F1 – Canadian GP – Qualifying
Hello, MiniFans! After three very different free practices, with sudden torrential downpours included and use of even extreme wet tyres, water once again welcomed drivers to the Canadian GP qualifying session, something that tends to lower car differences and make results depend more on the hands of the drivers than usual.
Intermittent storms kept the track wet and cold as water pooled in certain parts of the circuit, but Q1 kicked off without rain. However, the uncertainty in the teams as of when it would come was clear in the pitlane, with almost the whole grid going out as soon as they were allowed. Zhou reported lack of power in his out lap, causing the first double yellow flag when his car finally gave up and, subsequently, the first red flag came out as well. The Chinese driver managed to make it back to boxes on his own and his mechanics promptly started to work on it, seemingly managing to fix it quickly.
The restart offered a feeling of déjà vu, as everyone lined up once again, ready to clock in some times in fear of the rain prediction. Dry patches were starting to become prominent in certain spots of the track with ten minutes to go, making it easier to get a good lap and times started to go down by many tenths at a time. Stops for slicks were swiftly discarded as a few obstructions to drivers were annotated by race direction, which could end up in penalties for Tsunoda and Sainz. The last few seconds saw a battle among a few cars to try and make it over the line before the flag was waved, with cars getting in a parallel formation to get the last lap in. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Tsunoda (P16), Gasly (P17), De Vries (P18), Sargeant (P19) and Zhou (P20).
The weather forecast made drivers once again line up, as the rain was predicted to start coming down kind of soon and not a small spritz either. Despite this, Norris was willing to try slicks, as was Leclerc, with the Monegasque even asking when exactly the rain was coming while Ferrari insisted on one timed lap with intermediates. Albon beat them to it, fitting some softs and everyone had one eye on him. His lap time started a stampede towards the pitlane, as everyone bar Aston Martin and Mercedes changed tyres. However, as Ferrari had predicted, rain started to fall softly on the track.
Alonso and Hamilton eventually switched to slicks as well, but by them the dry parts of the track had been reduced and the few lap times that had been improved wouldn’t be going lower, kicking a few of the top drivers out, due to not having managed a good time at the beginning of the session. One more incident due to impeding by Stroll was noted down as the rain forbade anyone else to give a try at a quicker lap. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Leclerc (P11), Pérez (P12), Stroll (P13), Magnussen (P14) and Bottas (P15).
The rain was now steadily falling down on the track, which didn’t put a damper on the enjoyment of the fans at the track. As the surface would slowly get worse as time went on, we were once again witnesses to a long queue in the pitlane, with cars waiting for the green light to start Q3. Verstappen was once again at the front, leading a pack that spread out to try and avoid spray from the previous car. Even the steadier cars were slightly slipping around, as the amount of water on the track seemed to start being a bit too on the verge of danger for intermediate tyres.
A second red flag came out courtesy of Piastry, who lost the rear of his McLaren and crashed into the barriers, leaving the car undriveable. The timing meant that Hulkenberg’s lap time counted for the standings but Alonso couldn’t close his, not managing to get past the Haas, which had settled in second. At that point, it was clear the rain was not going to let up any time soon, but with seven minutes left on the clock, F1 drivers aren’t the kind of people to back down from a challenge, even when it’s clear that it won’t come to anything. For the first time, Verstappen wasn’t the first on the queue, the honour going to Sainz, but he soon communicated that there was more water on the surface of the track, foreshadowing that times wouldn’t be improved. The Dutch went back to boxes, as did the rest of the field, and waited patiently for his pole position to be ratified.
The rain once again shook things up in qualifying in Canada, unceremoniously kicking Leclerc and Pérez out of Q2 as the teams either weren’t ready and didn’t read the room correctly or the drivers couldn’t manage to score a lap when it mattered. The changing conditions shook things up, as rain came and went, rattling strategy teams and drivers with frantic radios asking for the weather forecast and possibilities of changing tyres. With a Haas in the front row and both Verstappen and Alonso without their teammates, Mercedes has a chance at shining through strategy on Sunday, as both drivers were together right behind them.
MiniDrivers – F1
2023 Canadian GP