Verstappen on pole, Hulkenberg snatches second in wet Canadian GP qualifying

2023 Canadian Grand Prix qualifying

Posted on

| Written by

Max Verstappen secured pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix as Nico Hulkenberg took second on the grid in a dramatic wet qualifying session.

The Red Bull driver took his fifth pole of the season and third consecutive pole by over a second after getting his best time in early in Q3 as the track conditions deteriorated. Hulkenberg jumped up to second just before a red flag stoppage effectively ended the session, while Fernando Alonso secured third on the grid.

Charles Leclerc was eliminated from Q2 in 11th, with Sergio Perez also failing to reach Q3 in 12th place.


After the earlier practice session had been run entirely in the wet, drivers headed out on intermediate tyres for the first phase of qualifying as the track was still wet as Q1 got underway.

On his way out of the pit lane, Zhou Guanyu lost drive in his Alfa Romeo, exiting onto the race track at a crawling speed. Zhou attempted to find a solution for his unresponsive power unit, but eventually pulled off-track at the exit of turn seven, bringing out the red flags. Despite stopping, Zhou managed to power cycle his car and breathe life back into it under the red flag and pulled away back onto the circuit and into the pit lane.

With the cause of the red flag having sorted itself, the session soon resumed again with Zhou able to rejoin as if he had nothing to do with the whole affair.

Max Verstappen went quickest of all with a 1’24.106, but was beaten by Fernando Alonso on the Aston Martin driver’s first lap. Verstappen improved on his next lap to move back to the top, before Alonso followed in suit to go quickest again by almost two tenths.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2023
Hamilton skidded off in Q1, but dodged elimination
The low-grip conditions caught out many, with Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton all having laps deleted for running off track and missing corners as they struggled to keep their cars on track. Hamilton’s Mercedes team mate George Russell also struggled for grip and fell down to 18th as times gradually improved around the slowly drying track. With just over five minutes remaining, Russell put in a lap good enough to move up to fourth place.

In the closing minutes, the five drivers in the drop zone were Nyck de Vries, Oscar Piastri, Yuki Tsunoda, Logan Sargeant and Zhou slowest but at least circulating. Piastri improved to move up to 13th, which put Pierre Gasly into the danger zone in 16th. He was not there for long, however, as the Alpine driver went up to ninth to drop home driver Lance Stroll at risk in 16th.

Tsunoda pushed Kevin Magnussen into the drop zone, but the Haas driver moved into safety to force Tsunoda back into elimination. Stroll went clear to knock Valtteri Bottas into danger in 16th, but the Alfa Romeo driver secured passage to Q2 with his final effort.

There was a major traffic jam at the final corner involving Carlos Sainz Jnr, Tsunoda and Gasly which forced the Alpine driver to take emergency avoiding action at the final chicane as the Ferrari crawled in the braking zone. Gasly was unable to complete his lap, while Tsunoda was compromised for the start of his final effort. Both would be the first drivers eliminated from Q1, the incensed Gasly letting rip at Sainz on his radio.

Joining Tsunoda and Gasly were De Vries, Sargeant and Zhou, who was unable to do better than last despite recovering out of his session-halting early problem. The stewards confirmed Sainz would be investigated for impeding Gasly, and Tsunoda likewise for getting in Leclerc’s way.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Q1 result

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’20.85112
214Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’21.4810.63012
344Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’21.5540.70312
463George RussellMercedesW141’21.7980.94712
516Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’21.8430.99212
623Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’21.9381.08714
74Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’21.9981.14712
831Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’22.1141.26312
911Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’22.1511.30013
1081Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’22.1901.33912
1155Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’22.2481.39712
1277Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’22.3321.48113
1320Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’22.3511.50012
1418Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’22.6771.82612
1527Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’22.7301.87913
1622Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’22.7461.89511
1710Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’22.8862.03511
1821Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’23.1372.28612
192Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’23.3372.48614
2024Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’23.3422.49111

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


As the second session began, drivers were openly debating whether or not the threshold for switching to slicks was near. Lando Norris lobbied McLaren to move onto dry tyres and they duly obliged him. That led to a rush of cars coming into the pits for slick tyres as the track was beginning to offer adequate grip.

