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

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

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

  1. Oliver said on 7th June 2008, 20:03

    I agree the circuit was not too good but was it responsible for Webber going off?

  2. sajonaraman said on 7th June 2008, 20:47

    It seem like Bridgestone will have to come up with gravel tyres for the race. I was so happy before Hamilton took it from Kubica. Respect for Lewis though. Indeed 0,6s is kind of a demolition of the opponents no matter what the conditions are o the track. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Kubica tomorrow. He deserves it.

  3. Architrion said on 7th June 2008, 20:53

    0.6 secs is too fast to be only about skills. I bet Lewis is on a three pitstops strategy…

    In any case, final word is on safety car tomorrow. We’ll see

  4. There was zero chance of rain for the qualifying, but the moment the session finished a brief shower came and the showers (very localized) continued for about another 45 mins. It was still sunny but somehow from somewhere a rain managed to appear … It also rained early this morning … With the way the weather has been changing here in last 2-3 days, anything can happen tomorrow. They may even be “Spa” like rain, only in some corner of the track :-)

    The animals are all over the place, those beavers or what is that :-)

    The first chicane seems to be quite tricky, several cars lost it there today …

  5. sajonaraman said on 7th June 2008, 22:03

    Those are groundhogs Milos. Ugly looking creatures that can cause a few problems on the track. We’ve seen them doing it last year anyway.

  6. Brendan said on 7th June 2008, 22:05

    Does anyone else think the track conditions could lead to a USGP ’05 kind of crisis? So far, Trulli, Webber, and Raikkonen seem on the verge of saying that it’s unraceable. We’ll see what develops as the day goes on. The worst case would be if it rains overnight, but is sunny for the race tomorrow. Dry tires on asphalt further weakened by rain would be a disaster.

  7. Rabi said on 7th June 2008, 22:13

    I agree with one part of Webber’s statement: “It will be great for the fans”!

  8. Jian said on 7th June 2008, 22:23

    People seem to put way too much confidence into the “new” in form Massa, the fact is that he has yet to improve on one race weekend this year over his performance last year. It will be hard for him not to tomorrow though after last year’s incredibly stupid black flag. We will see how much he can avoid the spin…Another underachiever is Kovalainen, hope he improves his qualifying in the race tomorrow, there is no excuse for him to be over 1,2sec down, fuel or no fuel.

  9. Jian said on 7th June 2008, 22:23

    why does the header say Monaco btw?

  10. Dorian said on 7th June 2008, 22:35

    Architrion might be right about the significant gap between Hamilton and the rest of the pack. But if he isn’t then………wow!!……Hamilton really kicked ass today.

    As an ardent Ferrari fan, I’m hoping that there’s more to meets the eye regarding todays qualifying session otherwise…..they’re in trouble….

  11. D Winn said on 7th June 2008, 22:46

    @ Jian – its because Monaco and Montreal are both ‘frogish’ and Keith was confused :)

  12. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th June 2008, 22:52

    Sorry for that particularly boneheaded mistake, thanks to everyone who pointed it out!

  13. M Smith said on 7th June 2008, 22:57

    With the mixed up grid for tomorrow, it looks to be a good race for tomorrow. As long as the track doesn’t break up too much for it to be a safety hazard, and with a 60% chance of rain (heavy rain at that) it could be a very exciting race tomorrow!

    If Hamilton doesn’t have any problems tomorrow, I expected him to dominate, but I really want Kubica to win this one! (Because I predicted him to win! haha!)

  14. Dr H&S said on 7th June 2008, 23:27

    “there is no excuse for him to be over 1,2sec down, fuel or no fuel”

    Heiki is blaming traffic…

  15. F1 One said on 8th June 2008, 0:57

    Very nice to see Nico Rosberg on P5, he is one of the fastest man on track

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