Vettel just had enough in hand with his Q3 laps to edge out Valtteri Bottas, who put in a mega first run to put his Mercedes in contention. That was in stark contrast to Lewis Hamilton, who seemed to find himself locking up at the hairpin on pretty much every lap. His first run was almost four tenths slower than his teammate and though he improved with his second lap, he was still over a tenth off Bottas and will only start fourth on a track he’s usually the master of.
Why fourth? Well, Max Verstappen put in a mega effort to drag his Red Bull up to third. He topped every practice session but with the Renault engine not having any special qualifying modes, the team was always going to struggle. Ricciardo couldn’t quite match his teammate and will line up sixth.
How many times as Kimi Raikkonen screwed up a lap at an important point of qualifying this year? It’s been quite a few and you can now add Canada to the list because he ran wide at Turn 2 on his final run and that was it – he’ll line up fifth.
Nico Hulkenberg took ‘best of the rest’ honours as Renault fought it out with Force India in a battle just as hard-fought as the one at the front. Haas and Toro Rosso will both have one reasonably happy side of the garage and one disappointed one. Kevin Magnussen just missed out on Q3 and will start 11th, whilst Romain Grosjean didn’t even make it out of the pit lane as his VF-18 blasted plumes of smoke into the air. Brendon Hartley put the rumours surrounding his drive to the back of his mind and qualified 12th whilst Pierre Gasly missed out on making Q2.
One team that did make Q2 – albeit only just – was McLaren. Despite looking reasonably good in practice both drivers barely scraped through and were even outqualified by Charles Leclerc’s Sauber. Happy 300th GP weekend, Fernando Alonso!
Both Williams exited in Q1 along with Gasly, Grosjean, and Marcus Ericsson, who hit the wall whilst on a lap and seriously compromised his chances.
Three different teams in the first three positions bodes well for the race, though – especially given the different strategies. Both Red Bulls will start on the hypersofts the team used so well in Monaco, whereas Ferrari and Mercedes will be on the ultrasofts. Vettel wanted to use the hypers, but on his final Q2 ran came across half a dozen cars at the final chicane and had to abort his lap.
Can he convert his 54th pole into his 50th victory? Can Bottas finally get the win he’s narrowly missed on a couple of occasions this season? And can Verstappen make it an entire weekend without crashing? If he does, Red Bull’s practice pace suggests he might be a decent shout for victory. Plus there’s the excitement of Hamilton and Ricciardo pushing through from behind.
Try and predict this one, Fernando…