F1 Raceweek: Mind the gap! Vettel on top as Hamilton flops in Montreal
The Formula One world title battle took an interesting twist on Saturday when top two Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel experienced contrasting results in qualifying at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Leader Hamilton's history at the circuit - the Brit has won in Montreal six times previously, including the last three in a row - combined with his switch to hypersoft tyres suggested the championship leader would be tough to beat.
However, the Mercedes driver surprisingly struggled to live up to expectations, his lack of speed leaving him down in fourth position on the grid.
Vettel - who trails his rival by 14 points in the standings - will have the chance to close the gap after securing his team's first pole at the venue since 2001.
Valtteri Bottas will start from second with Max Verstappen joining Hamilton on the second row, the Red Bull driver following up his impressive displays in practice by clocking the third-fastest time.
POIGNANT POLE FOR FERRARI
As well as boosting his own championship hopes, Vettel was quick to remember Ferrari's past after securing the 54th pole position of his F1 career.
The circuit in Montreal has a special meaning for the Scuderia, as it is named after their former driver Gilles Villeneuve, who died after an accident during final qualifying at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix.
“Pole position is always important," Vettel told the team's official website after setting a new track record of of one minute and 10.764 seconds. "This track and this country means a lot, as this is the place where Gilles Villeneuve came from.
"That's why I am very happy to have qualified on pole. It's a great result for all the team, but I think I could have been even faster."
MIXED FORTUNES FOR MERCEDES
"We were not quick enough today in qualifying," Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said after Q3, perhaps slightly overlooking Bottas' position on the front row.
Hamilton pulled no punches when assessing his own performance - and believes he faces a tall order to make up ground on Vettel in Sunday's race.
"It was a difficult qualifying. My laps weren't good and it just didn't quite come together for me," he said.
"You can see just how tight things are at the front of the grid, so I think it could be tricky to overtake. Sure, it'll be tough to win from fourth here, but nothing is impossible. I'll dig deep."
Hamilton needs to do less digging and instead focus on a way to match the efforts of his title rival, or else his advantage at the top may disappear.
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 110
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 96
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 72
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 68
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 60
1. Mercedes 178
2. Ferrari 156
3. Red Bull 107
4. Renault 46
5. McLaren 40
2017: Lewis Hamilton
2016: Lewis Hamilton
2015: Lewis Hamilton
Sunshine. Nothing but sunshine. While the wind could make for a twist in the tale, conditions are not expected to hamper the drivers.