Max Verstappen overcame slick conditions to win his second pole of the season, and Fernando Alonso used the wet track to earn his first front-row start in a decade in rainy qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix.
The Saturday run for Verstappen, the reigning Formula One champion and current points leader, was no surprise even though it is the Dutchman’s first career pole at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Instead, it was 40-year-old Alonso who brought the crowd to its feet with a thrilling run to qualify second. He jumped ahead of Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton as time expired and drew a rousing ovation from the rain-soaked spectators.
“It is an unbelievable weekend so far for us,” said the Alpine driver. “The car was mega. I was so comfortable driving this car, and the fans pushed me to make an extra push.”
But can he convert it into his first F1 victory since 2013 on Sunday, when weather conditions are expected to be greatly improved and the track dry?
“I think we’ll attack Max in the first corner,” the Spaniard smiled. He later added he’d be content finishing fifth.
Sainz qualified third for Ferrari, while teammate Charles Leclerc didn’t bother taking his car out after the first group. Leclerc has already been handed a 10-place grid penalty for changing his engine ahead of Sunday; Leclerc was 15th overall but will start at the back of the grid alongside Yuki Tsunoda, who also changed an engine.
Hamilton qualified a season-best fourth as he recovered from one of the worst practice days of the year in his Mercedes. A technical directive issued on Thursday to help alleviate the bouncing that Mercedes and other cars are fighting this season actually made Friday more difficult for Hamilton, who has been suffering from both back pain and headaches because of the effect known as “porpoising.”
Haas had a huge qualifying day as Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher were fifth and sixth and Schumacher is positioned to score the first points of his F1 career.
“It’s very enjoyable in these conditions. It’s not just one lap,” said Magnussen. “Days like this are what makes you happy and makes you smile.”
George Russell of Mercedes crashed in the final qualifying group and was eighth, while Zhou Guanyu was 10th as he advanced to the third round for the first time in his career.
Sergio Perez crashed his Red Bull in the second session and wound up 13th, the first time he’ll start lower than fifth this year.