2011 all over again?
By this year's standards, Sebastian Vettel's 0.303-second margin over Lewis Hamilton in qualifying is pretty dominant. There was an air of 2011 about the way the reigning world champion unleashed some fearsome pace in Q3, and the way it seemed to take any sting (and doubt) out of the pole position fight.
For the first time all year, Vettel has spoken of "trusting" the RB8, and the team being able to read the conditions and make the car work - undoubtedly 2012's magic bullet. Of course, Sundays have thrown up plenty of shuffles in the order this year, but it was ominous to hear Mark Webber say that the hotter the weather, the better it is for Red Bull. The forecast for Sunday? Warmer than qualifying...
Hamilton has been quick all weekend, but still seems an unlikely winner © XPB
Chances of a seventh winner
Lewis Hamilton is the only driver in the top five on the grid without a victory to his name in 2012. The fact that his McLaren will line up second on the grid, and the 2008 world champion is a two-time winner in Canada, suggests that the chances are high of this remarkable streak continuing.
But Hamilton's demeanour after the session, and Vettel's advantage over the Briton, suggests that the McLaren man might be focusing more on defence than attack during the race. "We struggled to get the tyres working in FP3 and in qualifying," said Hamilton. "I'm surprised to see us on the front row but we'll definitely take it and work as hard as we can tomorrow." Hardly the prediction of a man expecting his first win of the year to come 24 hours later.
Teams are not expecting any shocks from the Pirellis this week © XPB
A 'conventional' race?
Two Red Bulls, two Ferraris, a McLaren and a Mercedes on the front three rows of the grid. So much for the 2012 season being a lottery. While some teams struggled more than others in the higher temperatures in qualifying compared to Friday's running, the grid is nowhere near as mixed up as some we have seen this year.
Part of the reason for that could be down to the fact that as teams aren't particularly worried about tyre degradation this weekend, they have been able to focus more on simply getting the Pirelli rubber into the correct operating window. There were hints on Friday that a one-stopper will be the norm (Lotus had no problems getting at least 25 laps out of the super softs), but as is always the case this year, there is still a hint of concern that race day will spring a surprise.
"There's not a guy in the pitlane that knows the answer [about race strategy]," said Webber. "I think we will only find out where the strategy lies after the first stint. In Monaco, we made the super soft last, but here you won't have the luxury of backing people up without coming under attack."
Rosberg's practice gremlins didn't help Mercedes © LAT
Mercedes' potential yet to be seen
Mercedes was hotly tipped to star this weekend, but so far Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher have been relatively quiet. The threat of rain altered most teams' agendas on Friday, making form hard to read. Saturday should have given a better clue, but Rosberg was on the back foot after he lost the morning practice session to a fuel connector problem, and Schumacher missed the cut-off to start a flying lap at the end of Q3 by less than half a second, leaving him on the fifth row of the grid. So there is still every chance that the F1 W03 has something to offer in the race.
"The car is OK," said team principal Ross Brawn. "I don't think we would have been troubling Vettel, but with a clean session we would not be far behind. Hopefully we can show our the full potential of the car tomorrow."
Ferrari is firmly on the pace in Canada © LAT
Ferrari here to stay (at last)
Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa knew that Ferrari had made a significant step in the right direction as soon as they tried the upgraded F2012 on Friday. The positive vibes coming from the red garages transferred into genuine results in qualifying, so now Ferrari has a platform of a competitive car to start properly developing.
"All the new parts have worked as expected," said Alonso. "So, happy with the car. We felt straight away a good step in performance. We were competitive in Barcelona, then on a different track like Monaco, and then a completely different track again here. This is a very good sign for us."
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