AHEAD OF HÜLKENBERG AND ALONSO
Max Verstappen took his fifth pole of the season in tricky, rapidly changing wet, dry and wet again conditions in Montréal as Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg scored a surprise front row finish for Haas. It’s the German’s best Qualifying position since he scored pole at the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix in wet conditions. Hülkenberg will start ahead of third-place Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso.
“in the wet, you have to just stay on top of all the conditions,” said Verstappen. “And it was super slippery out there in some places. But we just made all the right calls at the right time on the track, you know, to do the lap times. And of course, we're happy to be on pole here.”
The opening segment got underway on a damp track with all drivers taking to the track on intermediate tyres. However, running was halted after three minutes when Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou stopped at the side of the track reporting a loss of power. He was eventually able to get moving again and limped back to the pit lane under red flags.
After a seven-minute delay the session resumed and Verstappen led the field out. He stopped the clock at 1:24.106 before improving to 1:22.843. Alonso then stole top spot just under two tenths clear of the Dutchman, with McLaren’s Lando Norris in third. Verstappen went for another lap, however, and he retook P1 with a lap of 1:21.988 as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc moved to third behind Alonso and the Red Bull driver then improved again, setting purple times in the first and third sectors to log a time of 1:21.739.
The track was rapidly improving, and after Williams’ Alex Albon had jumped to fifth, Alonso took top spot, almost two tenths clear of Verstappen. The Dutchman wouldn’t be denied, however, and after setting segment best times in all three sectors he ended Q1 on top with a time of 1:20.851, six tenths clear of Alonso, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton third ahead of team-mate George Russell, Leclerc and Albon.
Out at the end of Q1 were AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in P16, followed by Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, the second AlphaTauri of Nyck de Vries, Williams’ Logan Sargent and Zhou.
Keen to make the most of a drying track ahead of expected rain, Verstapenn was at the head of the queue at the start of Q2 and on Inters the Dutchman established the benchmark at 1:20.135.
Mercedes’ George Russell then took top spot with a lap of 1:20.098 as Verstappen pitted for slicks. Albon had also taken on softs and he was the first to exploit their better performance, jumping to P1 with a lap of 1:19.471 and then improving to 1:18.725. Alonso slotted into P2 also on slicks while McLaren’s Lando Norris moved to P3 on softs with a lap of 1:19.888. With rain beginning to fall, Verstappen moved up to P2 on softs with a lap of 1:19.052.
Further back other were struggling. Leclerc and Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez both made the move to slciks but neither chose the perfect moment and as the rain intensified there was no way back for either, Leclerc bowing out in P11 just ahead of Pérez. Also out at the end of Q2 were P13 man Lance Stroll, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas.
With steady rain falling across the Île Notre-Dame ahead of Q3, Verstappen again headed the queue at the end of the pit lane for the start of the top-10 shootout. And despite some nervous moments on his opening flyer the Dutchman posted a lap of 1:27.059.
In worsening conditions, the Dutchman somehow managed to find more grip and more pace and with his next flying lap he took over a second out of his opener with a lap of 1:25.858, a full 1.2 seconds ahead of P2 man Nico Hülkenberg of Haas, with Alonso third.
The session was then red-flagged. Oscar Piastri lost control of his McLaren at the exit of Turn 7 and slid backwards into the wall. After another seven-minute delay the session resumed, with seven minutes on the clock. The rain was intensifying, however, and when the green light came on and the drivers filed out onto the track, Verstappen was soon on the radio reporting that it was “a lot wetter already”.
He immediately headed back to the pit lane and when Sainz’s engineer told him even heavier rain was about to arrive it was clear that any improvement was out of the question and pole, number five for the season, belonged to Max.
Hülkenberg took his first front row grid spot since he claimed pole at a sodden Interlagos in 2010, while Alonso qualified third alongside Hamilton. Russell finished fifth on the timesheet ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Norris and Sainz. Piastri qualified in ninth position and Albon was tenth.
2023 FIA Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:20.851 1:19.092 1:25.858 26
2 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:22.730 1:20.305 1:27.102 25
3 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:21.481 1:19.776 1:27.286 25
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:21.554 1:20.426 1:27.627 26
5 George Russell Mercedes 1:21.798 1:20.098 1:27.893 25
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:22.114 1:20.406 1:27.945 25
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1:21.998 1:19.347 1:28.046 26
8 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:22.248 1:19.856 1:29.294 26
9 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:22.190 1:19.659 1:31.349 24
10 Alexander Albon Williams 1:21.938 1:18.725 DNF 24
11 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:21.843 1:20.615 22
12 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 1:22.151 1:20.959 23
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:22.677 1:21.484 20
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:22.351 1:21.678 21
15 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:22.332 1:21.821 24
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:22.746 11
17 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:22.886 11
18 Nyck De Vries AlphaTauri 1:23.137 12
19 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:23.337 14
20 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:23.342 11