Sebastian Vettel produced a crushing qualifying performance to secure his first pole position of the season for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix.
Vettel had been in a class of his own at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve this weekend, and looked on course to claim pole after topping the final practice session earlier on Saturday.
Hamilton finished 0.0206 seconds down on Vettel while Leclerc, sitting fifth in the drivers standings, qualified a distant third.
Vettel desperately needs to beat Hamilton on Sunday to stop the Briton from running away with the title. Hamilton has won four of the last six races, with the German yet to taste victory in 2019.
“I’m full of adrenaline. The feeling in the car when it keeps coming. It’s really nice. I’m happy for the team because the last few weeks have been quite tough,” said Vettel, who sealed his first pole position triumph in 17 races, stretching back to the German Grand Prix last July.
“The car was a lot better (today). I think we can carry that into the race. We’ll try everything.”
Mercedes are attempting to secure a record sixth consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championship double this season, and with the car looking immensely strong, Hamilton is still in a strong position to clinch a seventh victory in Canada, despite starting from second on the grid.
The 34-year-old, as ever, was magnanimous in defeat to Vettel.
He clocked a best lap of 1:10.446, but Vettel’s lap of one minute and 10.240 seconds proved too strong.
“I don’t particularly feel disappointment, I think we did the best we could,” he said.
“I think the timing was right, our procedures were perfect – this is how racing should be.”
Daniel Ricciardo did brilliantly to qualify in fourth place for Renault. He was two-tenths quicker than his teammate Niko Hulkenberg, who finished seventh.
The McLaren pair of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz once again had a strong start to the season in eighth and ninth place. Pierre Gasly finished fifth for Red Bull, while Valtteri Bottas had to settle for a disappointing sixth.
Kevin Magnussen, who ran wide and touched the ball at the end of Q2, will start from tenth on the grid. The Dane’s bad crash though resulted in Max Verstappen failing to record a sufficient time and the Red Bull star will now start from 11th on the grid.
Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon were in 12th and 14th place, respectively. Antonio Giovinazzi did well for 13th for Alfa Romeo, out-qualifying his teammate Kimi Raikkonen for the first time this season. Romain Grosjean was in 15th for Haas.
Racing Point suffered a setback with home favourite Lance Stroll going out in Q1 in 18th, while Sergio Perez was 16th, just missing out a place in Q2 behind Giovinazzi by seven-hundredths.
Raikkonen finished 17th after a difficult weekend, failing to get out of Q1 for the first time since the Austrian Grand Prix in 2015.
Williams, who have endured a torrid start to their season, proved to be still well off the pace. George Russell was in 19th, while his teammate Robert Kubica, at the scene of his only F1 victory back in 2008, crossed the line in 20th, both were over a second behind their nearest competitors.
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