Canadian GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Lewis plays marbles
Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix, finding his way around a crumbling track to record a time that was six-tenths of a second faster than his nearest rival. Six-tenths of a second in modern Formula 1 is a huge margin and the underlying story was clearly that Lewis had figured out something that the others had not worked out. Perhaps it was the racing lines he took. No-one knew. Whatever the case no-one else was close and that was a surprise given the performance of the McLarens and Ferraris in recent months.
"Our car feels good," said Lewis. "We're really on top of our game - even though the track started breaking up in places. On my penultimate lap in the third part of qualifying I lost a bit of time when I ran wide and I knew that Robert and Kimi were chasing me so I was aware I had to give it my all. On my final lap, I found more than six tenths which was enough for pole position."
Perhaps even more surprising was the fact that Robert Kubica was second quickest for BMW Sauber. The Pole has been very competitive this year but has tended to run less fuel in qualifying than some of his rivals. This has generally worked quite well for him, particularly at tracks where it is hard to overtake.
"It was a very difficult qualifying with the track breaking up in some corners, which is a disaster," said Robert. "It was easy to make mistakes with these conditions. When you missed the racing line you were on the marbles with very low grip."
It was odd to see a Ferrari in third place.
"It's unbelievable how much time I lost at Turn 10," said Kimi Raikkonen, "Lap after lap. The track was already beginning to break up in Q1. It was like driving on ice and I never managed to find the right line at this point. It's a real shame because the car was going very well and I could have fought for pole position. I can't understand how things like this can happen: maybe it's down to the higher temperatures, or a repair job at this point not done properly but one thing's certain, in the race tomorrow, it will be very difficult to get through here."
Felipe Massa was a lowly sixth but blamed much of this on the traffic.
"I couldn't find a clear lap in the final session," he said. "The traffic meant I couldn't get into a proper rhythm so I'm a bit annoyed with myself. But what can I do? I just have to drive a better race tomorrow."
It was odd too to see Fernando Alonso up in fourth, but it was clearly a day when the driver was achieving more than the car.
Things had not been easy for Fernando, with very little running before qualifying.
"There were still a lot of unknowns before qualifying," he said. "The car is still a bit sensitive and the track changes quickly here, and so I am very happy with my fourth place."
As ever, the cynics wondered how much fuel the Renaults might be carrying to have snuck so far up the grid.
That was true too of the Williams-Toyota of Nico Rosberg, which was fifth, a rather better showing than normal
"It was very difficult, not just because the track has changed a lot from yesterday and even from this morning, but also because the surface was breaking up in various locations," he said. "The aim today was not to make a mistake as it would be heavily punished by simply going 5 or 10cm off line. Anyway, I managed to keep everything completely under control and avoid getting offline, and the reward was fifth, a great place to start tomorrow."
The top 10 was completed by Heikki Kovalainen's McLaren, the BMW of Nick Heidfeld, Rubens Barrichello's Honda and the Red Bull of Mark Webber, which did not run in the Q3 session after the Australian crashed at the end of Q2.
Barrichello was a surprise, particularly as Jenson Button was down in 19th.
"I had a problem with third gear right at the start of Q1 which meant that I had no drive and that was the end of my qualifying today," said Jenson.
Canada is always a strange race and with a crumbling track, uncertain weather conditions.