Lewis Hamilton blew away championship rival Sebastian Vettel with a phenomenal lap to secure pole position for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s stunning time, the fastest ever seen at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, also moved the triple world champion level on 65 career pole positions with his childhood hero Ayrton Senna.
The British driver finished more than three tenths of a second clear of Vettel, whom he trails by 25 points in the championship race, with Valtteri Bottas to line up in third.
Canada has proven to be a happy stomping ground for Hamilton in the past and so it proved again on Saturday following a thrilling qualifying session.
It was here 10 years ago where Hamilton secured his first ever grand prix victory, and he will now be odds-on to record his sixth victory in Montreal after his blistering lap.
Hamilton laid down the gauntlet with a super-quick opener in the final phase of qualifying before Vettel bit back to move to within just four thousandths of the Briton’s time.
But the 32-year-old responded in meteoric fashion to stamp his mark on pole and join Senna in second on the all-time list. Only Michael Schumacher has more poles than Hamilton in the sport’s long history.
An emotional Hamilton was given a race-worn Senna helmet, provided by the Brazilian’s family, which he held aloft in front of the thousands of fans at turn two.
Following his heroics at the Indianapolis 500 a fortnight ago, Fernando Alonso is back behind the wheel of his McLaren this weekend.
The double world champion contested for a famous victory at the Brickyard, but it was back to business as he could haul his Honda-powered McLaren to only 12th on the grid.
Alonso and team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, 16th in the order, have been the slowest in a straight line for much of the weekend, and it is unsure how much longer McLaren will be prepared to stick it out with their beleaguered engine supplier.
Lewis Hamilton bounced back to top the times for Mercedes ahead of championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari in Friday’s opening practice for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.
The three-time champion Briton, who is 25 points adrift of Vettel in the title race after a desultory Monaco Grand Prix won by the German, clocked a best lap in one minute and 13.809 seconds to wind up 0.198 seconds clear of his rival.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was third fastest ahead of his Finnish compatriot Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari, Sergio Perez of Force India and his team-mate Frenchman Esteban Ocon.
Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was seventh for Red Bull ahead of Felipe Massa of Williams, Australian Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull and Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso.
On a cool and dry morning at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Mercedes were relieved to demonstrate they are back in contention after suffering tyre performance problems in Monte Carlo where Ferrari reeled off a dominant one-two.
The session was littered with minor incidents as most of the field suffered spins and two were forced to withdraw from the fray – Carlos Sainz pulling up with smoke billowing from his Toro Rosso after only one lap and two-time champion Fernando Alonso abandoning his McLaren-Honda with gearbox problems.
Fernando Alonso repeated his threat to quit not only McLaren-Honda, but also Formula One, on Thursday when he faced reporters ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.
The two-time world champion, who revelled in the freedom he experienced at the Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago, when he retired while running seventh, cited two possible reasons for making an exit after 16 years.
The Spaniard said that if McLaren were not able to win by September, he would leave the team and added that if the sport increased its race calendar to 25 or more he would quit.
“A third world championship is my biggest priority,” he said. “That’s what I came to McLaren to win – and now after three years we are not winning. If we don’t win, I will jump in any car I can in any category.
“I’m not afraid of the future. If I can’t succeed here I will go and I will race in any series.”
Alonso has made previous and similar threats about his future with the team, but this one follows a warning to engine suppliers Honda from McLaren team chief Zak Brown that they are close to the end of their patience with the Japanese company.
“We’re near our limit,” Brown said. “So far, it hasn’t worked… A year in Formula One is an eternity. Three years is a decade – and you just can’t go on forever.”
Brown spoke after it was revealed that Honda had failed to produce expected updates for their engines for this weekend’s race, the seventh of the season following a miserably disappointing start to the year.
Alonso, who praised the open and happy atmosphere he found at Indianapolis, confirmed also that he would quit F1 if the calendar is to be enlarged to 25 races from 20.
“When I started it was with 16 races with some testing,” he said. “Now it is 20-21, with preparation, sponsors, testing and more so and if it is 25, it will be too many for me.
“I will decide what I am doing after the summer, in September or October, but I want to keep some quality in my life. I think things have to change.”
Widely regarded as one of the most talented drivers of his generation, Alonso was expected to succeed Germany’s seven-time champion Michael Schumacher as the most dominant racer of the past decade.
But his career moves saw him go from a triumphant Renault to a bleak and unhappy season at McLaren-Mercedes in 2007 and then back to Renault before he moved to Ferrari and McLaren-Honda without success.
He was champion in 2005 and 2006, but has won only six races in the last six seasons before this, and is without a victory since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix.
McLaren-Honda have failed to score a point this year.