Max Verstappen comfortably claimed pole position in qualifying for the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix, as Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas beat Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin to the front row of the grid.
Verstappen’s Red Bull looked by far the most comfortable car over the Montreal circuit’s many bumps and raised kerbs in the changeable conditions, though Verstappen might have faced a challenge for pole from Alonso had the wet Q3 session run normally.
Alonso was only two tenths of a second shy of Verstappen’s first flying lap in Q3, before Verstappen pumped in a second flier at 1m25.858s to substantially increase his pole margin.
Oscar Piastri then crashed his McLaren exiting Turn 7. The red flags flew, but just fractionally after Hulkenberg’s Haas completed its own second flying lap and pipped Alonso to second on the grid by 0.184 seconds.
By the time the session resumed, the worsening rainfall made it impossible for any further improvements so the grid was set with Verstappen 1.244s clear of Hulkenberg – these the only two drivers to complete more than one flying lap.
Alonso had to settle for third, ahead of Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
Esteban Ocon’s Alpine rounded out the top six, ahead of Lando Norris (McLaren), Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, Piastri and Alex Albon’s Williams. Both Sainz and Ocon are under investigation for impeding earlier in qualifying.
Albon brilliantly progressed to Q3 by topping a Q2 session that wavered on the knife’s edge between slicks and intermediates being the right choice of tyre, as track conditions briefly improved then suddenly worsened again with rain falling.
Albon gambled on slicks from the start and found the confidence and grip to beat Verstappen to the fastest time in this segment.
Verstappen and the two McLarens also made decent use of slicks after switching from inters mid-session, while Alonso was fifth quickest in Q2 by persisting on inters.
Mercedes was late to the slick tyre party compared to others but managed to scrape both cars into the top 10 anyway – Russell seventh with the laptime he set on his first run on inters while Hamilton was 10th.
Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari was eliminated after failing to find sufficient pace on slicks in the worsening conditions at the end of Q2. He was 0.189s away from Hamilton’s Mercedes and sounded furious over Ferrari team radio after a second consecutive major qualifying disappointment.
Sergio Perez yo-yo’d between inters and slicks throughout Q2, making crucial mistakes on both tyres, and he wound up only 12th quickest, over half second away from making the top 10 as he failed to reach Q3 for the third straight race.
Lance Stroll survived a massive spin and brush with the barrier at Turn 7 in the early part of Q2 that likely knocked his confidence. He pitted for a fresh set of inters but then looked behind the curve for the remainder of the session and ended up only 13th, another half-second back from Perez and a massive 1.7s down on Aston Martin team-mate Alonso’s Q2 time. He has also been summoned to the stewards for impeding.
Kevin Magnussen’s Haas and the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top 15.
Pierre Gasly’s Alpine was the highest-profile victim of a chaotic finish to Q1, where cars backing up at the final chicane trying to get a final flying lap in on intermediate tyres before the checkered flag forced him into an evasive line through the run-off area.
“They should be banned for that!” Gasly raged. “I’m coming at 300[km/h]!”. Team boss Otmar Szafnauer predicted a top six in Q1 for Gasly without that incident, which he described as “ridiculous”.
Gasly ended up only 17th fastest, behind Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri – which is under investigation for apparently impeding Leclerc’s Ferrari through the final chicane.
Tsunoda was only 0.016s shy of beating Hulkenberg’s Haas into Q2, while AlphaTauri team-mate Nyck de Vries was 18th quickest, ahead of Logan Sargeant’s Williams and the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu – who caused an early red flag by stopping on track during his first out-lap but was able to resume and participate in the session proper after a short delay.
|Nyck de Vries