9 June 2012
Vettel simply untouchable in Canada
Button was in tenth when Pastor Maldonado posted a new set of impressive sector times and looked a sure thing to leap into the top ten at Button's expense. But coming through the final corner, the Williams driver pushed that one inch too far and lost control of the car, spinning the back end into the notorious Wall of Champions. He kept his foot down and showed impressive car control as he spun the car completely around, but the damage was done to Maldonado's qualifying effort.
Moreover, as the Williams finally found the right way forward, it was clear that the suspension was damaged and he would have to park the car where it sat on the start-finish straight, bringing out a local waved yellow that meant that no one else was able to improve their times in the seconds remaining. Button owed Maldonado a big thank you present for saving his place in Q3 for him.
Maldonado was joined in his exit from qualifying by his Williams team mate Bruno Senna, who had himself found the wall the previous day, ensuring that the Williams pit crew got quite a work out in Montreal this weekend. Both Saubers also went out - in Kamui Kobayashi's case he failed by just 0.008s to go through in Button's place - and there was also disappointment for Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo.
Perhaps most surprisingly in this part of qualifying was the exit of Kimi Raikkonen, the Lotus never showing the expected pace and the Finn looking deeply non-plussed by the day's outing. He would have been even more irked by his young team mate Romain Grosjean managing to extract the pace from the car to get through to Q3.
In the final ten minute round of qualifying, it was still anybody's game - until Sebastian Vettel went out and posted a mighty 1:13.784s that had jaws dropping up and down pit lane, and it was pretty evident that no one had any chance of getting close to that time. It was half a second closer than Lewis Hamilton's first flying lap, and while the McLaren driver narrowed the gap with his second effort it was still all he could do to get within three tenths of a second of the Red Bull.
Hamilton's improved second lap did at least muscle Alonso off the front row of the grid, meaning that the Ferrari will now share the second row with Mark Webber, who looked safe and solid throughout the entire qualifying session but someone lacked that last extra bit that Vettel had been able to pull out of the hat.
Nico Rosberg will share the third row alongside Felipa Massa, who enjoyed one of his best qualifying sessions of the year so far and who looks throughly rejuvenated by his positive outing a fortnight ago at Monaco.
Behind them, the rest of the cars initially seemed content to just try some basic sighting laps, but once it was clear that Jenson Button's day was over and done with relatively early in Q3 the others saw the possibility of a bonus place or two and went out after all, with Paul di Resta popping up to join Romain Grosjean on the fourth row and Michael Schumacher edging up a position to start in ninth place alongside Button who had to settle for tenth.
Despite Vettel's emphatic pole - his 32nd in F1 - the starting grid order still seemed oddly fragile even after the chequered flag came out, with several people looking out of place from where they might have been expected to be. Even Vettel's pole position itself was just so much out of nowhere that the suspicion is that it might not translate into quite such a dominant race performance on Sunday.
Not only that, but few pole sitters go on to win at Montreal; and with safety cars a regular fixture in every Canadian Grand Prix, there's still a very real sense that anything can happen come the start of the race on Sunday.
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