Lewis Hamilton will start the Canadian Grand Prix from pole position ahead of Sebastian Vettel after dominating qualifying in Montreal.
Hamilton’s time, a 1 minute 11.459 seconds, set a new all-time lap record for the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the process.
The Briton’s first qualifying lap and Vettel’s second of an unusual three-lap effort were separated by just 0.004 seconds, but the Mercedes driver almost unbelievably found more than 0.3 seconds on his final attempt to put pole position out of reach.
“I’m so happy. Montreal has been good to me over the years,” Hamilton said. “It was a close battle with the Ferrari, who were so quick.
“It was a sexy lap! I can’t believe that it came together so well.
“The team did a fantastic job to learn from the mistakes of the last week. I owe it all to them.”
The pole position was the 65th of Hamilton’s career, which puts him equal second on the all-time list with his childhood hero Ayrton Senna.
The Senna family sent him a worn helmet of Ayrton’s, which was presented to Hamilton after qualifying, turning even the outspoken Briton momentarily speechless.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel rued being beaten on the final run, admitting he didn’t up his game on his last chance on his way to a 0.330-second gap.
“I’m not so happy with the last run we had in quali,” he said. “I would’ve loved to repeat the second run and find a little bit.
“I lost a bit at turn two then tried a bit of catch up. It was a good qualifying session though.”
The German said, however, that he expects Ferrari to have the race pace to challenge for the win tomorrow.
Valtteri Bottas qualified third but 0.718 seconds off his the other Mercedes, making this the first time the Finn has even been outqualified by a teammate in Montreal.
“It was close here, as I expected,” he said. “Lewis had a mega lap. In the second run.
“Well done to Lewis and Seb, but the race is tomorrow.”
Kimi Räikkönen was 0.793 seconds off the pace in fourth and two-tenths ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo who were split by 0.05 seconds.
Felipe Massa qualified seventh for Williams, ahead of fellow Mercedes-powered cars driven by Force India’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.
Nico Hülkenberg was the slowest of the session, qualifying P10 and 1.8 seconds off pole.
The track continued improving in Q2, with drive on average finding more than 0.2 seconds on their Q1 times.
Not everyone was comfortable, however, with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer going slower in Q2 than in Q1. He was eliminated in P15 as a result.
The scrap to make it into Q3 was again affected by a driver accident in the dying moments when Daniil Kvyat grazed his right-rear wheel against the barrier, puncturing the tyre.
The Russian crawled home to the pits on the racing line as the clock ticked down, forcing drivers to swerve around his Toro Rosso car on the back straight.
Kvyat was ultimately eliminated in P11, one place and just 0.003 seconds ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who complained his Honda power unit was less powerful in Q2 than in Q1.
Carlos Sainz qualified the other Toro Rosso in P13, ahead of Haas’s Romain Grosjean the adrift Palmer.
Free practice three earlier on Saturday suggested the ultrasoft tyre could provide peak performance on its second flying lap, meaning Q1 featured heavy traffic as drivers completed as many as 13 laps.
Ferrari curiously bypassed the softest purple-striped tyre, however — it was the only team to do so — in favour of the red-striped supersoft, despite the Scuderia bringing more ultrasofts to this race than any other squad.
Neither Sebastian Vettel nor Kimi Räikkönen struggled to make it to Q2, but the session ended early in any case when Pascal Wehrlein touched the grass on the run down to the first turn, spinning his car and wiping off his rear wing against the barrier.
Stoffel Vandoorne was demoted into the exclusion zone at the last moment when Renault’s Jolyon Palmer escaped the bottom five. The McLaren driver will start P16.
Lance Stroll struggled in his first home qualifying session as a Formula One driver, eliminated in P17 while his teammate set the fifth-fastest time of Q1.
Kevin Magnussen was eighteenth fastest for Haas, ahead of Sauber duo Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.