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Max Verstappen claims pole position during rain-hit qualifying for Canadian GP

Max Verstappen (centre) claimed pole in Canada ahead of Nico Hulkenberg (left) and Fernando Alonso (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)
Max Verstappen (centre) claimed pole in Canada ahead of Nico Hulkenberg (left) and Fernando Alonso (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP) Max Verstappen (centre) claimed pole in Canada ahead of Nico Hulkenberg (left) and Fernando Alonso (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)

Max Verstappen put his Red Bull on pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix following Saturday’s rain-hit qualifying session in Montreal.

Verstappen has won five of the opening seven rounds and even a wet-dry-wet track in Montreal could not slow the Dutchman down.

Nico Hulkenberg took advantage of the sodden track to take second spot for Haas, 1.2 seconds behind Verstappen, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso third.

Lewis Hamilton qualified fourth, one spot ahead of George Russell in the other Mercedes, while Lando Norris claimed seventh for McLaren.

However, Hulkenberg was later penalised three places for a red-flag infringement. The sanction lifted Alonso, Hamilton and Russell into second, third and fourth respectively on the grid for Sunday’s race.

Verstappen has been in a class of one this year and the Red Bull man kept his composure in changeable conditions to take an impressive pole.

Verstappen was quickest out of the marks in Q3 before Oscar Piastri’s shunt on the exit of the second corner led to a red flag.

The session was delayed for eight minutes and – with the intensity of the rain increasing – no one would threaten Verstappen’s time.

Max Verstappen drives in Canada
Max Verstappen drives in Canada Max Verstappen kept his composure in changeable conditions to take an impressive pole (Christinne Muschi/AP)

“In the wet, you have to stay on top of the conditions,” said Verstappen, who will match Ayrton Senna’s tally of 41 victories if he wins on Sunday.

“It was super-slippery out there, but we made the right calls at the right times and I am very happy to be on pole.

“I like driving in the wet – I come from Holland – so we are use to driving in the wet. Maybe it is dry tomorrow, and it will be different, but we have a good race car.”

Hamilton had briefly held third spot, but the seven-time world champion was usurped by Hulkenberg just as the red flag arrived for Piastri’s collision with the wall.

“It was a wild qualifying session,” said Hulkenberg. “The first row is nice, it is very sweet, so let us see how long we can keep it up there tomorrow.

“It will be dry tomorrow, a different cup of tea, but I will try my best.”

Hamilton finished runner-up to Verstappen in Spain a fortnight ago, and the British driver is hopeful he can take second spot again on Sunday.

“Max will most likely be gone, but if I can hold on to Alonso and give him hell that is what I will do,” he said.

“It was a good result and I think most people underestimate how hard it was out there for everybody. It was tricky to keep it on track and deliver when the time counts.”

Charles Leclerc in Canada
Charles Leclerc in Canada Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was knocked out in Q2 (Graham Hughes/AP)

Sergio Perez’s string of poor races continued after he was eliminated in Q2 and starts Sunday’s round from 12th place.

Perez, who trails team-mate Verstappen by 53 points, started last in Monaco after he crashed out of qualifying and then was only 11th on the grid last time out in Spain.

Here, the Mexican again begins a race outside of the top 10 after he failed to get a clean lap together and faces losing even further ground to Verstappen.

On an afternoon of surprise results, Charles Leclerc was also knocked out in Q2. The Monegasque, who, too, performed badly in Barcelona – qualifying 19th and taking the chequered flag in 11th – was denied an early switch by Ferrari to dry rubber.

When the brief changeover to slicks arrived, Leclerc could not do enough to progress to Q3, yelling in frustration over the radio.

“The tyres are not ready,” he said. “Come on!”

Earlier, qualifying was red-flagged after a handful of minutes when Zhou Guanyu temporally broke down in his Alfa Romeo.

The Chinese driver managed to get going again, limping back to the pits, with the session restarted after a seven-minute suspension.

Zhou was able to continue in Q1, but he finished 20th and last.