2013 Canadian GP: Sebastian Vettel edges Lewis Hamilton to end Mercedes' pole run
Bottas stars but both McLarens, Massa & Di Resta all drop out early
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 08/06/13 9:26pm
In challenging changeable conditions on the tortuous wall-lined Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the battle for the seventh pole of the campaign distilled into a straight fight between Mercedes and Red Bull, F1's two pre-eminent single-lap kings.
And on a day when Felipe Massa, Romain Grosjean and both McLarens all fell by the wayside during the first two knockout stages, World Champion Vettel was an unerringly consistent threat at the top of the timesheets throughout and in the final reckoning duly edged out Hamilton by less than a tenth of a second to deny the Brackley team a fifth straight pole.
"It was very, very tricky because you never knew what the conditions were like next time you were out. Obviously it was intermediate tyres throughout but extremely tricky to adapt," Vettel said after claiming his 39th career pole.
"In the last qualifying session we decided to have two runs and we thought the second run would be quicker because we had a new set of tyres left but it started to drizzle in the final chicane. I went straight [on] on one lap and the second lap I had a mistake somewhere else, so it turned out that the conditions were the best for the first run.
"But very happy the first lap was good enough."
But while what would have been a fourth career Montreal pole eluded him by all of 0.087s, Hamilton can nonetheless still be content with his own performance after he conclusively prevented Rosberg from becoming the first team-mate to out-qualify him four times on the spin.
The margin between the two drivers was an unusually large half a second with Rosberg, who will start fourth, unable to close the gap when the rain intensified in the closing minutes of Q3.
Yet, while the RB9 and W04 were the class cars of the field on intermediates, third place amazingly went to a Williams as Valtteri Bottas spectacularly, and some might say belatedly, announced his true arrival on the F1 scene with a brilliant performance which took him to the head of the second row.
The Finnish rookie had already served noticed of his liking for the conditions with a top-five Q2 result before showing his speed was no flash in the pan when it mattered most to finish up ahead of both Monaco winner Rosberg and the other Red Bull of Mark Webber.
And while Bottas was the midfield star of the show, both Toro Rosso drivers also underlined their liking for the wet as Jean-Eric Vergne took a fine seventh and Daniel Ricciardo tenth.
Bottas' surge partly came at the expense of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, desperate to reignite his title challenge after a desperate Monaco, who could only manage sixth while Vettel's nearest challenger in the championship, Kimi Raikkonen, will start down in ninth.
However, both men still fared rather better than their respective team-mates who were among numerous regular Q3 contenders who got caught out in the tricky conditions during the hour's first two knockout stages.
Two weeks on from his repeat crash at the first corner in Monaco, Massa dropped what is a new version of his F138 chassis into the barriers at turn three after getting caught out under braking as he battled to make the cut in Q2.
The Brazilian, who will start down in 16th place, had already run down the escape road at the same corner but could at least console himself with having made it to the second stage given Force India's Di Resta and Lotus's Romain Grosjean were shock Q1 casualties.
For both drivers the early elimination was particularly depressing; for Di Resta it was a virtual repeat of his Q1 nightmare from Monaco in similar conditions, while for Grosjean it compounded what he already knew would be a ten-place grid drop for crashing into Daniel Ricciardo in the Principality.
The trio's frustration was shared by all at McLaren, however, as the underperforming Woking team saw both of their drivers miss the Q3 for the first time this season.
Following a brief red-flag stoppage for Massa's Q2 accident, a train of cars queued at the end of the pitlane ahead of the final two minutes of the session, and then when the action was restarted, the drivers frantically grappled for position, and clean air, as the outlaps developed.
However, having joined near the back of the queue despite lying below the cut line at the time, Button inexplicably ran out of time to complete a final lap when he backed off too much in a bid to clear a space in front of him through the final chicane.