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A beautiful sunny day greeted the Formula One paddock for the all important Qualifying session in Canada. Sebastian Vettel gave Red Bull the last laugh in the final practice session by beating the charging Ferrari of Fernando Alonso to top the time sheets. Only one second covered the first 16 cars in FP3, and this set up a mouth watering Qualifying session. The McLarens were extremely quick all weekend, while the Mercedes team was being tipped for a great result this weekend. The Ferraris were not to be forgotten as the team was swiftly improving, and promised to unleash the warrior in championship leader Fernando Alonso.
It was Sebastian Vettel though who claimed pole position in Montreal, Canada by finishing three-tenths of a second quicker than the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton. Fernando Alonso had one of his best Qualifying sessions of the season as he lines up in 3rd place alongside Red Bull's Mark Webber on the second row of the grid for tomorrow's race. Nico Rosberg was disappointed with only 5th place on the grid after a weekend which promised a lot for the Mercedes team.
Vettel had this to say about his immaculate drive: â€œWe were clear about the car today and able to improve step by step in qualifying. Iâ€™m very happy with the result and the laps at the end of qualifying, as we were able to improve each time. It puts us in a great place, but nevertheless tomorrow is more important. We put ourselves in a good position, eight metres ahead of Lewis and then we go from there. Itâ€™s supposed to be hotter tomorrow, so itâ€™s important to get a good start and see what we can do. A lot of things can happen.â€
The prospect of 24 cars out on track to make the most out of 20 minutes of qualifying time would always open the scenario of the leading drivers encountering plenty of traffic in Q1. Q1 was all about steering clear of the last 7 spots on the grid. Like always 6 of the seven spots belonged to the drivers from Caterham, Marussia Virgin and HRT. The question waiting to be answered was which other driver would be knocked out of Q1.
The front runners had to do a sensible lap, and stay clear of trouble to advance to the next round of Qualifying. Nico Rosberg was first man out on track in his Mercedes on the soft tyres, followed by a gaggle of cars. Kamui Kobayashi pushed hard early on and ended on the grass in turn 1. Paul Di Resta set the fastest lap first up with a quick 1.16.999 lap. Lewis Hamilton blazed past this lap from the Force India with a 1.16.232 lap. Sergio Perez meanwhile had a brush with the infamous "Wall of Champions" to go 3rd fastest. The Ferrari of Fernando Alonso proved the progress made by steering his Ferrari to a scorching lap of 1.15.121. Hamilton tucked in behind Alonso for 2nd place, with Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher very close behind.
The Force India of Nico Hulkenberg went fastest ahead of the Scarlet Ferrari of Alonso with a terrific 1.15.106 lap. Alonso was not to be beaten as he reclaimed top spot from Hulkenberg with the first 1.14 lap of the session. Schumacher having won here 7 times, went fastest of all on track with a 1.14.892 lap. Sebastian Vettel went 4th fastest on his first flying lap with about 6 minutes remaining. Vettel improved further to be fastest on track with a stunning 1.14.743 lap. The Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen was out on the super-soft tyres, as were the two McLarens. The lap times tumbled as almost the entire pack was then forced out on the super-soft tyres. Jenson Button went 2nd fastest to send teammate Hamilton down into 3rd.
Pastor Maldonado conjured a bit of magic in the dying seconds of the session to steer clear of the relegation zone with that undesirable honour going to Jean Eric-Vergne in the Toro Rosso.
Top 10: Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Pastor Maldonado, Bruno Senna, Kimi Raikkonen, Paul Di Resta
Exits: Heikki Kovalainen, Vitaly Petrov, Jean Eric-Vergne, Pedro De La Rosa, Timo Glock, Charles Pic, Narain Karthikeyan
Q1 saw 17 drivers being split by just one second, laying the foundation for an exciting second round of Qualifying. Fernando Alonso was among the few front runners to run Q1 only on the soft tyres. The McLarens and the two Lotuses used a set of the super-soft tyres during Q1 itself. Daniel Ricciardo was first man out on track. The rookie has made a strong impression this season. The two Ferraris kept things interesting in Q2 by continuing to run on the soft tyres.
