By Steve Keating
MONTREAL (Reuters) – Sebastian Vettel put Ferrari on pole position at the Canadian Grand Prix for the second consecutive year on Saturday, snatching top spot from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton at the death.
Vettel, who won from pole position last year in Canada to revive Ferrari’s title hopes, will be hoping for the same on Sunday with world championship leader Hamilton, chasing a record equalling seventh win in Montreal, starting alongside him.
It was the German’s first pole in 17 grands prix and 56th of his career.
Vettel’s team mate Charles LeClerc will start third and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo a surprise fourth.
Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly grabbed fifth on the grid and will start alongside the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, who could do no better than sixth after an early spin in the final session sent the Finn to the pits.
The importance of the pole was not lost on an emotional Vettel, who could not contain his jubilation, screaming his delight over the radio when his pit informed him “pole”.
It was an eventful and dramatic qualifying session as Hamilton went top with the clock counting down, only to have Vettel bump him from top spot a tick later.
“I am full of adrenaline, you know what the feeling is when the car just keeps coming, you feel the grip and you go for it, that was one of those laps,” smiled Vettel. “I am very happy the last 17 races, the last weeks have been quite tough ones.
“I really enjoyed it, I wish I could do it again just for the fun of it.
“I had to pace to pace myself a bit in the first two corners because getting the tyres to grip up wasn’t straight forward but after that it was just a joy the car was shouting, keep going, keep going.”
After taking pole and topping two of the three practice sessions, Ferrari will hope that translates into similar performance on Sunday as they look to end Mercedes’ season-long domination on the island circuit named after Ferrari great Gilles Villeneuve.
Mercedes have swept all six races this season, five in a one-two formation, putting pressure on rivals Ferrari to get their challenge back on track.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen spent much of qualifying complaining to his pit about traffic and a lack of grip but was ultimately undone by a bad break when Haas’s Kevin Magnussen crashed in front of him and did not complete a flying lap that had looked good enough to but him into the third round.
Instead, Verstappen will start Sunday’s race in the middle of the pack after qualifying 11th.
Second qualifying ended in spectacular fashion when Magnussen brushed the “Wall of Champions” coming out of the final chicane into the home straight, sending his Haas spinning across the track, slamming hard into the opposite barrier and spewing debris everywhere.
While Magnussen escaped unscathed, his car was wrecked
It was also a bitterly disappointing day for Racing Point with both Sergio Perez and local hope Lance Stroll failing to advance out of the first round.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Montreal, Editing by Ed Osmond)