Copy of 2022-06-18T221012Z_261239391_MT1USATODAY18559196_RTRMADP_3_FORMULA-ONE-2022-MONTREAL-GRAND-PRIX-1655619204926
Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen races during the qualifying session at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Image Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Montreal: World champion and series leader Max Verstappen drove expertly in difficult wet conditions in his Red Bull to secure pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix tonight.

In an intriguing and entertaining qualifying session, the 24-year-old Dutchman clocked a best lap in one minute and 21.299 seconds, beating nearest rival two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Alpine by seven-tenths of a second.

Verstappen will start his 150th race from the prime start place after claiming his 15th pole in pursuit of a 26th career victory.

Title rival

His pole ends a run of four in a row by title rival Charles Leclerc who starts tonight’s race from the back of the grid after taking a new power unit on his Ferrari.

The 40-year-old Alonso put in a dazzling late lap to delight the crowd and outpace fellow-Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Ferrari who qualified third ahead of a reinvigorated Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.

Kevin Magnussen wound up fifth ahead of his Haas team-mate Mick Schumacher, Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine and George Russell in the second Mercedes.

It was Schumacher’s best qualifying performance since arriving in Formula One last year.

Daniel Ricciardo was ninth for McLaren ahead of Zhou Guanyu of Alfa Romeo, the Chinese driver reaching the top ten for the first time on a day of the unexpected.

After heavy rain overnight and through the morning, the temperature was only 11 degrees when Race Control declared the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to be an official ‘wet track’ for the session.

Big crowd

Another big crowd turned out, bedecked in colourful plastic ponchos and anoraks to greet the return of F1 after a Covid-caused three-year absence.

All 20 drivers went out immediately to test the conditions in the opening qualifying session, the entire field running on full-wet tyres.

The track appeared to be wetter than it had been in final practice when Alonso was quickest.