Championship leader Max Verstappen took his second pole position of 2022 for the Canadian Grand Prix in a dominant wet qualifying performance as Fernando Alonso scored his first front row start for almost a decade.
Dutchman Verstappen was regularly more than a second quicker than his rivals in the drying conditions, which started with heavy spray.
On pole by more than six-tenths of a second, Verstappen said: “I think today with the tricky conditions we stayed calm, didn’t make mistakes and to get the pole is great.”
“Today was simply lovely. The conditions were very tricky out there, it was very slippery, but we stayed calm, we made sure we were there at the right time and we managed to put in some solid laps. It’s been a nice day and overall we’re having a good weekend, it’s a shame for Checo but hopefully he can make up the places tomorrow during the race. Tomorrow, we need to focus on the first lap and then concentrate on our own race, I still expect there to be a good battle. It’s been a while since Fernando and I have been alongside each other on the grid, I used to look up to him as a young kid watching Formula One, with him being up there winning races and championships, so it’s great to be sharing the front row with him.”
24-year-old Verstappen is joined on the front row by 40-year-old Fernando Alonso of Alpine, who produced a stunning lap to snatch second on the grid.
Alonso, who broke the record for the longest Formula 1 career recorded by time in Baku, had been quick throughout a wet day in Montréal.
Double world champion Alonso said: “It feels great (to be on the front row). Unbelievable weekend so far for us. Thanks to the wet conditions, the car was mega, I was so comfortable driving this car.”
Spaniard Alonso, who raced against Max Verstappen’s Father Jos in his early career, said he would “attack Max in the first corner” in Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Verstappen out on his own but Alonso the star
Max Verstappen capitalised on Charles Leclerc’s engine penalty by placing his Red Bull at the head of the field for lights out in Sunday’s Grand Prix.
The defending world champion, who has a 21-point lead over team mate Sergio Perez at the top of the standings, didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon, navigating his way through a treacherous session.
Verstappen’s team guided him by making sure he had the right tyres and a clear track to execute his laps.
Despite Verstappen’s virtuoso display, the star of the day is undoubtedly Fernando Alonso.
Alonso, winner in Canada in 2006 for Alpine (then called Renault), lived up to his promise in free practice three, in which he had topped the times.
Alonso pounced on an error from fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who picked up too much wheelspin on the exit of the final chicane, to get himself onto the front row by a tenth and a half.
40-year-old Alonso’s last appearance on the front row was at the 2012 German Grand Prix, where he took pole position in a soaking wet qualifying session.
Alonso went on to win that race the following day.
Whether Alonso can win this race remains to be seen, the Alpine has shown straight-line speed to challenge the Red Bull, so expect the Spaniard to be as good as his word to “attack” the Red Bull.
Alonso could have had such a result back in Australia, where he had shown strong pace, even setting the fastest middle sector in Q3 on the lap that he had a hydraulics issue and crashed out.
The 2005 and 2006 world champion will have to watch his mirrors for compatriot Carlos Sainz, who is the lead Ferrari and will be aiming to emulate former Ferrari pilot Jean Alesi, by taking his maiden F1 victory in Canada.
Sainz, 27, will have his work cut out as both the cars on the front row have superb straight-line performance, which is an area the Ferrari has been found wanting against it’s rivals in 2022.
Hamilton Rises, Schumacher’s Best and the Rest
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has a history of crazy races, which could help Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton who starts from what he calls an “amazing” fourth place.
Hamilton has struggled to match his new team mate George Russell in qualifying in recent races, but made the most of Russell’s bold but mistaken choice to try out slick tyres at the end of Q3.
24-year-old Russell made the admirable call to opt for slicks himself, his Mercedes team trusted his decision. Unfortunately for Russell, he lost the rear of his W13 through the still wet turn 2, sliding off and gently tapping the barrier.
The ex-Williams driver attempted a second flying lap but could not improve, condemning him to eighth on the grid.
Haas scooped a magnificent result as they locked-out the third row of the grid.
Dane Kevin Magnussen drove well to secure fifth as under-fire team mate Mick Schumacher delivered a career best of sixth.
Schumacher, 23, said: “The car was feeling great, especially in these rainy conditions. I found grip everywhere I put the car – which is obviously what I wanted.”
The German’s performance roused memories of his Father, Michael, who was nicknamed “The Rainmeister” in his career, for his stunning performances in adverse weather.
Of the other top contenders, Charles Leclerc qualified 15th but will start the race from 20th, having taken a collection of new power-unit elements, but Saturday was also a bad day for Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez.
The Mexican made a crucial error heading into turn 3, by locking the inside wheel heading into the right hander, before sliding head on into the barrier.
While the damage was not significant, the 32-year-old was unable to reverse out of his predicament, ending his session and briefly causing a red flag, leaving the winner of Monaco a lowly 13th on the grid.
Perez will hope his Red Bull has the race performance to bring him back towards the podium places.
Sunday’s race starts at 7pm UK time/8pm CEST and with so many stories ready to unfold, this is not a Grand Prix to be missed.