Lewis Hamilton relieved to take pole in Canada

British driver admits qualifying session was below-par in Montreal

Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in action during the qualifying session for the Grand Prix of Canada at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit in Montreal. Photograph: Valdrin Xhemaj/EPA

Lewis Hamilton admitted he was relieved to have claimed his 53rd career pole position after what he described as a below-par performance in qualifying.

The world champion will start Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix as the favourite to secure a mightily impressive fifth victory at the Gilles-Villeneuve Circuit after edging out Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by just six hundredths of a second.

But Hamilton, who won his first race of the season in Monaco a fortnight ago, did not believe his performance was up to scratch despite posting the fastest lap seen in Montreal since 2004.

“Honestly, qualifying wasn’t great for me,” said Hamilton in what could be viewed as a thinly-veiled dig at team-mate Rosberg.


“The laps weren’t particularly that great – even my pole lap was at the lower end of poles that I have had – so, I am pretty happy that I am still on pole.”

Hamilton, who was comfortably fastest in both practice sessions on Friday, added: “Of course, in practice there was a bigger gap and today I did not have the pace that I had yesterday but it was enough.

“There was definitely more time in it. It is going to be interesting tomorrow, but it is the best place to start, that’s for sure.”

It has been unseasonably cold in Montreal this weekend, but while qualifying took place under cloud cover, the threat of rain failed to materialise.

That is likely to have come as a relief to Rosberg, who struggled so badly in the inclement conditions at the last race in Monaco.

Indeed in the dry, the championship leader provided Hamilton with the sternest of tests. Rosberg, who holds a 24-point lead over Hamilton courtesy of winning the opening four rounds, patted his team-mate on the back and offered him a congratulatory handshake which the Briton duly accepted.

Rosberg, who made a mistake at turn one on his final timed run, said: “My first lap in Q3 was good – not quite enough to beat Lewis but still a good lap – and the next one I tried to pull one out of the bag, but it didn’t work out.

“For tomorrow, everything is still possible. The weather forecast is all over the place and from second it is all doable.”

An impressive Sebastian Vettel, just a 10th shy of the Mercedes duo, will line up in third for Ferrari, with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo fourth on the grid.

The second phase of qualifying was suspended for eight minutes after the so-called ‘Wall of Champions’ claimed its first victim of the weekend.

Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz mounted the kerbs at the final chicane before losing the rear of his car and crashing into the wall. His session was over, and he will line up in 16th on the grid.

Jenson Button, the McLaren driver who won so memorably here five years ago, failed to progress beyond Q2, and will start 12th. His McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso, who afforded himself a small "whoop" after sneaking into Q3, will line up in 10th.

Kevin Magnussen's Renault mechanics were unable to get the Dane's car ready for qualifying after he crashed out of practice, and there was little joy for his team-mate, too. Jolyon Palmer, the under-fire British rookie, was knocked out in Q1 and will start 17th.

Elsewhere, Max Verstappen was fifth for Red Bull with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen sixth.