Overwhelmed, almost tearful, Lewis Hamilton said on Saturday night that he was “shaken and speechless” at receiving a race helmet worn by his idol Ayrton Senna in tribute to his emulation of the Brazilian’s 65 pole positions. The gift, bestowed by Senna’s family moments after he had delivered the fastest lap ever seen here at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, moved him so profoundly that he claimed it meant more than any of his vast collection of trophies.
“I didn’t actually possess any of Ayrton’s artefacts,” Hamilton explained. “For his family to send me this is more special than anything else I have. I am just honoured to be honoured by them.”
The vivid yellow helmet, worn by Senna at Silverstone in 1987 in his Lotus phase, was his reward for an essentially faultless display on Montreal’s Île Notre-Dame, as he produced what he called a “sexy lap” to eclipse title rival Sebastian Vettel by over three tenths.
The roars of the Quebecois fans, as his stunning time of 1 min 11.459 sec flashed up on the giant screens, could have been heard across the St Lawrence Seaway. For this was not merely a peerless performance, but a precious slice of history, as Hamilton elevated himself alongside the man universally regarded as the master of the single, flying lap.
Hamilton has consistently invoked Senna as his inspiration, recalling how he was first drawn to him by the lurid colour of his helmets and that he tried to emulate his aggression and audacity as soon as he grasped a steering wheel.
In Monaco in 1988, Senna beat his fellow McLaren driver Alain Prost by 1.4 sec in perhaps the closest display to perfection that F1 has witnessed. It was difficult not to detect echoes on Saturday in the breathtaking nervelessness of Hamilton as he swept within inches of Montreal’s Wall of Champions, en route to a time that even Vettel could hardly hope to match.
“I would come home from school and say, ‘If I’m ever lucky enough to get to F1, I want to emulate Ayrton,’” Hamilton said. “Honestly, I can’t believe it.” Looking across at the vanquished Vettel, who still leads the championship by 25 points, and team-mate Valtteri Bottas in third, he reflected: “This has been the hardest season of my career, racing against these two great drivers. I can’t remember having had such an intense moment. We can’t always be perfect, but today I got as close as I could.”
Under azure summer skies in Montreal, the cat-and-mouse tussle between Ferrari and Mercedes showed little sign of abating. The Silver Arrows appeared to have addressed some of the tyre issues that bedevilled their weekend in Monte Carlo last month.
For Hamilton, the chance to bracket himself with Senna was his only concern. He had described the very possibility as “unreal”, and his decisive lap to take pole here had the same other-worldly quality. His first effort of 1-11.791 was staggering enough, even if Vettel came within four thousandths of a second. But with one final blast Hamilton went better again, in the clearest sign yet that the tussle between the two pre-eminent drivers of their generation was poised to run and run.
It was another exasperating afternoon for McLaren, with Stoffel Vandoorne unable even to advance beyond the first qualifying phase. There is a palpable sense that the team’s patience is starting to be tested by the Belgian rookie, who has yet to claim a point this season. “One tenth would have been enough, Stoffel,” his race engineer said over the in-car radio. “I’m sure you had that in you.”
Lance Stroll, the first Canadian to compete in his home race since Jacques Villeneuve in 2006, also fell by the wayside early for Williams, managing only 16th as his dismal debut campaign continued.
It was a day, too, when rumours were rife in the paddock that Nico Rosberg could yet be persuaded to make a dramatic return with Ferrari. The reigning champion had suggested he would keep his distance from F1 after his shock retirement last December but has been far more visible of late, even conducting post-race interviews in Monaco. Now Toto Wolff, team principal at Mercedes, has raised the tantalising possibility that Rosberg could be enticed back to the track full-time.
“I’ll give you a little confidence,” Wolff said, during his annual Canadian lunch with local media. “I would not be surprised to see Nico running one day at Ferrari or elsewhere. He’s only 31, he’s still young.”
Are you ‘really’ happy with P5, Max?
Verstappen: “I think P5 was the best. we knew that this circuit isn’t out favourite and the Mercedes and Ferraris can turn up their engine a bit more which we can’t. I think 5th was always the target.
“I wasn’t completely happy with the car as we changed a few things in the set-up.”
Have you caught your breath yet?
I forgot to say earlier, what an amazingly classy touch from the Senna family to present Hamilton with the helmet.
Who’s a happy boy, then?
What an afternoon
Niki Lauda on Lewis’ superb lap: “We did not expect that he could go that quick. 1:11.7 was a big surprise.
“The car was good, he was perfect and thank God the Ferraris are behind.”
I think there is something in my eye
The Senna family have given Lewis Hamilton a race worn helmet for matching the record. He now has the joint second highest number of poles in history behind Schumacher.
Our Montreal pole sitter
“You are the ones who make this GP as special as it is for us.
I was gunning, I was pushing. I’ve got great support out here and I just wanted to give them a great lap.”
“It was a sexy lap!”
Yes it was Lewis.
