Nico Rosberg prevailed in a tight battle with team mate Lewis Hamilton to claim pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix.
There was no repeat of the controversial circumstance of qualifying in Monaco as Rosberg edged the other Mercedes by less than a tenth of a second.
Hamilton and Rosberg exchanged fastest times at the beginning of Q1, until Hamilton found seven-tenths of a second with his final effort to end the session well clear of Rosberg. The pair were eventually split by Kevin Magnussen, as the McLaren driver used a set of super-soft tyres to ensure his passage to Q2.
Behind them seven of the eighth Mercedes-powered cars filled the top seven places, with Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso the highest-placed non-Mercedes car.
However the eighth Mercedes-engined car, belonging to Sergio Perez, nearly didn’t make the cut for Q2. He ended the session 16th after spinning at turn eight.
He was in good company, as several drivers were caught out by the low-grip track, including Hamilton who went across the turn one run-off on his first lap. However Marcus Ericsson was the only driver to hit the wall, bringing out the red flags with 16 seconds remaining.
That meant none of the other drivers could complete their laps. But Pastor Maldonado’s session was already over as Lotus had advised him to pull over in the final moments. The Marussia pair were out too, Jules Bianchi unable to do a second run due to a problem with his car.
Drivers eliminated in Q1
The Williams drivers showed they had the pace to challenge the Mercedes on the super-soft tyre in Q2 as Felipe Massa headed the times to begin with.
But when the Mercedes drivers took to the track for their final runs they bumped the Williams back to third place, Hamilton leading Rosberg by over two tenths of a second.
Sebastian Vettel was languishing outside of the top ten before the final runs, but a clean final lap carried him through into Q3.
But with less than a tenth of a second covering Jenson Button in eighth to Magnussen four places behind him, the margins were incredibly fine. Nico Hulkenberg missed the final ten by less than five hundredths of a second, and was eliminated along with the other Force India of Sergio Perez.
Drivers eliminated in Q2
Hamilton flew through the first two sectors on his first run in Q3, lighting up the timing screens with the fastest times.
But he began to close on a Red Bull towards the end of his lap and crossed the line slower than Rosberg – by less than a tenth of a second. “Just that last sector with traffic by the look of it,” said race engineer Peter Bonnington.
The Williams drivers were next, followed by the two Red Bulls and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen then put his car eighth after single run in the final minutes of the session.
As in Monaco Rosberg was the first of the two Mercedes drivers to set a time but this time it was a clean lap. Not far behind him Hamilton set a new fastest time in the first sector but Rosberg responded in the second.
Hamilton locked his front-right wheel at turn eight and this proved costly – his middle sector time was slower than Rosberg and that made the difference at the finishing line. Rosberg set a 1’14.874 and Hamilton was less than a tenth of a second slower.
But behind them it was even closer – Sebastian Vettel claimed third place with just 0.041s covering him, the two Williams drivers, and Daniel Ricciardo.
Top ten in Q3
2014 Canadian Grand Prix
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Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei