(Image source: Alberto-g-rovi)
The first part of qualifying started somewhat unceremoniously with Romain Grosjean exiting the Haas garage, his car immediately letting out a plum of white smoke - presumably a turbo issue. The Frenchman had to park his car at the end of the pit lane and retire. The troubled driver showed pace during Friday and Saturday’s practice sessions so having to retire without getting out on track was a blow.
One of the surprising eliminations in Q1 was Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly. He has been the better driver at Red Bull's junior team, often wiping the floor with his older teammate Brendon Hartley. However, on Saturday this was not the case. Gasly was almost half a second slower than Hartley and was eliminated after finishing 16th in Q1 while his teammate fought all the way to 12th place in Q2.
Eliminated in Q1:
16. Pierre Gasly - Toro Rosso
17. Lance Stroll - Williams
18. Sergey Sirotkin - Williams
19. Marcus Ericsson - Sauber
20. Romain Grosjean – Haas
Q2 saw a tactical game played between the top teams. Ferrari and Mercedes had their cars fitted with the medium compound ultrasoft tyres. Others, including Red Bull chose the softest hypersoft compound. Both Ferrari and Mercedes made it to Q3 with no problems, possibly giving them the edge over Red Bull in Sunday’s race as they get to start on a harder set of tyres.
It was a disappointing session for McLaren. The British team has made a resurgence this season becoming one of the best midfield cars on the grid. This was not the case in Canada. Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne brought their cars to the line 14th and 15th, a result they won't be proud of. Especially as they got beaten by Charles Leclerc in his Sauber and Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley.
Eliminated in Q2:
11. Kevin Magnussen - Haas
12. Brendon Hartley - Toro Rosso
13. Charles Leclerc - Sauber
14. Fernando Alonso - McLaren
15. Stoffel Vandoorne - McLaren
There were five teams with two drivers each left for Q3. It was clear even before the pit lane light turned green that Renault and Force India would battle it out for sixth and below and that the top would be a tussle between Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.
The excitement didn’t last until the final car, but there was still plenty of entertainment. On their first runs, Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas put in great laps, outshining their teammates. The Red Bulls were a little off the pace, suggesting a four-way fight for pole.
However, the second runs changed all that as Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton both botched their laps. Raikkonen by going on the grass at the start and Hamilton by locking his front in the chicane at Turn Ten. Neither could improve, which proved costly as Max Verstappen had his best qualifying run of 2018 beating them both into third place. Vettel improved his time but Bottas could not improve his, so the grid was set.