The top ten
Hamilton will start on pole, followed by Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Massa, Perez, Ocon and Hulkenberg.
HAMILTON TAKES POLE IN MONTREAL
Vettel has held onto his P2 but today is all about Hamilton breaking the lap record with a 1:11.459, matching Senna’s all-time number of pole positions, and equalling Schumacher’s number of poles in Canada.
That definitely ended better than it started.
Hamilton goes faster with a 1:11.439. Bottas can’t improve on his time as Vettel attempts to know the Mercedes off top spot.
Just over a minute left
All ten cars are out on the track as Hamilton attempts to match Senna’s record of 65 pole positions. It would be his sixth at Canada.
He leads from Vettel, Bottas. Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Massa, Perez, Ocon and Hulkenberg.
Four minutes left
Vettel the only car out on track as he manages to go second with just 0.004s between him and Hamilton. The distance is probably less than a metre.
Four thousandths of a second.
Seven minutes left
Hamilton leads from Bottas, Raikkonen, Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Massa, Perez, Ocon and Hulkenberg.
All cars are out on the ultrasofts with half a second between Hamilton and Raikkonen in third.
Vettel sets a 1:12.791 and Hamilton goes faster with a 1:11.791. Bottas follows that and goes second.
Hamilton’s time is a new record!
Ten minutes left
All the cars are out on the track for the top ten shootout.
Lewis Hamilton would match Ayrton Senna if he gets pole position today, at a track where he has won five times.
Those pesky pinkies
Another good weekend ahead for Force India with Perez and Ocon in P8 + P9.
The Sauber driver has apologised to his team after he damaged the car when he clipped the grass.
Q2 provisional places
Last minute movement and drama
Bottas moves into second above Raikkonen.
Kvyat has a puncture but he was out after ending the session in P11. He appeared to his the wall and ther will be some work to do on the car.
Bottom five is Kvyat, Alonso, Sainz, Grosjean and Palmer.
One minute left
Kvyat, Sainz, Alonso, Grosjean and Palmer need to improve on their current laps otherwise their day is over.
Time for one lap each guys.
Just over three minutes left
Everyone out on the track except Vettel.
Ricciardo and Verstappen seem to finally have found their pace as they sit in P5 and P6 respectively.
Hamilton leads with a 1:12.496
Six minutes left
Alonso: “I have less power than Q1.”
I guess you could say normal service is resumed over at McLaren.
Currently Kvyat, Sainz, Alonso, Palmer and Grosjean will be out at the end of the session.
Everyone is out on the ultrasofts so it looks like Ferrari were just keen to see what kind of times they would get on the supersofts ahead of race day.
Eight minutes left
Hamilton sets the fastest time of 1:12.496 ahead of Raikkonen, Bottas, Vettel and Ricciardo.
Vettel’s lap is ruined after he loses control of the car.
Hollywood royalty in the house, well track
Michael Douglas enjoying the hospitality.
All the cars are out on the track except for Alonso which makes me nervous. I don’t know how many more ,miserable Fernando memes my eyes can take.
Q1 provisional places
Q1 is over
Well that was a disappointing end to the session.
Bottas leads form Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Massa, Perez, Ocon, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Alonso.
11th was Grosjean, Kvyat, Hulkenberg, Palmer and Sainz.
The drivers ending their day in Q1 are Vandoorne, Stroll, Magnussen, Ericsson and Wehrlein.
Wehrlein is out and his rear wing is off the car so anyone trying to get that final flying lap is out of luck. He clips the grass and his day is over.
The other four of the bottom four have all halted their laps as they had to slow down. It looks like Vandoorne, Stroll, Magnussen and Ericsson will be joining him for an early bath. Or coffee. Whatever they fancy.
A couple of minutes left
The top three of Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel are in the pits.
Stroll, Magnussen, Vandoorne, Ericsson and Wehrlein are all at risk of dropping out as Palmer moves up to P14.
Tricky from Kimi
The Finn has just kissed the wall but looks like he has escaped without any damage. He’s told the garage that he is struggling with his front tyres and he remains in P8 so far.
Five minutes left
Here’s how the top ten look at the moment
Seven minutes left
We are into the 1:12 as Hamilton goes fastest only to be pushed into second by Bottas. The Prancing Horses are the only team on the supersofts.
As it stands the cars who will end their day here will be Hulkenberg – who is yet to set a time, Wehrlein, Grosjean, Magnussen and Ericsson.
Nine minutes left
Hamilton goes second on the ultrasofts which seem the slower of the two.
Bottas leapfrogs his teammate and Vettel to go top
He leads from Vettel, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Ocon, Massa, Alonso and Perez.
Both Ferraris are on the supersofts with Vettel now setting a 1:13.046. Everyone else is on the ultras.
11 minutes left
Raikkonen goes faster than his teammate with a 1:13.548, with Vettel .239s behind. There is a lot of traffic with 17 cars out on track.
