Hamilton eases to 44th career pole position in Canada

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Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix in qualifying on Saturday at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, beating Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by three-tenths of a second in the final Q3 running.

Driving the no. 44 car, Hamilton took pole number 44 of his F1 career on the same weekend that he received a signed no. 44 shirt of baseball legend Hank Aaron, and at the track where he secured his first ever pole back in 2007.

Ferrari’s hopes of a shock pole position faded dramatically as Sebastian Vettel failed to make it through Q1 thanks to an engine problem, but Kimi Raikkonen did manage to keep the team’s spirits up by qualifying third ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas.

Q1 set the tone for the final all-Mercedes battle for pole position as Rosberg and Hamilton traded fastest lap times at the top of the timesheets. On the soft tire, it was Rosberg who ultimately had the upper hand, edging his teammate out by just 0.002 seconds for second place in the final classification.

It was Romain Grosjean who sprang a surprise on the super-soft tire to finish in first place, with Lotus teammate Pastor Maldonado finishing fourth. Kimi Raikkonen finished in sixth for Ferrari, but his teammate Sebastian Vettel fell foul of a problem on his engine that limited him to just two timed laps at the end of the session.

The sick Ferrari SF15-T simply did not have enough pace in a straight line, leaving Vettel 16th and out in Q1. Felipe Massa was another big name to fall as Williams also had engine troubles, qualifying 17th ahead of the two Manor drivers. Jenson Button propped up the timesheets in 20th place after an engine changed forced him to sit out of qualifying altogether.

McLaren’s woes continued in Q2 as Fernando Alonso was eliminated in 14th place, finishing ahead of only Felipe Nasr, who was somewhat fortunate to get on track at all following his shunt during practice earlier in the day. The Toro Rosso duo of Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen had to settle for P11 and P12 respectively, and the latter will start from the back due to his 15-place grind penalty. Marcus Ericsson completed the Q2 dropzone in 13th place.

Once again in the second session, it was Mercedes who ruled the roost, opening up a sizeable gap over the rest of the field on the super-soft tire. Lotus ran strongly once again as Romain Grosjean finished third ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas, while Force India managed to get both of its drivers into the top ten.

In the final Q3 runs, it was Hamilton who claimed the early advantage by going three-tenths faster than Rosberg. However, Mercedes assured the German driver that the set of tires for his second run would be better and would allow him to challenge Hamilton later in the session.

It wasn’t to be for Rosberg, though. Hamilton failed to improve with his final lap, but Rosberg also did not find any more time, handing the Briton his 44th career pole position with a best lap of 1:14.393.

Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed his best qualifying of the season to finish third for Ferrari ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado ran well to fifth and sixth for Lotus, with Nico Hulkenberg seventh for Force India.

Daniil Kvyat outqualified teammate Daniel Ricciardo in eighth place, whilst Sergio Perez rounded out the top ten for Force India in tenth place.

Mercedes’ domination may come into question every now and then, but there was no denying the superiority of Lewis Hamilton on Saturday in Montreal. After losing out in Monaco, he needed to bounce back quickly this weekend, and has put himself in the box seat to claim a fourth Canadian GP victory on Sunday.

You can watch the Canadian Grand Prix live on NBC from 2pm on Sunday, with F1 Extra starting at 1:30pm on NBCSN.

Rinus VeeKay to drive for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020

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Ed Carpenter Racing has signed 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay to drive the full 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, the team announced Wednesday.

VeeKay will drive the No. 21 Chevrolet previously occupied by Spencer Pigot.

“I’m so happy!” the 19-year-old driver from the Netherlands said in a press release. “It’s a dream come true and something we have worked extremely hard for over the last couple of years. To step up from USF2000 to the NTT IndyCar Series in three years is really special.”

In his maiden Indy Lights season this year, VeeKay collected six race victories and seven pole potions. VeeKay previously won the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 championship, and finished second in the 2017 USF2000 standings.

VeeKay’s success in the ladder series caught the attention of Carpenter, who gave VeeKay the opportunity to first test for the team at Portland International Raceway in August.

“I have been following Rinus’s path through the Road to Indy, especially the past two years,” Carpenter said. “It was clear to me that he deserves to be in an Indy car. After his first day in a car at Portland this past season, that feeling became even more apparent. His pace, feedback and demeanor inside the car was very impressive for such a young driver.”

As a driver, Carpenter will be VeeKay’s teammate during the five oval races in 2020, once again returning to the team’s No. 20 entry. An announcement on which driver will pilot the No. 20 on the road and street circuits will be made at a later time.

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