Max Verstappen stormed to a scintillating pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton drove through the pain to qualify an “awesome” fourth in Montreal.
Reigning champion Verstappen was untouchable amid the showers as mistakes and mechanical issues rained on the parade of his closest challengers.
With the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit drying out throughout qualifying, Verstappen was the man who mastered the conditions, clocking an impressive time of one minute 21.299 seconds as Formula One delivered on its return to Montreal following a three-year hiatus.
“We still expect it not to be a straightforward race,” said Verstappen.
“With the tricky conditions today. We stayed calm, we made no mistakes, so of course super happy with that, with pole position here – and also to be back here in Montreal. It’s great to see all the fans.”
Fernando Alonso will start second for Alpine, the experienced campaigner also getting on top of the weather to take his first front-row start in over a decade.
Carlos Sainz starts third for Ferrari with Hamilton able to compete near the top of the field due to the inclement weather, the seven-time world champion taking fourth for Mercedes.
It represents a best qualifying performance of a year where Hamilton has struggled to get to grips with his car – culminating in the race in Azerbaijan last weekend where he needed assistance climbing from his seat after the race.
The bumping which caused him acute back pain has also effected other teams to the extent that the FIA have said they will look at changing the regulations as quickly as possible to stop the issue known as porpoising.
But Saturday brought a smile to Hamilton’s face as he was running as high as second before having to ultimately settle for a spot on the second row.
“This past week has been a real challenge and every day working through the pain and getting my body right,” he said.
“We are still struggling with the car, so to get top four in those conditions is awesome. It is my best qualifying this season and feels similar to my first-ever qualifying in Australia in 2007, I was so excited.”
It was also a fine session for the Haas team, who locked out the third row of the grid with Kevin Magnussen fifth and Mick Schumacher sixth.
Esteban Ocon was seventh in the second Alpine with George Russell eighth for Mercedes after his risk of running on dry tyres towards the end of qualifying backfired as he spun out.
Daniel Ricciardo and Guanyu Zhou rounded out the top 10 as Verstappen’s nearest title protagonists were left flagging.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc will start 19th after replacing several parts of his power unit while Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez crashed out in the second qualifying session and is down in 13th as a result.
While Verstappen’s mastery will rightly steal the headlines, Alonso’s fine session also caught the eye as the 40-year-old got closest to the Dutchman.
“It feels great, it was an unbelievable weekend so far for us,” he said.
“Thanks to the wet conditions today the car was mega and I was so comfortable with driving the car.
“Let’s see, we will attack Max on the first corner. They are in a different league for sure and it was not in our wildest dream to be on pole position and we take the front row for sure.
“The goal is to lead the race on lap one, so in turn one it will be maximum attack and then they can go but it would be sweet to lead the race.”
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