Big three back in business
Sebastian Vettel was delighted to prove Red Bull's 'holeless' car remained "great" with pole, but Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were equally happy.
Last Updated: 09/06/12 9:36pm
It was all smiles in the post-qualifying Montreal press conference with Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso each expressing their satisfaction after F1's 'big three' were reunited through their dominance of qualifying for Canadian GP.
And no wonder.
With Vettel storming to pole position and both Hamilton and Alonso exceeding the capabilities of their machinery to offer the only genuine threat to the World Champion's return to the front of the grid, it was like old times at Montreal on Saturday afternoon. In a season of such varying fortunes, the sight of Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso sitting alongside each other in the post-session press conference will perhaps serve in retrospect as the first sign that the 2012 season is ready to settle down.
There can certainly be no denying that Vettel's pole lap of 1:13.784 carried an unmistakable ominous feel, with Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber blitzed by over half a second. So much for the suggestion that the Aussie's win in Monaco signalled a shift in the balance of power at Red Bull; so much, too, for the suspicion that the FIA's outlawing of the hole in the floor of the RB8 would blunt the team's competiveness.
"I don't think a hole in the floor makes all the difference," declared Vettel. "I think we have a great car and the car works well as whole - and not just with a hole. We never feared a big impact on the car.
"I was happy throughout qualifying and was able to get a little bit quicker and it looked very tight at the beginning but in the end it seemed like we could make a bit more of [a] difference."
Ultimately, Vettel's advantage was measured at three-tenths of a second - or, as he himself saw it, "eight metres over Lewis" - but there was an unmistakable edge of confidence in Vettel's assessment of his chances of claiming Red Bull's first victory at a circuit which Technical Director Adrian Newey describes as the Milton Keynes team's "bogey ground".
"I think we have a great car and this time we got it right in qualifying," he added.
"Looking forward to the race tomorrow, it's going to be interesting.
"Making the tyres last around here is quite tricky. We've seen it, not so much last year because it was wet, but especially the year before. So it should be a good race and I'm looking forward to it."
And although he continued to insist he didn't have 'unfinished business' with the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in wake of last year's race when a last-lap slip let in Jenson Button, he admitted he wants to add a race win here to his collection.
"Obviously at that moment [last year] it hurt a little bit because the victory was so close but in the end it was a tough race and easy to do mistakes which we didn't expect for me in the last half a lap which cost us the victory," he said.
"It's 2012 now and I think we had a quite decent 2011 so it's not too bad. But of course it would be nice [to win]."
Hamilton had almost as much reason for satisfaction given that McLaren team-mate Jenson Button only squeaked through to the Qualifying Three shoot-out courtesy of Pastor Maldonado, on course for a top-ten grid slot, crashed out on his final run in Q2. Yet while Button's struggles are now amounting to a slump, Hamilton seems revitalised and back to his best - even if, on this occasion, his best was not enough to trump Vettel.
"It was definitely a bit harder for us today and we had to push extremely hard to turn the tyres on. I'm very happy with the performance and very surprised to see ourselves on the front row. We'll take it."
Nor was Alonso to be outdone in the happy stakes as he reflected on Ferrari's continued revival, with the F2012, complete with brand-new exhaust format, now a very different beast to the dog of two months ago.
"We feel much happier with the car, both Felipe and me feels better with the grip and the balance. We'll never stop but at the moment we are happy extremely happy and extremely grateful to the guys in the factory," said the Spaniard.
Somehow, you suspect, for all 2012's vast unpredictability, it's a racing certainty that Sunday's grand prix will be a three-driver race.