The most beautiful story of the weekend only lasted a few hours.
Holder of an unexpected second position at the end of qualifying, the German Nico Hülkenberg, of Haas, was imposed a penalty of three places on the starting grid, from which he will finally start fifth.
Big favorite, Max Verstappen, at Red Bull, had won the first place for the Canadian Grand Prix which will take place this Sunday. Previously third-placed Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin moves up a rung, and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes moves into the top three.
Hülkenberg, 35, caused the upset by setting the second fastest time in the final qualifying session. The German, for whom this will be his 192nd career race, has never been on the podium before. It has always evolved for second category teams. The story was writing itself.
Before we became aware of the nature of the sanction he received, he had soberly celebrated his achievement, praising the communication with his team which, he believed, had allowed him to remain in control of the situation. “We did some good laps and we are rewarded with a good result,” he summed up.
Knowing only too well that his Haas didn’t have what it takes to hold on to second place for long this Sunday against the top teams, he had set himself the goal of finishing “somewhere between P1 and P10”.
This achievement is still possible, but it will be more difficult. In the evening, more than three hours after the cars had finished turning on the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit, the race marshals published a decision in which it was learned that Hulkenberg had committed an infringement while a red flag was raised.
He was actually convicted of driving too fast. In its decision, the FIA clarified that the usual penalty for not slowing down under a red flag is 10 places, but due to extenuating circumstances the penalty was reduced to 3 places. A ranking point was also taken away.
In a press release, the driver admitted his disappointment at losing his place in the front row of the grid. “We must face the consequences,” he wrote. However, I don’t think it will change much in the race. Our approach will be the same and there will be no impact on the outcome or the result. We will prepare as usual. »
Max Verstappen tamed the bad weather to set the fastest time of the day. He will therefore start from the first row, for the second year in a row in Montreal.
On a wet track, he was able to maintain control of his car and forged a lead of more than a second over Hülkenberg.
Verstappen, leader of the driver standings this season, said he was satisfied with the behavior of his car. He also praised the communication with his team, essential in these conditions.
There is no magic recipe for success in the rain, he noted, other than to “keep your faith” and use your “instinct” to make the right decisions. “It’s something you learn very young,” he said. In go-kart, my father showed me the lines to take when it was raining. It is learned, it is understood. »
Fernando Alonso, 41, was not in his first shower, and said he was satisfied with his third place… in the circumstances, before moving up one place on the grid.
In the first and third session, red flags interrupted some very good laps for him as he was very close to the finish line. This third position therefore left him with “a different taste”, but he saw a “huge chance” for Aston Martin to score valuable points.
The Spaniard is currently third in the Drivers’ Championship behind Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez, who starts 12th on Sunday. He admitted his car was probably “not level” with Verstappen’s car, but on a dry surface he hoped “to be closer than 20 or 30 seconds behind him”, a reference to the surreal margins of recent victories of the young prodigy.
Lance Stroll, who had poor qualifying, will start 16th on the grid for his home Grand Prix. He was due to start from 13th position, but was awarded a three-place penalty for blocking the way to Esteban Ocon’s Alpine in the second stage of qualifying.
Nothing was going well for the Aston Martin driver on Saturday. After he had narrowly entered the second session, we saw him lose control of his car on his first flying lap. By “luck”, only his front wing made contact with the low wall. “I touched the white line a bit inside,” he explained. I put the brakes on. […] I was lucky to just hit the wall with the front wing. It was not ideal as a session for us. »
The Quebecer went to the pits to change said wing and came out with intermediate tires rather than soft ones when the track was dry. The change came later, but it was too little, too late; he was unable to access the third phase. “I wanted to go out on the softs, but there was a bit of rain coming. There was a crossover point for two or three laps, we just missed that opportunity. »
At the time of meeting with the media, Stroll had not yet received his penalty. He then believed it was “realistic” for him to score good points on Sunday. “Here you can really go beyond, you can do something,” he said. We will see. »
Once again, Charles Leclerc appeared discouraged in front of the media, after being eliminated in the second qualifying phase. The Ferrari driver experienced much the same problem as Lance Stroll. At the start of the second session, he asked his team to change the intermediate tires to soft ones, but they obviously didn’t listen to him. The Monegasque therefore remained in intermediate position for one more lap before making the change.
“I think we just make life way too hard for ourselves in these situations,” he blurted. I had a clear opinion and we decided to do something else. I’m frustrated. […] I will speak with the internal team and try to understand what we can do because this is obviously not the first time that we find ourselves in this situation. »
Leclerc was due to start 11th on the grid, but a penalty awarded to his team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. pushed him up one place.
Pierre Gasly was fuming in front of the media after his elimination in Q1. The Alpine driver was disturbed by the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jr. in the last chicane, as he completed his last fast lap. The Spaniard, idling, dangerously blocked his way, which forced Gasly to brake. He will therefore have to start at the back of the grid, in 15th place.
“I just think it’s completely unacceptable to drive like Carlos did,” the Frenchman said. It’s that simple. I arrive at 300 km/h, he is at 30 km/h in the last chicane, concentrating on his own lap. But you are not alone on the track. […] I am absolutely disgusted. »
According to Gasly, he was on his way to getting into the top 6.