MONTREAL (Reuters) - Formula One championship leader Nico Rosberg took pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix on Saturday, with Mercedes team mate and closest rival Lewis Hamilton again beaten into second place at a favourite circuit.
The pole was the seventh in seven races for the sport’s dominant team who have won every grand prix so far this season and finished one-two in the last five.
After controversy surrounded Rosberg’s pole in Monaco two weeks ago, the German left no room for argument in another psychological blow for Hamilton on a sunny afternoon at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
”I expect it will be between the two of us for now,“ said Rosberg. ”Of course there might be a surprise.
“I’ve come here knowing that I’ve won the last race. It just helps a bit. Lewis obviously had that winning streak and to bring that to an end was important,” said the German, whose Monaco win ended Hamilton’s run of four in a row.
Rosberg, who is four points clear of Hamilton but has never finished higher than fifth in Canada, pulled out a stunning lap of one minute 14.874 seconds to beat the Briton by 0.079.
“I know it’s a track where he’s very strong,” said Rosberg. “I‘m very happy that it worked out.”
He had already thrown down the gauntlet to his team mate by going fastest with his first flying lap of the third and final session on the island layout and Hamilton failed to meet the challenge.
”The car was good, I just didn’t drive it that well,“ Hamilton, a three times winner in Montreal including the first grand prix triumph of his career in 2007, told reporters. ”Nico did a fantastic job today, so congratulations to him.
“It just wasn’t the greatest qualifying session. Sometimes you have good ones, sometimes you have bad ones. But it’s great for the team that we’ve got the one-two and a really fantastic performance by the team. Let’s hope we can make history tomorrow.”
In Monaco, another track Hamilton loves, the Briton had suggested Rosberg deliberately brought out yellow warning flags at the end of qualifying in an incident that forced the Briton to slow and denied him the chance of going fastest.
The pair left the principality with talk of a feud simmering between them but they have been at pains to play down talk of broken relationships and frostiness since then.
Red Bull’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, last year’s race winner, will line up third in a promising boost for the German after a tough start to the season.
While the Red Bulls have shown steady improvement, Vettel was more concerned about the cars in his rearview mirrors.
“I think it was the maximum we could do, very close with the people behind, obviously half a second to the Mercedes in front,” said Vettel.
“I think four cars were within five or six hundredths of a second, so obviously I’m happy to be the quickest one of those.”
Mercedes-powered Williams enjoyed a strong qualifying session, with Finland’s Valtteri Bottas qualifying fourth ahead of team mate Felipe Massa in fifth.
As good as the day was, the team’s head of vehicle performance Rob Smedley thought it could have been better.
“I was expecting a bit more from both of them,” he told the BBC. “I thought we had the legs to be third today and we didn’t do it. So there’s a little bit of disappointment from that.”
Australian Daniel Ricciardo will start on the third row in the other Red Bull while Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, the winner in Canada in 2006 and runner-up last year, will line up seventh.
Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson spun his Caterham into the wall to bring an early end to the first session while Pastor Maldonado’s frustrating season continued.
The Lotus driver, who failed to start in Monaco, stopped with engine trouble during the first phase of qualifying and will start 17th.
The Venezuelan, who has yet to score a point since leaving Williams last year, also earned a reprimand from stewards for leaving the car without the steering wheel being in place.
Mexican Esteban Gutierrez did not take part in qualifying after spinning his Sauber into the wall during the morning’s final practice session.
Editing by Alan Baldwin