The Red Bulls were out on the super-soft tyres along with the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg. Rosberg set the marker with a quick 1.14.568 lap. Lewis Hamilton took over top spot with a blistering lap. Sebastian Vettel bucked the trend of Mercedes powered cars in the top 3 to go fastest with a storming lap of 1.14.187 lap. Mark Webber was breathing down Vettel's neck but could only manage 3rd fastest.
Alonso switched to the super-softs for the first time in Qualifying and went second fastest with a 1.14.314 lap. The Spaniard looks in brilliant form and is a genuine contender now for the Drivers' Championship. The Ferrari looked perfectly balanced and more importantly the management had saved the super-soft tyres to go all out in Q3. Kamui Kobayashi improved to 7th place.
With less than a minute to go both the Lotuses along with Felipe Massa were on course to make the drop. Massa drove a storming lap as he knocked back Raikkonen into the drop zone having gone 8th fastest. It was a bolt from the blue as Raikkonen was eliminated in the session with the Lotus driver finishing a modest 12th. Grosjean however made it into Q3 pulling out a quick lap in the dying moments of the session.
The session ended with Pastor Maldonado wrecking his Williams into the "Wall of Champions" having entered the corner carrying very high speed. Maldonado blew his chance of going into Q3 with the mistake. It was a little too close for comfort for Jenson Button who just about managed to get into Q3, having ended this session at the edge of the drop zone in 10th.
Top 10: Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean, Paul di Resta, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button
Exits: Kamui Kobayashi, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez, Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado.
The fastest part of Qualifying began with Jenson Button who was right on the cusp of elimination in Q2 out on track first. The Briton was out on the soft tyres, while teammate Lewis Hamilton was out on the super-softs. Hamilton suffered from over steer problems on his first flying lap. Nico Rosberg set the times rolling with the first timed lap of the session. Felipe Massa outgunned teammate Fernando Alonso to go fastest on track with a 1.14.465. The drivers were going hammer and tongs to finish on pole as Vettel and Alonso were 1st and 2nd.
Thirty years after the tragic death of the legendary Gilles Villeneuve, Ferrari was back in the reckoning in his home Grand Prix. With 2 minutes remaining the two double world champions Vettel and Alonso were battling it out for pole position. An epic final lap from the front runners promised something extraordinary.
Vettel set the time tumbling again with two fastest sectors to finish with a scintillating lap of 1.13.784. The Ferrari of Alonso could not improve on his lap as Hamilton drove a strong lap and demoted Alonso to 3rd place on the grid. The seven time champion Michael Schumacher had to abort his lap as he finished 9th ahead of the McLaren of Button.
Vettel claimed a brilliant pole position though he could not improve on his lap of 1.13.784. The Double World Champion was followed by Hamilton in a 1.14.087 lap. Alonso ended 3rd with a disappointing third sector on his flying lap which saw the Spaniard lose chunks of time on pole sitter Vettel's lap. Mark Webber qualified in 4th place, ahead of the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg who rounded off the top 5.
Sunday's race could toss up an epic three-way battle with Vettel, Hamilton, and Alonso all going flat out for victory. The Canadian GP always provides exhilarating races, and one hopes this season will be no different.
Top 10: Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa, Romain Grosjean, Paul Di Resta, Michael Schumacher, and Jenson Button.
Prediction: A first double race victor of 2012 could emerge tomorrow with Vettel or Alonso on the top step of the podium.
Photograph Courtesy: Red Bull Racing
- 10/06/2012 22:41 - Rosberg brings home points with 6th place finish in Canada, Schumacher registers yet another DNF
- 10/06/2012 22:38 - McLaren Wrap: Hamilton reigns supreme in Canada, Button a miserable 16th
- 10/06/2012 22:30 - Canadian GP: Good race for Lotus as Rookie Grosjean finishes 2nd, Raikkonen comes home in 8th place