Sebastian Vettel will start from pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix after leaving it late to beat Lewis Hamilton in a nail-biting qualifying session.
The Ferrari driver was understandably ecstatic as he crossed the line at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, securing top spot on the grid for the first time since last July’s German Grand Prix – a streak of 17 races.
Vettel will now be bidding to convert that much-needed pole into a much-required win for both him and his Ferrari team following what has been an underwhelming start to the new campaign for the Scuderia.
Indeed, Mercedes have dominated this season, finishing first and second at all but one of the opening six rounds. Hamilton holds a 17-point championship advantage over Valtteri Bottas, who was a disappointing sixth here after a spin. Hamilton is 55 points clear of Vettel.
The Englishman may have been boosted by a new Mercedes engine this weekend, but he was unable to live with the speed of Vettel’s Ferrari on the long back straight – the German doing the damage in the final sector to beat Hamilton by two tenths.
Hamilton lines up in a Ferrari sandwich after Charles Leclerc finished third ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who was fourth for Renault.
“I am full of adrenaline,” said Vettel, who, if he wins on Sunday, will end a winless run that stretches back to last August’s Belgian Grand Prix.
“It was just one of those laps when the feeling in the car keeps coming to you. You feel the grip and you go for it. I wish I could do it again, just for the fun of it.
“The last weeks have been quite tough for us so I am pleased for the team. We can carry that into the race, and we will try everything.”
Hamilton said: “I don’t feel disappointment. We gave it everything we could.
“I am happy with the job and I am actually really happy for Seb. This is good for Formula One and this is how racing should be. I am glad I could split the Ferraris. Hopefully we can put on a good show tomorrow.”
The final corner here is known as the Wall of Champions after Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve all crashed there in 1999.
And the bend claimed another victim, albeit with a smaller profile, in the form of Dane Kevin Magnussen.
The former McLaren driver rattled across the kerbing on the 120mph entry to the chicane, launching him into the concrete wall and then spinning across the start-finish straight.
A helpless Magnussen hit the pit wall sustaining serious damage to both the front and rear of his Haas.
He emerged unscathed, but the incident, which took place in the closing moments of Q2, thwarted Max Verstappen’s final flying lap. As such, the Red Bull driver was not able to improve on his time and was bumped out at the second hurdle. He is set to start a lowly 11th.
The crash also scuppered Magnussen’s team-mate Romain Grosjean, who was just metres behind the sister Haas.
“I can’t believe my luck,” he said. The Frenchman finished 15th.
The crash led to a 25-minute delay as the debris from Magnussen’s smashed-up Haas was swept away and his car was towed back to the pits.
As Vettel took pole, McLaren continued their emergence of sorts this season. With both of their drivers safely through to the top-10 shootout, British teenager Lando Norris qualified eighth, one spot ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz.
Eleven years ago, Robert Kubica won the only grand prix of his career at this venue.
Yet despite much excitement about his return to the sport after eight seasons on the sidelines following a rally crash which almost cost him his life, the Pole has struggled to get up to speed.
On Saturday, he was beaten by his rookie team-mate, the 21-year-old Englishman George Russell, for a seventh straight time. And the margin of defeat – in excess of seven tenths – will be of cause for concern, too.