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.

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.