Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 12. kesäkuuta 2016

Canadian GP / Qualifying: Hamilton claimed his fifth Montreal pole!

The weather forecast said there was a slight chance of rain during the qualifying, so everyone rushed out, when Q1 got underway. Everyone -except the Force India duo of Hulkenberg and Perez- opted for the purple-marked ultrasoft compound. Once again I couldn´t help wondering the performance of this new tyre compound. In spite of being the softest of all compounds, it took a while to make the tyre work in the cool conditions of Montreal, and it was possible to run many time laps on the same set of ultrasoft tyres! Q1 saw light rain towards the end of the session, but it had no effect on the track conditions. Rosberg, Vettel and Ricciardo were the fastest men in Q1, which predicted a good fight for pole between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Palmer in his Renault was the first faller in Q1 -his teammate Magnussen couldn´t even participate in the qualifying after Renault were unable to get his car repaired in time following his FP3 crash. Out of Q2 were also the Manors of Wehrlein and Haryanto and the Saubers of Ericsson and Nasr.

The sky was alarmingly grey, when Q2 got underway. The second session was punctuated by a red-flag period five minutes in after Sainz clouted the right side of his Toro Rosso against the infamous wall of champions. Hamilton and Rosberg topped the time sheets, with only two hundredths of a second separating the Mercedes teammates. Ricciardo in his Red Bull was half a second down on the Mercedes duo. Alonso in his McLaren managed to set a competitive lap time and made it among the top ten; whereas his teammate Button was bumped out of the decisive final session. Joining Button on the Q2 elimination list were Perez in his Force India, Kvyat in his Toro Rosso and the Haas duo of Gutierrez and Grosjean. Toro Rosso´s Sainz had already ruined his qualifying when hitting the wall of champions.

In Q3 Kimi in his Ferrari and Williams´ Massa were the only drivers to sit out the first runs. Making only one run in Q3 has never quite worked for Kimi, so I couldn´t help wondering, why the Finn had opted for this strategy again. I got the explanation after the qualifying, though; Kimi had only one set of fresh ultrasoft tyres left. Hamilton took provisional pole, but his teammate Rosberg was only 0,063s down on the Briton! After the first runs Red Bull´s Verstappen was phenomenally third in the standings. Sebastian had a scare when he brushed the wall of champions, but luckily he avoided damage. The German was fourth after his first attempt. Kimi and Massa came out not until there were 5 minutes left in the clock. Hamilton didn´t manage to improve his lap time on his second run; Rosberg, too had a lock-up in Turn 1, which made him abandon his attempt. Pole therefore was Hamilton´s -his fourth of the season, fifth in Canada and by the closest margin so far in 2016! Sebastian managed to jump third on his second run, being 0,178s down on pole-setter Hamilton. Sebastian´s pace was convincing, but not quite enough to challenge the Mercedes duo for pole. Ricciardo beat Red Bull teammate Verstappen to fourth place, whereas Kimi had to settle for P6. The Williams teammates Bottas and Massa locked the fourth row; Force India´s Hulkenberg and McLaren´s Alonso completed the top ten. What caught my eye, was the fact, that at the end of the day Kimi was almost 6-tenths off his teammate!

In terms of the Canadian GP there´s one question in everybody´s mind: how many casualties will the wall of champions claim in the race and who will they be? In variable weather the risk to hit the wall of champions will definitely increase. In two previous years Kimi has spun in the hair pin on the out-lap after his pit stop; hopefully history won´t repeat itself this year! Red Bull has definitely closed the gap to Ferrari, so I´m confident there´ll be an entertaining fight for positions in today´s race. Mercedes´ and Ferrari´s long-run pace is quite evenly matched; could we finally see a red-suited driver on the top step of the podium today?

I´m sure Verstappen learned his lesson in Monaco and he will stay away from the wall of champions. In the pre-qualifying broadcast for the Finnish TV the former Finnish F1 driver Mika Salo told, that he had met Max Verstappen´s father Jos after the Monaco GP. Jos had told Salo, how he used to punish Max as a boy by making him stand in the corner, when he had made something wrong. Jos had joked, that he had told his son to stand in the corner again after coming home from the mistake-filled Monaco GP. The Finnish F1 reporter Mervi Kallio asked about this story when interviewing Verstappen after the qualifying -what an utterly awkward moment for Max! Well, I hope Max will shine like a star today, so that he won´t have to stand in the corner again ;)

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