. So for him to be only 4/10ths off Vettel’s pace which is probably slightly less than KERS is worth, is a positive outcome for the Australian.
The McLarens were not as competitive as expected with Lewis Hamilton fifth, not able to live with the Red Bulls and Ferraris. But they may well prove more formidable in the race, as rivals suspect they may have gone towards a set up which will work in the wet. Hamilton said afterwards that his 7th gear was too long for the headwind, but this may help him tomorrow when following another on the DRS zone; it will be an advantage in the tow.
Alonso set a lap of 1m 13.8s on the soft Pirelli tyres and if he had managed to get the one second gain from the supersoft which others managed, he would have been on pole.
But his pace on the soft indicates that Ferrari will be able to fight for the win tomorrow. Ferrari has a new rear suspension here among other updates and has definitely taken a step forward.
Alonso, who had asked the team to react after being off the pace in the early races, confirmed that it felt like the strongest weekend of the season so far for Ferrari and that he feels he can compete for the win.
“The car felt competitive from yesterday and today,” he added. “It is a good feeling being back to the top positions, close to fighting for pole, and having Felipe in the top three too is a nice team result.”
But he added a note of caution about the weather,
“The forecast is rain and we’ve never run all together in wet conditions,” he said. “So maybe tomorrow it will be the first time with the new Pirelli wet tyres. McLaren look like they are running with a lot of downforce so they will be quick in the rain tomorrow.”
Vettel has been under a lot of pressure in the last two races and he expects a stern challenge from the Ferraris tomorrow, but the chance of rain will make things unpredictable.
Jaime Alguersuari once again took the drop along with the new teams in Q1, as he did in Monaco. The pressure is starting to build on the young Spaniard now, with Red Bull’s new protege Daniel Ricciardo doing the Friday sessions and clearly being prepared for F1 next year. Given Toro Rosso’s track record it’s not inconceivable that they might give the Australian a race weekend in the second half of the season to try him out. I asked him about it on Friday and he said that the programme was just Friday mornings for this year, but if Alguersuari carries on like this, they may feel the need to push things forward.
Jerome D’Ambrosio was outside the 107% cut off time, while HRT’s Tonio Liuzzi outqualified Timo Glock in the Virgin for the first time this year.
In the midfield battle for the outer reaches of the top ten, Renault had the edge over Force India for whom Paul Di Resta was again faster than Adrian Sutil. The German was faster in sectors one and two but lost time in sector three. That’s now six times in seven races that Di Resta has been faster.
Williams had a raft of new parts here this weekend including an updated blown diffuser but it wasn’t enough to get them on terms with Renault and Force India. Super sub Pedro de la Rosa, standing in for Sergio Perez, managed to qualify 17th, three tenths down on Kobayashi which is very good in a car he’d never driven after only one and a half practice sessions.
Pastor Maldonado outqualified Rubens Barrichello for the third race in a row, this time by three tenths of a second and four positions.
At Ferrari Massa was really pressuring Alonso, faster in Q2, but the Spaniard edged him out in Q3. Alonso ended up only a tenth and a half off Vettel. Nevertheless it was the best qualifying result of the season for Ferrari.
CANADIAN GRAND PRIX, Qualifying
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m13.014s
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m13.199s + 0.185
3. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m13.217s + 0.203
4. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m13.429s + 0.415
5. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m13.565s + 0.551
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m13.814s + 0.800
7. Jenson Button McLaren 1m13.838s + 0.824
8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m13.864s + 0.850
9. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m14.062s + 1.048
10. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m14.085s + 1.071
11. Paul di Resta Force India 1m14.752s + 1.321
12. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m15.043s + 1.612
13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m15.285s + 1.854
14. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m15.287s + 1.856
15. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m15.334s + 1.903
16. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m15.361s + 1.930
17. Pedro de la Rosa Sauber 1m15.587s + 2.156
18. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m16.294s + 2.472
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m16.745s + 2.923
20. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m16.786s + 2.964
21. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m18.424s + 4.602
22. Timo Glock Virgin 1m18.537s + 4.715
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m18.574s + 4.752
24. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m19.414s + 5.592