Alonso sets the third fastest time with Kvyat,
Sainz, Massa, Magnussen, Vandoorne, Stroll and Wehrlein making up the top ten.
Grosjean is moaning again – this time about grip but it’s unlikely he is the only one struggling.
14 minutes left
We’ve got 13 cars out on the track as they look to get some heat into those tyres. It’s a pretty warm day in Montreal so they may only need on lap before they can set a decent time.
Sainz is first with a 1:14.785, but we expect everntual times to be in the 1:13 region.
The drivers are ready, the teams are ready and so are we.
Let’s see who will end Saturday with a smile on their face as the two toro rosso’s head out onto track with both drivers on the ultrasofts.
Predict the Podium
There is still time to take me on and say who you think will be the top three tomorrow afternoon. No prizes but who doesn’t love bragging rights?
Five minutes to go…
Here’s how everyone ended the final practice session:
Some update news
The Williams and Force India now have the revamped Mercedes power unit so it will be interesting to see if they can get themselves higher up the grid this weekend.
15 minutes to go…
You know the drill.
Get the snacks in, get comfortable and get ready to see whether it will be a Silver Arrow or a Prancing Horse on pole.
The Villeneuve’s and the Canadian Grand Prix
Canada is the seventh on the list having held 48 Grand Prix’, the first in 1967.
The country has only produced one World Champion – Jacques Villeneuve in 1997; and has only seen one Canadian national win at home – his father, Gilles in 1978.
The track was named after Gilles after his tragic death in Belgium in 1982.
Here’s some more on the family’s history with the sport.
It appears that Jenson Button’s threat to pee in Fernando Alonso’s seat has given some Lewis Hamilton fans a few ideas.
From 20 to 25, or more
There has been a lot of talk this week about the possible extension of the F1 calendar, with suggestions that there may be as many as 25 circuits in a season.
Christian Horner of Red Bull, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton are amongst those who have expressed concern with Liberty Media’s plans.
They are said to want at least four US-based F1 races with Miami, New York and Las Vegas tipped to be the locations.
Alonso said: “If there are 25 or 26 races maybe it’s good in one aspect, but bad in other aspects. At this point of my career I consider a good quality of life is more important than to do more seasons in F1.
“So if the calendar stays between 20 or 21, I will be happy to continue. If it’s increasing like NASCAR where they have 40 or 50 races, it is not for me. It is better for other drivers.”
With Hamilton adding: “I understand what Fernando is saying and I tend to agree with him.”
Local boy Lance
Lance Stroll has a had a tricky start to his Formula One career with a best finish of P11 in Russia. He ended 16th in Spain and has failed to finish his other four races.
Our Chief Sports Feature Writer, Oliver Brown, delved further into the teenager’s life here.
45 mins to go…
Qualifying will start at 6:00pm and as normal we will lose the five slowest cars at the end of the first two sessions, before a top ten shootout to get our pole sitter.
After six races
So the race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will be our seventh of the season and unlike previous years we actually have a competition on our hands.
Here’s how they stand following their weekend in Monaco.
What happened earlier
If you didn’t see practice, here’s a round-up of all the action from FP3:
Championship leader Sebastian Vettel laid down an ominous marker to Lewis Hamilton after he stormed to the top of the timesheets in final practice for the Canadian Grand Prix.
Vettel, who holds a 25-point lead over Hamilton in the title race, ended the session here at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve more than a third of a second clear of the Mercedes driver.
Indeed Hamilton, a winner in Canada on five occasions and seeking one further pole position to match his childhood hero Ayrton Senna, had to settle for third on Saturday morning with Kimi Raikkonen slotting in behind his Ferrari team-mate.
Ferrari secured their first front-row lockout in nearly a decade at the last round in Monaco – and on this morning’s evidence at least – would once more appear to hold a clear advantage over Hamilton’s Mercedes team ahead of qualifying later on Saturday.
Vettel’s impressive lap of one minute and 12.572s was enough to finish nearly three tenths ahead of Raikkonen with Hamilton 0.354s off the pace. Valtteri Bottas, in the sister Mercedes, was fifth in the order behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso saw his return to the Formula One paddock plagued by further reliability issues on Friday, but a clear run for the 35-year-old Spaniard placed him 12th in the running.
British driver Jolyon Palmer was 15th, more than half a second adrift of his Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg who finished sixth, while Lance Stroll – the 18-year-old rookie whose motor racing career has been bankrolled by his fashion billionaire father Lawrence – was only a lowly 18th in front of his home crowd.
Meanwhile, a one-minute silence will be observed ahead of tomorrow’s race in memory of those killed and injured in last Saturday’s terror attack in London.
Canadian Christine Archibald, who hailed from British Colombia, was the first victim to be named after the attack and the promoters of this weekend’s Montreal race have called on Formula One to hold the tribute in her honour.
British team Williams are also running #London on the front of their cars.
Good afternoon and welcome to live updates of qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix.