Max Verstappen takes pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix – Maxsports
May 19, 2024

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Max Verstappen takes pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix

Rain or shine, Max Verstappen weaponises his Red Bull to full, dramatic effect as he did again in taking pole position during a chaotic qualifying session for the Canadian Grand Prix.

The sport’s critics ask how you can tell apart the input of man versus machine, but some obvious evidence was presented in the contrasting form of the Dutchman’s team-mate, Sergio Perez, who struggled in the tricky damp conditions and qualified a lowly 12th.

Verstappen is flushed with confidence while Perez is drained of it. The Mexican struggled in the previous two rounds in Monaco and Spain, buffeted about by the tornado in the same car.

It is clearly hard to maintain mental equilibrium when you are up against a great of racing in top condition.

And to those who say the Red Bull car is unbeatable, the riposte is that it is in Verstappen’s hands.

Max Verstappen (centre) will start on pole for the Canadian Grand Prix, with Nico Hulkenberg (left) initially qualifying second before dropping three places

Max Verstappen (centre) will start on pole for the Canadian Grand Prix, with Nico Hulkenberg (left) initially qualifying second before dropping three places 

The Red Bull has now qualified first in each of his last three races and will be hard to beat

The Red Bull has now qualified first in each of his last three races and will be hard to beat 

Q3 was hampered by rain, as no driver was able to improve on their times following a heavy downpour

Q3 was hampered by rain, as no driver was able to improve on their times following a heavy downpour

Perez’s apparent crisis of confidence – he has not made it into Q3 in three consecutive attempts – is the biggest threat to Red Bull’s dream of becoming the only team to win every race of a season.

In order to go one better than McLaren did in 1988, winning 15 of 16 races, Perez is required to pick up the pieces when, as just conceivably may happen, Verstappen has an off day.

This wasn’t one of them even though the rain that came in and blew away and came in again, that spotted and splattered in turns, might have upset the natural order.

In such capricious conditions everyone tried to second guess what weather was on its way and when was most prudent to move from intermediate tyres to drys or vice versa.

Verstappen came through the test to take his fifth pole in eight attempts. He now chases his sixth victory of this processional season.

‘You just have to stay on top in all conditions,’ said Verstappen, who will match Ayrton Senna’s tally of 41 wins if he triumphs today. ‘It was super slippery but we made the right calls at the right times. I like driving in the wet, anyway. I’m from Holland.’

The defending champion finished 1.2sec ahead of Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg, a surprise second quickest who made his telling contribution in a slender window of opportunity.

However, Hulkenberg was later demoted three places on the grid to fifth for driving too quickly under red flag conditions in pouring rain.  

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was third fastest but bumped up to second. His team-mate, the home-country hope Lance Stroll, was 13th best as the crowd shivered in 16C cold. An echo of Verstappen, Alonso is clearly top dog in that garage.

Lewis Hamilton qualified third at a track where he has won seven times in the past

Lewis Hamilton qualified third at a track where he has won seven times in the past

Sergio Perez will start 12th on Sunday

Charles Leclerc will line up alongside him in 11th

Sergio Perez (left) and Charles Leclerc (right) were both eliminated in Q2 for the second week running

It wasn’t a bad day for Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton fourth quickest and George Russell fifth, but both moved up a spot by Hulkenberg’s penalty. 

The Silver Arrows are probably stronger over 70 laps around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve than one, so find themselves in a position to press hard for podium places in what is forecast to be a dry race.

The grid order was set in aspic when McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri crashed on the exit of Turn 2, bringing about a red flag in Q3. The rain started to fall more heavily during the suspension and, although the cars returned to the track as the clock ticked down, it was a forlorn hope to improve on the times already on the board.

It was a disappointing afternoon for Charles Leclerc, finishing 11th for Ferrari, on the back of his 19th in Barcelona a fortnight ago. He had wanted to go on to drys at the start of Q2 but was told not to by his pit boffins.

He screamed his frustration at that call as he was eliminated, yet whatever the debatable rights or wrongs of his tyre deployment he could not quite deliver himself.