Canadian GP | Lewis Hamilton matches Ayrton Senna’s career tally with pole

Lewis Hamilton secures pole at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Montreal is Hamilton’s as the Briton clinches his sixth pole in Canada by three-tenths of a second. Storming Q3 to edge out title rival Sebastian Vettel with a “sexy lap” that set a circuit record. 

Flying on Friday was Kimi Raikkonen, as the Monaco Grand Prix pole sitter came out on top in practice ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

But while Raikkonen topped the times on Friday, it was the Monaco Grand Prix winner – Sebastian Vettel – carrying the momentum into qualifying having topped the final practice session at the Canadian Grand Prix. While Kimi Raikkonen reverted to his Friday set-up part-way through the session as he lingered down the order.

Momentum does not mean pole, though, as Mercedes brought the challenge to Ferrari in qualifying. Fighting in each session for the top spot, before Hamilton broke out Hammertime to ease away with a circuit record lap Vettel could only chase.

Hamilton’s pole in Montreal is his sixth in the country that handed him his first Grand Prix win 10 years ago. While pole today also matches the record tally of his hero, Ayrton Senna. An honour the Senna family rewarded him with, by handing the three-time F1 World Champ with a race-worn helmet used by the late, great, Ayrton Senna back in 1987 – his last with Team Lotus.

Hamilton holds Ayrton Senna's 1987 race-worn helmet - Canada - Copyright F1

Lewis Hamilton holds aloft Ayrton Senna’s 1987 race-worn helmet, gifted to him following qualifying the Canadian Grand Prix. Photo copyright: Formula1.

Q1

At 1 pm local time, green went qualifying and the session engaged to the Toro Rosso duo shifting out of the pit lane. Focusing on tyre warm up, with Kvyat told to focus on his front ultrasoft tyres.

Ultrasoft tyres that could only carry the Russian to second place, as he crossed the line three-tenths down on his Spanish team-mate’s opening benchmark. However, another flyer from the Russian elevated his standing and demoted his stablemate.

The gains he found, though, could not elevate his Toro Rosso to the top of the field. With the Ferrari pair of Vettel and Raikkonen sitting comfortable atop the tower, despite breaking their cars in on the supersoft rubber.

Even more, the Toro Rosso’s best time of 1:14.019 left space for Fernando Alonso to work his way into. Putting his Honda-powered McLaren into the top three, while posting the best first sector time overall thus far.

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Fernando Alonso during qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. Photo credit: McLaren.

Behind, however, remained the Mercedes, Red Bulls and Force Indias. All running the fastest Pirelli’s and all fast enough to demote the Indy500 Rookie of the Year, with Perez and Ocon both fast enough to split the Red Bulls too.

Despite being on the fastest compound Pirelli offer, though, the first offering by Hamilton failed to dethrone the Ferrari’s at first. Slotting in behind the supersoft runners, while fighting great amounts of understeer as his team-mate went top.

Pushing again saw Hamilton gain time on his previous best to move ahead of not only Vettel and Raikkonen but also his team-mate. Yet while Raikkonen’s supersoft time fell to ninth place, Bottas improved as well to move top by seven-thousandths of a second.

At the other end of the field, Nico Hulkenberg’s first true flyer elevated his Renault out of the danger zone at the expense of his team-mate. While Grosjean gained ground on his team-mate as he leapt from 19th up to 11th and demoted Vandoorne.

Time remained, however, for those pushed down the order to push again and make the leap Hulkenberg and Grosjean could manage. With Pascal Wehrlein the first to improve – albeit only to 18th place to get ahead of Jolyon Palmer.

Palmer, meanwhile, was pushing himself. Putting Stoffel Vandoorne straight back into 16th place, having moved up from the drop zone at the expense of homeboy Lance Stroll.

Yet Vandoorne was still going. Pushing hard in his McLaren to beat the drop. But when yellow flags waved at the start of the lap, his run was over and he was out of qualifying thanks to Pascal Wehrlein spinning at turn one.

Wehrlein had run too far to the outside of the track when he hit the brakes. Breaking traction on the grass and spinning off into the runoff. Losing his rear wing to barrier and ending his day as the slowest driver in Montreal.

“One tenth would have been enough, Stoffel, I’m sure you had that in you,” came the message from Vandoorne’s pitwall.

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Stoffel Vandoorne during the opening stage of qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. Photo credit: McLaren.

Q2

With four teams and five drivers out of qualifying, the track went green once more to further dwindle down the field and leave just 10 drivers to battle for pole. Kicking off the 15-minutes of Q2 with Massa first out in the sole remaining Williams.

Moments into the session, though, the track was a hive of activity with all bar Fernando back out to run again. Seeing Massa post the first time as the first man out, but immediately beaten by the Toro Rosso duo with Kvyat edging Sainz by six-hundredths of a second.

The reason behind Massa’s time being so swiftly beaten was that the Brazilian had opted to join the path taken by Mercedes, Renault, Red Bull and Ferrari and take on an extra warm-up lap. A path not needed by Force India as they flew to P1 and 2.

The extra warm-up lap, though, gave Massa the heat he needed to leap not just the Toro Rosso’s but the Force India’s, too. Moving up the order, and only bettered by the big-three teams. Lead by Hamilton as he edged Raikkonen and Bottas – both by eight-hundredths of a second.

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Valtteri Bottas bounces over the kerb during qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Hamilton’s next flying lap following the pit-window break saw the Briton narrowly miss improving on his benchmark. Setting a faster opening sector, but losing time as the lap went on. Meanwhile, Bottas gained an advantage over Raikkonen to take second.

Other drivers, too, improved on their lap times following a break in the pits. With Verstappen nipping ahead of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg improving but remaining in tenth.

Last chance efforts by Grosjean and Palmer saw neither driver make the gains needed to push out the Hulk and take a top-10 spot. Ending Q2 as the slowest of the runners, behind Fernando Alonso as he qualifies 12th in his F1 return.

Palmer Q2 canada renault

Jolyon Palmer exits the pits on the ultrasoft Pirelli’s during Q2 for the Canadian Grand Prix. Photo credit: Renault Sport F1.

Q3

With the field down to 10, the pole position shoot-out commenced with Sebastian Vettel taking the green light with Hulkenberg in his wake.

Feeling the heat in his tyres from the off, Vettel wasted no time in going for a flyer. Pushing hard in his Ferrari and locking up at the hairpin. The marginal slide wide, though, saw Vettel lose marginal time and crossed the line on a 1:12.423. A lap six-tenths slower than Lewis Hamilton, however, as the Briton posted the fastest ever lap of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

As Hamilton become the first driver ever to break into the 1 minute 11s, Bottas came home as his closest challenger four-tenths of a second back. Comfortably handing Hamilton provisional pole, with the closest Ferrari half a second behind.

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Sebastian Vettel dips through the shadows during qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari.

A second flyer saw Hamilton find time in the opening sector, going green to his personal best lap before an error cost him tenths in sector two. Despite being up still, though, Hamilton aborted and returned to the pits.

While Hamilton and others returned to the pits, Vettel broke the flow to stay out while the track was empty. Pushing hard to fight for pole, and edging Hamilton’s first sector by seven-hundredths of a second. Two-tenths, however, went the way of Hamilton in sector two and Sebastian could only draw back a tenth in the final to cross the line just four-thousandths of a second down on pole.

Having broken the flow, Vettel returned to the pits while second runs soon began elsewhere with an extra warm-up lap. A margin Vettel did not have having rejoined with just one lap remaining on the clock.

Meaning Vettel had to push from the off, while Hamilton built the temperatures in his tyres to the optimal point. Pushing hard with a purple first and second sector, before a slight lock up sent Hamilton offline at the hairpin.

The lock up, though, failed to stop Lewis from keeping it tight for the run down the long straight. Riding the kerbs beautifully at the final chicane, and extending his advantage to three-tenths of a second.

While Hamilton improved, Bottas could not. Even Raikkonen’s gains were not enough to move the Finn from fourth place and edge the front row. Leaving the fight at Vettel’s feet, but the fight could not be brought as he ended the first sector three-tenths down to Hamilton’s pole time.

Lewis now has 65-career poles to his name, matching his hero Ayrton Senna in second place on the all-time list. Only the seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher has more, with 68.

Ayrton Senna - McLaren

F1 legend and Lewis Hamilton’s idol, Ayrton Senna. Photo credit: McLaren.

Sebastian Vettel, despite having one more World Championship than Lewis, is fourth on the all-time last having clinched pole 47 times.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’11.459
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’11.789 0.33
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1’12.177 0.718
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’12.252 0.793
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’12.403 0.944
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1’12.557 1.098
7 Felipe Massa Williams 1’12.858 1.399
8 Sergio Perez Force India 1’13.018 1.559
9 Esteban Ocon Force India 1’13.135 1.676
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1’13.271 1.812
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1’13.690 2.231
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1’13.693 2.234
13 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 1’13.756 2.297
14 Romain Grosjean Haas 1’13.839 2.38
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1’14.293 2.834
16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1’14.182 2.723
17 Lance Stroll Williams 1’14.209 2.75
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1’14.318 2.859
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1’14.495 3.036
20 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1’14.810 3.351