Sebastian Vettel snatches dramatic Canadian GP pole from Lewis Hamilton

• Vettel outdoes championship leader Hamilton on final lap in Q3
• Max Verstappen out in Q2 after Kevin Magnussen crash

A long time coming, Sebastian Vettel was finally able to climb from his car and revel in once more being at the front of the grid after he took pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix. Vettel was understandably emotional, buzzing on his achievement and no doubt some relief that he had finally beaten Lewis Hamilton into second.

The German’s championship hopes had been slipping away with Ferrari seemingly powerless in the face of the Mercedes juggernaut this season, but pole in Montreal is a lifeline for Vettel and the Scuderia.

Vettel put in a stunning lap at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to pip Hamilton for the top spot at Sunday’s 50th Canadian Grand Prix. In what was expected to be a tight fight at the front he had to pull out an inch-perfect run on his final lap and was ecstatic at claiming pole for the first time this year. His teammate Charles Leclerc was in third with Daniel Ricciardo making the best of his chance to take fourth for Renault. Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly was in fifth.

Ferrari have yet to win this year and a beaming Vettel admitted it was just what was needed after a tough opening to the season. “As I crossed the line, I was looking up and I didn’t know who was coming behind. Then I heard them screaming ‘pole position!’,” he said. “It was just pure joy, mixed with the adrenaline. I’m not a singer, but I was screaming quite hard.”

Vettel had to be at his best in Montreal, making the most of the minor advantage Ferrari have enjoyed all weekend. Hamilton was quickest on his first hot run in Q3 with a time of 1min 10.493 sec, almost two-tenths clear of Vettel. However on their last laps Vettel pulled out all the stops and with a time of 1:10.24 left Hamilton, who made a mistake at the hairpin on his last lap, in his wake, two-tenths down.

Hamilton acknowledged a resurgent Ferrari. “This is fantastic for the sport,” he said. “I love to fight with another team, and today was just so close. At some stages they were ahead of us and we were swapping all the way. I hope this is a turning point for them and it’s going to be very close from now on and we’re going to have a serious battle throughout the season. That would be fantastic.”

This is Vettel’s 56th career pole position and is finally the return to form he would have wanted from Ferrari. It is his first for 17 races, the last coming in Germany in 2018.

Having done so he will be hoping to exert calm control from the front and make an inroad into the 55 points by which he trails Hamilton in the championship. He and Ferrari badly need to begin hauling Mercedes back and if Vettel can take his first win since the Belgian Grand Prix last year it will just keep their title hopes alive.

Qualifying had been far from a forgone conclusion and was perhaps the hardest to call all season. Mercedes brought their first new engine upgrade to Canada and were optimistic it would represent a step forward; indeed, Ferrari believed Mercedes still had the advantage. However, on a track where Ferrari’s straight-line speed and low drag was expected to favour the Scuderia, Vettel made the most of it.

His team had employed a new turbo and MGU-H energy recovery system and hoped to rediscover the form with which they had looked so strong in testing. In Canada at least they have once again found the balance and grip in their car. Working the tyres to the right temperature has proved crucial and they found the sweet spot here.

The real business is yet to come but Vettel has excellent form in Canada. This is his fifth pole here and his second in a row, having also taken the top spot which he converted to victory last year. He also won for Red Bull in 2013 and starting from the front, he will be optimistic of claiming his first victory this season and finally ending the Mercedes hegemony.

Kevin Magnussen crashed his Haas in Q2, ending the session while Max Verstappen was on his final lap and leaving the Dutchman unable to finish. Red Bull had put him out on the medium tyres for his first run but it proved costly. He was knocked out in 11th place, while Magnussen finished in 10th.


Giles Richards

The GuardianTramp

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