9 June 2012
Vettel simply untouchable in Canada
Sebastian Vettel turned on the afterburners and disappeared into the distance in Q3, catching everyone by surprise by just how far ahead of the rest he proved to be.
Sebastian Vettel monstered the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and left the rest of the field reeling, by pulling out a three-tenths margin over his nearest challenger in Q3 and looking amazingly comfortable in an untouchable pole position.
It hadn't exactly looked like going that way at the start of the qualifying hour. Both Red Bull drivers, Vettel and team mate Mark Webber, opted to stay in pit lane and let others go out on track and set the initial pace, preferring instead to wait until the traffic eased and there was room for them to be able to get to work.
Even do, it was a sedate start for both drivers despite the open space out on the track, and they seemed to need to build up their speed relatively gradually through Q1 before finally levelling off at a comfortable level that was easily enough to see them through to the next round, Vettel finally setting the fastest time of 1:14.661s.
Many of the cars seemed a handful in the opening 20 minutes, the track looking to lack grip despite sunshine and blue skies overheard making the day so much more pleasant than the gloomy and threatening conditions of Friday. Drivers were having to work their tyres hard to get temperatures up and then promptly locking up at various points around the track and especially into turn 1, which saw a surprising number of overshoots.
Both McLaren drivers had looked nervous and ended up coming back out on track with new option tyres in order to safeguard their progression through to the next round of qualifying, just in case the backmarkers were able to get a dramatic gain in performance in the closing minutes and catch out any of the top teams who dared snooze in pit lane assuming that they were safe.
In fact, there were no late improvements in Q1 positions, with the usual Caterham, Marussia and HRT suspects firmly embedded in the bottom section of the timing screens for the duration. The surprise was that they were joined by Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne, who never looked on the pace and even at maximum attack in his final attempt to avoid going out of qualifying early he was unable to even get ahead of the Caterhams and will duly start from 20th position in Sunday's race.
With the preliminaries out of the way it was time to get down to more serious busy. Almost everyone was out on the supersoft option tyres with the exception of Ferrari, who tried an experiment but quickly thought better of it and fell into line. Tyre strategy for qualifying seemed less of a dominant factor in Montreal, with degradation not looking to be particularly fearsome and most teams speculating that the race might prove to be an old-fashioned one-stopper affair.
Vettel was increasingly finding his groove and went top again in Q2, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso emerging as the major challenge to him just ahead of Hamilton.
Jenson Button, on the other hand, was fast approaching his limits, and the lack of practice time due to technical problems on Friday was starting to show - he looked about half a session behind his chief rivals, and gradually found himself shuffled down the positions as the chequered flag approached to end the session.
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