On intermediates, Stroll lost his Aston Martin through turn five, spinning through 360 degrees and nudging the barrier with his nose as he skidded down to turn six. Despite the dramatic spin, he avoided damaging his car and was able to continue on his way.

The superiority of the dry tyres was proven by Alexander Albon, who had been the first to risk them, putting his Williams quickest of all with a 1’18.725, with Verstappen only three tenths slower in second place. While the slick tyres were offering faster lap times, it was now raining again over the circuit, meaning the window to improve was now rapidly closing.

With less than four minutes remaining, Leclerc, Perez and Stroll were all sitting in danger in 11th, 12th and 13th, respectively. The worse news for the trio was that it was now raining significantly harder, leaving them with limited opportunity to improve in the closing minutes.

Leclerc and Perez both pitted for intermediates in a desperate hope that they would find enough grip on the worsening circuit to try and find some time. However, the rain was simply robbing the track of grip with every second that passed and when Leclerc slid off at turn six, his fate was sealed.

Leclerc was eliminated in 11th, complaining his “tyres were not ready” after spinning at turn six. Perez was also knocked out in 12th having failed to improve on his intermediates. Stroll could do no better than 13th, with Magnussen and Bottas the final two drivers failing to reach Q3. After his bold early switch to slicks, Albon ended Q2 fastest overall for Williams.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Q2 result

123Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’18.72519
21Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’19.0920.36721
34Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’19.3470.62221
481Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’19.6590.93421
514Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’19.7761.05120
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’19.8561.13120
763George RussellMercedesW141’20.0981.37320
827Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’20.3051.58020
931Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’20.4061.68120
1044Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’20.4261.70121
1116Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’20.6151.89022
1211Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’20.9592.23423
1318Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’21.4842.75920
1420Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’21.6782.95321
1577Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’21.8213.09624

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


As the top 10 shoot-out for pole position began the rain was increasing in intensity by the minute, making the early laps all the more critical for drivers’ prospects for pole position. Verstappen was the first driver over the line to start a timed lap and wrestled with his car in the deteriorating conditions to set a 1’27.059.

Hulkenberg scored his best starting place since 2010
Alonso went faster than the Red Bull in the middle sector but hit the control line two tenths slower than Verstappen managed. Lando Norris briefly put his McLaren in third before he was demoted by the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell.

Verstappen went even faster on his second timed lap, taking a full second off his own provisional pole time. But Oscar Piastri then brought out the yellow flags after losing control of his McLaren at turn seven and backing his car into the wall.

As Piastri’s car sat stranded and broken, Hulkenberg jumped up to second place in the Haas. Mere seconds later, the session was stopped, the red lights flashing on Hulkenberg’s display as he hit the brakes for turn one. That paused Q3 with seven minutes remaining.

However the rain continued to fall, making the prospects of the track improving in the few minutes unlikely. That did not dissuade the field from lining up at the end of the pit lane moments before Q3 resumed.

When the session eventually resumed, Verstappen immediately reported that the circuit was much wetter than it had been before the red flag, while Russell assessed the conditions as being nearly bad enough for full wet weather tyres. It seemed guaranteed that none of the top 10 would be able to improve their times in the minutes remaining.

That proved the case, with drivers giving up on their hopes of improving on the increasingly wet track and returning to the pits. The remaining minutes ticked down and the chequered flag flew to confirm Verstappen on pole position for the third consecutive race.

