Never mind Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton on the front row, Valterri Bottas’s Williams will start tomorrow’s Canadian Grand Prix third. That maybe tells you all you need to know about qualifying for tomorrow’s Canadian Grand Prix (live on the Beeb at 18.15 don’t forget).
Yup, it rained. Never so much as to completely hide the racing line, but just enough (or never quite enough) to throw the teams in to a tizzy and, rather more importantly, for the talent to shine through. Sir Frank Williams has never stopped telling us how fast the tough-looking Finn is, while at the same time saddling him with what is clearly a pretty awful car, bad enough to at times have sunk Bottas’ career. Not after today.
In Q3 it was intermediate tyres all the way, and those who got the laps in first got the best slots; Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso completing the top six ahead of both Toro Rossos (Jean-Eric Vergne in seventh, Daniel Ricciardo tenth), plus Adrian Sutil and Kimi Raikkonen.
In Q2 the choice was whether to go for inters or wets; everyone and I mean everyone struggling to make it around the island on the racing line. And with just under two minutes to go, Felipe Massa, some two seconds behind Alonso, pushed too hard and, for the third time in a fortnight, hit the barrier hard. It might be time for another of those weekends with Mr and Mrs Smedley. Red Flag.
That left Ricciardo, Guitierrez and Sutil with two mins to make the top ten. Barely time to get around and to the start line in time to record a fast lap. A bunch of cars, three abreast in places, formed at the end of the pit lane waiting for the green light. Pastor Maldonado also had it all to do, with the extra pressure of seeing teammate Bottas already third on the time sheets.
And if you needed to know how just how hard it was to call the conditions you only needed to note that Jenson Button was in the drop group too. Button, you will recall, demonstrated a supernatural feeling for this track and these conditions two years ago to record the win of his career. He will not thank his team for putting him at the back of the pit lane jam. Yet another McLaren screw-up at the track meant Button didn’t get the chance at a flying lap and was joined by Sergio Perez in the eliminated group, along with Maldonado and both Saubers (plus the sore Massa).
Paul di Resta meanwhile, who’s only recently learned the fine art of smiling, will have to draw on those lessons as he once again failed to make it beyond the first 20 minutes. The return of the rain at the end of Q1 meant, just like Monaco he’ll have to ponder what might have been; the Force India had looked the car most likely to spring a surprise come Sunday.
He was joined in the Q1 cut by Romain Grosjean who could manage no better than 19th. What with his 10 place penalty for rear-ending Daniel Ricciardo in Monaco he’ll be starting somewhere in Vermont. Out of harm’s way then, for the first few laps anyhow.
So who does that leave for the win? This is Vettel’s third Canadian pole in three years, but he has yet to win on this circuit. And while the rain is set to keep away tomorrow, so is the sun. The low ambient and track temperatures should suit Mercedes who, in any case, somehow or other, seemed to have shaken off their tyre wear issue. It’s almost as if they’d had 1000km unscheduled testing or something recently. Or what about Valterri Bottas? Lewis Hamilton won his first ever race here, and the way Sir Frank’s been talking about Bottas…