2008 Canadian GP qualifying: Hamilton takes pole as track starts to crumble

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 470150

Lewis Hamilton put his McLaren on pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix but there are concerns about tomorrow’s race due to the state of the Circuit Villeneuve track.

The session was hardly a few minutes old when it became clear that the track was disintegrating particularly at the Casino hairpin. It may jeopardise the safe running of tomorrow’s race.

Part one

After rain had fallen overnight the track had clearly gotton slower. Lewis Hamilton was the only driver to get below 1m 17s as he sat on top of the time sheets.

Sebastian Vettel was not participating following a crash in practice that required him to change chassis. He will start tomorrow’s race from the pit lane.

That left four drivers to be eliminated and it came down to a last lap shootout between Nelson Piquet Jnr and Sebastien Bourdais to avoid the cut. Piquet made it through by a comfortable four tenths of a second – though he was still 1.1s slower than team mate Fernando Alonso. Also knocked out was Jenson Button, whose Honda was missing third gear.

Drivers eliminated in part one

16. Sebastien Bourdais
17. Adrian Sutil
18. Giancarlo Fisichella
19. Jenson Button
20. Sebastian Vettel (no time)

Part two

By the second part of qualifying it was becoming clear that parts of the track were starting to break up as they had in recent years. Jarno Trulli, who had already been off in the first part of qualifying, and Fernando Alonso were among the drivers who had spins. The track conditions were so poor that although Hamilton remained the fastest driver his Q2 time was slower than he had been in Q1.

The third sector was the most badly affected, particularly the Casino hairpin. But McLaren seemed able to cope with the breakup better than the others, particularly the Ferraris.

Nick Heidfeld scraped into the top ten late in the session but drama followed as Mark Webber crashed his Red Bull at turn seven, where the track was also beginning to crumble. Despite having already made the top ten he would take no further part in the session.

Drivers eliminated in part two

11. Timo Glock 1’18.031
12. Kazuki Nakajima 1’18.062
13. David Coulthard 1’18.238
14. Jarno Trulli 1’18.327
15. Nelson Piquet Jnr 1’18.393

Part three

With the track in a visibly poor state the front runners hurried out to set times before it got any worse. Hamilton took the leading position once again.

But late in the session he faced a retaliation not from one of the Ferraris, but from Robert Kubica in the BMW who took over pole position.

Hamilton had begun his final lap with just a few seconds of the session remaining and he made no mistakes. In fact his 1’17.886 was a cool 0.6 seconds quicker than Kubica managed. Some of that may well be down to fuel, but the rest told of Hamilton’s ability to read the tricky track conditions to perfection.

The deteriorating surface prompted a few chanes in the usual order, with Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg lining up behind Kimi Raikkonen, pushing Felipe Massa and Heikki Kovalainen down to sixth and seventh respectively.

Webber, an enforced tenth, criticised the race organisers over the state of the circuit. Tomorrow’s race could well be very unpredictable, even if the outside chance of rain doesn’t materialise.

Top ten

1. Lewis Hamilton 1’17.886
2. Robert Kubica 1’18.498
3. Kimi Raikkonen 1’18.735
4. Fernando Alonso 1’18.746
5. Nico Rosberg 1’18.844
6. Feipe Massa 1’19.048
7. Heikki Kovalainen 1’19.089
8. Nick Heidfeld 1’19.633
9. Rubens Barrichello 1’20.848
10. Mark Webber no time