Nico Rosberg claimed pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix, beating team-mate Lewis Hamilton by just seven hundredths of a second in the final runs of the day.
It is Rosberg’s first pole in Canada and his third this season.
“I am very happy with starting from pole tomorrow,” said Rosberg. “That was very important as there aren’t many opportunities to overtake here, particularly if you are in the same car. I think it will be a battle between the two of us out there tomorrow as the gap to the other cars was quite big in Qualifying today and also on our long runs on Friday were strong.”
Sebastian Vettel claimed an excellent third place on the grid for Red Bull Racing ahead of the twin Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.
Before the start of Q1, Esteban Gutierrez was ruled out of the session. The Mexican had crashed into the barriers in FP3 on the exit of turn three and the damage sustained to the rear-left of his car was bad enough to warrant a change of chassis.
Kamui Kobayashi was also in trouble before the start of the session. The Japanese driver was ordered to stop his Caterham at turn 10 in the late stages of final practice and the later need to replace his car’s gearbox means he will take a five-place grid penalty tomorrow.
Unsurprisingly, it was Mercedes that set the pace in Q1, on soft tyres, with Hamilton edging Rosberg throughout the opening exchanges, before the Briton fired in a lap of 1:15.750 to move seven tenths clear of Rosberg.
Behind them everybody was switching to the supersoft Pirellis, with only the two Mercedes, the Williams cars and the Red Bulls staying on the soft rubber until the end of the session. The Red Bulls dropped back quickly and Vettel looked to be at risk in P13. His race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin was more confident, however, assuring his driver that he would be safe. ‘Rocky’ was proven as good as his word moments later when Marcus Ericsson lost control of his Caterham and clattered into the wall at turn nine. The incident brought out the red flags with 16 seconds left on the clock.
It meant that out went Pastor Maldonado, who had steered his Lotus off track and out of the session shortly before the Ericsson incident. Also out were Max Chilton in P18, followed by team-mate Jules Bianchi, Kobayashi, Ericsson and the non-starting Gutierrez.
At the top Hamilton claimed P1, seven tenths clear of Kevin Magnussen who had snuck into P2 on his supersoft tyres. Rosberg was third ahead of Jenson Button, Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg.
Daniil Kvyat was the fastest non-Mercedes-powered driver, the Russsian taking eighth place ahead of the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. Kvyat was 1.2 seconds adrift of Hamilton despite taking on supersoft tyres.
In Q2, the Mercedes drivers bolted on supersofts but surprisingly failed to make a significant step forward and as the session approached the final runs it was Massa at the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:15.773, a tenth ahead of Rosberg in P2 and 1500ths ahead of Hamilton in P3.
On the final runs, however, the Mercedes duo finally stretched their legs, found the extra dose of pace needed and Hamilton threw in a final lap of 1m15.054 to take top spot, two tenths clear of Rosberg. Massa held on to third with the lap that had seen him hold top spot earlier.
Bottas confirmed Williams’ competitiveness with fourth place ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo. Sebastian Vettel jumped from P13 to P6 with his final run, the champion setting the fastest final sector of all to claim his spot in the top-10 shootout.
Alonso finished seventh ahead of Button, with Raikkonen ninth. The final Q3 berth went to the impressive looking Jean-Eric Vergne whose final lap was good enough to dump Hulkenberg out of the final segment.
And so, once again, Q3 came down to a battle between the Mercedes drivers. After the first runs of the final 12-minute segment, it was Rosberg who held sway, the German putting in a lap of 1:14.946 to lead from Hamilton by five hundredths of a second. Behind them Bottas moved ahead of Massa to claim P3, half a second back from Rosberg. Ricciardo was fifth, two tenths ahead of Vettel.
The expectation beforehand had been that on a circuit he loves and where he has been on pole three times in the past, Hamilton would have the edge over his team-mate. Rosberg, though, clearly hadn’t read the script and confidently went out and set a benchmark of 1:14.874. Hamilton failed to match it, finishing seven hundredths of a second adrift of the Monaco Grand Prix winner.
Williams’ hold on P3 was broken too. Sebastian Vettel put in a superb second sector to squeeze out Bottas and claim his best qualifying position since China. That he was just over six tenths adrift of Rosberg will also be encouraging at a circuit on which Renault are power deficient.
Bottas finished fourth ahead of Massa, with Ricciardo sixth, the first time since Bahrain that he will start behind team-mate Vettel. Fernando Alonso will start seventh, ahead of Vergne who beat out Button and Raikkonen to claim eighth place.
2014 Canadian Grand Prix Qualifying Result
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:16.471 1:15.289 1:14.874 19
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:15.750 1:15.054 1:14.953 20
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:17.470 1:16.109 1:15.548 18
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:16.772 1:15.806 1:15.550 21
5 Felipe Massa Williams 1:16.666 1:15.773 1:15.578 21
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:17.113 1:15.897 1:15.589 20
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:17.010 1:16.131 1:15.814 17
8 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:17.178 1:16.255 1:16.162 24
9 Jenson Button McLaren 1:16.631 1:16.214 1:16.182 20
10 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:17.013 1:16.245 1:16.214 17
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:16.897 1:16.300 21
12 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:16.446 1:16.310 15
13 Sergio Perez Force India 1:18.235 1:16.472 19
14 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:17.732 1:16.687 19
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:16.938 1:16.713 19
16 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:17.519 1:17.314 16
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:18.328 10
18 Max Chilton Marussia 1:18.348 6
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:18.359 5
20 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1:19.278 8
21 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:19.820 10
DNS Esteban Gutierrez Sauber