Verstappen fights pole elements at the Canadian GP

MONTREAL – Rising young star Max Verstappen will line up alongside famed veteran Fernando Alonso in the front row of Sunday’s Montreal Grand Prix, a fitting end to Formula One’s return to Canada.

Verstappen, 24, leader of the series and reigning world champion, overcame the wet conditions to win his second pole of the season. Alonso made his first outing in the front row in a decade with one last quick lap.

“I used to watch F1 as a kid, and see Fernando stand up there and win his races and championships and put him on the poles. So sharing the front row is a nice thing,” Verstappen said.

“Sure, Fernando is getting a little old, but he’s still very fast,” he added with a laugh. “I know it’s starting very well, so I have to be prepared.”

Verstappen, who won last weekend in Baku, Azerbaijan, clocked a time of 21,299 seconds in the battle against the elements.

“It was very tricky,” Verstappen said after securing his second pole of the season and 15th in his career. “Especially (in the first session), the visibility … and you were very close to the edge. But then it started to get nicer and nicer when the track started to dry out. And you started to have a a little more wet grip. ”

Alonso, 40, who won the Canadian Grand Prix in 2006, clocked a time of 1: 21.944 on his last lap.

“So far it’s been an amazing weekend for us,” the two-time world champion said. “The car was mega. I felt so comfortable driving this car and the fans pushed me to give it an extra boost.”

Alonso, who was the fastest in a morning training session, lined up for the last time in the front row in Germany in 2012. His last victory was in 2013 in his race in Spain.

“I think we’ll attack Max on the first corner,” Alonso said with a laugh. “(Red Bull) we’re in a different league, for sure. And it wasn’t in our wildest dreams to be in pole position, so we took the front row safely, and that’s maybe better than any expectation.”

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was third (1: 22,096).

The Montreal Grand Prix has not been won from outside the front row for nearly a decade.

“It doesn’t really matter today’s positions. It’s the race (Sunday),” Sainz said. “I think if we start well and put pressure on the guys up front, anything can happen.”

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton achieved the best quarter of the season with his last lap. He shared “the biggest hug” with his physiotherapist Angela Cullen, he said, in the back of the garage after the race.

“Because we’ve both been working hard, and obviously this past week was a real challenge, and I’m really grateful to have her with me every day to overcome the pain and get my body doing well,” Hamilton said. who suffered. severe back pain last weekend.

“Getting the top 5 in the standings under these conditions is amazing.”

His Mercedes teammate George Russell paid the price for switching to soft tires as he slid off the track and onto the turf on turn 2, which was one of the most slippery areas in the world. clue. Russell finished eighth.

“High risk, high reward,” Russell said. “It wasn’t worth it today.”

Verstappen said he never considered switching to slick tires.

“In some places it was too wet … this bet on the classification cannot be accepted,” he said.

Humidity conditions were also costly for Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who finished the day he closed and sailed directly against the wall between corners 2 and 3.

Pérez, who starts on Sunday the 13th, had to climb through an undergrowth as he returned to the pits off the walls of the track.

Williams’ Alex Albon skated the same way against the wall on turn 6, but still made the cut in the second session.

The conditions were miserable, with heavy rain, strong wind and 12 C cold at the start. High-rain tires made visibility difficult. It was difficult to even discern one driver from another as they crossed the finish line.

“I can’t see much ahead of me,” Hamilton said at the start of the standings.

The rain subsided and conditions improved markedly at the end of the second of the three qualifying sessions. A dry stretch of track appeared for drivers to follow.

Sunday’s race will see Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who took his fourth consecutive pole last week in Baku, starting behind the grid despite finishing 15th overall. He is serving a grid penalty after an engine change, as is Yuki Tsunoda.

Sun and 20 ºC are expected for the race on Sunday.

The Montreal Lance Stroll, which is known to work well in bad weather, was 18th in its Aston Martin, a better place than last week. Nicholas Latifi (Williams) of Toronto was 19th.

“We’ve been pretty competitive in practice this morning, so it was disappointing not to follow him in the standings,” Stroll said. “It will be difficult to start at the bottom of the grid, but free practice showed that our car has a good pace and we will do our best to get points (Sunday).”

The Montreal Grand Prix makes its triumphant return to the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit after COVID-19 forced its cancellation in both 2020 and 2021.

Unfortunately for the sea of ​​amateurs wearing sneakers and hiding under umbrellas on Saturday, the weather has not been so festive this week.

A storm occurred moments after Friday’s training session, sending fans to look for cover.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 18, 2022.

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