Hulkenberg secured Haas’ best grid position since Kevin Magnussen took pole for last year’s sprint race in Brazil with second place. Alonso claimed third ahead of the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell. Esteban Ocon qualified sixth ahead of Norris and Sainz, who is under serious threat of being handed an impeding penalty by the stewards after the session. Piastri took ninth despite his crash, while Albon ended the session in tenth after his only timed lap was deleted for running off the track at the final chicane.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Q3 result

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’25.85826
227Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’27.1021.24425
314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’27.2861.42825
444Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’27.6271.76926
563George RussellMercedesW141’27.8932.03525
631Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’27.9452.08725
74Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’28.0462.18826
855Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’29.2943.43626
981Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’31.3495.49124
1023Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW45No time24

Become a RaceFans Supporter

RaceFans is run thanks in part to the generous support of its readers. By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the same in whichever currency you use) you can help cover the costs of creating, hosting and developing RaceFans today and in the future.

Become a RaceFans Supporter today and browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

2023 Canadian Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Canadian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

18 comments on “Verstappen on pole, Hulkenberg snatches second in wet Canadian GP qualifying”

  1. Lawrence Stroll needs to watch some Breaking Point from F1 23 really. I don’t think a father lets his son unnoticed about weak performances.

    1. He is doing just fine, bear the fact that he got podiums in a slow car in previous years.

      1. No he didnt.

        Baku 2017 was luck and 2020’s pink Mercedes was not a slow car by any means.

  2. Waiting for Sainz to get his penalty. The guy was driving like a complete fool today.

    1. more like sent home.

    2. Seems to drive like a fool or mediocrely quite often. Leclerc also blew his inter lap. He shouldn’t have required a soft to get through. Alonso didn’t. The crash twins. At least Leclerc can be consistently blindingly fast even if he does often crash. With Sainz, he’ll be fast one day and extremely slow the next and often crash.

  3. I’ve counted the times Sky Sports mentioned Stroll being good in the wet and it adds up to 15 (FP1, 2, 3 and quali) and it adds up to 15. For 130 starts, they always seem to fall back to 2 specific times he’s done alright. I know he’s from Canada so the focus ios on there, but he’s proven once more he’s just a terrible driver. Two out of 130 races isn’t worth mentioning.

    1. Yes, he’s had some good performances in the wet but it’s now quite some time ago; recent wet races\qualis didn’t stand out at all.

  4. Well done Hulk/Haas.

  5. You know stats end up fascinating when a Williams sets the fastest lap over all 3 sessions, to end up starting 10th with no time set. Really curious about tomorrow, let’s hope it rains, or well….anything to give it an exciting unusual outcome.

    Personally hoping for a freak Alonso win.

  6. Another masterclass by Max that clearly shows who is the best driver on the grid. Amazing car control.

  7. Another poor showing by Ferrari. Drivers blocking others, slow to react to the weather, drivers slow on the lap. Time is running out on Vasseur making his mark and pointing this ship in the right direction. None of these issues are technical, which have long lead in times. These are all operational errors that should have been fixed long ago.

    As said before, Verstappen is in a league of his own at the moment. It’s impressive, if boring.

    1. A league of his own is exagerated imo: he would be very hard to beat for anyone, but give hamilton, alonso, leclerc (assuming he stops making mistakes once given a competitive enough car), russell, norris the same car and we’d have a much more competitive fight at the front.

      Because take this quali for example, perez in the wet is 2 seconds off the pace all the time, how are alonso or hamilton expected to outqualify verstappen with a significantly slower car?

    2. As monza 2017 quali showed, the car can still make a 1 second difference even between equally strong drivers in the wet (hamilton vs vers).

  8. Verstappen and Red Bull are also smarter than the other teams. Every single time there’s a wet session, Max is the first driver on the line to do his timed laps. Even if he had messed up his first attempt, he would be the only driver along with Hulk, to be granted a 2nd opportunity.

    You simply don’t see other teams doing that. They have the best car and doesn’t take chances.

    1. It’s often a race rather than a choice to get to the from of the cue.

      1. And he wins all of those too.

  9. Impeding was unnecessarily frequent yesterday, especially at & into the final chicane, so what a mess.
    Checo can’t catch a break, although he’s never really been overly successive in wet-weather or changeable conditions anyway. Max’s win to lose again.

Comments are closed.