No doubts as Rosberg takes pole

Banbury Cake: Nico Rosberg, centre, got the upper hand on team-mate Lewis Hamilton, right, in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix (AP) Nico Rosberg, centre, got the upper hand on team-mate Lewis Hamilton, right, in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix (AP)

Nico Rosberg left no-one in any doubt as to the validity of his pole position to leave Lewis Hamilton choking with begrudging respect.

A fortnight ago post-qualifying the air over Monaco was thick with acrimony and accusation after Rosberg had claimed top spot on the grid in contentious circumstances.

Hamilton implied Rosberg had deliberately thwarted his final hot lap to deny him the most important pole of the season, an incident that proved crucial as the latter went on to claim victory and return to the top of the title race by four points.

Fast forward two weeks and on to the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a track where Hamilton has triumphed three times in seven years, as well as claiming pole on three occasions.

Following practice and the first two periods of qualifying, a fourth pole appeared to be in the bag for Hamilton as he had no equal, not even Rosberg.

Hamilton was up by seven tenths of a second after Q1, and four tenths following Q2, but come the top-10 shoot-out when it matters most, it was Rosberg and not the Briton who proved fastest.

The margin in Rosberg's favour after the first flying lap was just 0.068secs, a gap that improved marginally after the second and final flyer to 0.079secs.

Hamilton had set a new weekend best in the first sector, but little errors in the second wrecked his chances, allowing Rosberg to strike a crucial psychological blow.

Fully aware of Hamilton's excellent record at this circuit, Rosberg said: "I know it's a track where Lewis is really strong, so I'm very happy it has worked out.

"It has been a fantastic day, and through the weekend we have been progressing all the time and I'm in the best position for tomorrow."

Unlike Monaco, pole is not the be all and end all in Montreal as only four times in the past 10 years has the man at the head of the field gone on to take the chequered flag.

Rosberg, though, is a man full of confidence at present, adding: "I've come here having won the last race and it helps a bit.

"Lewis obviously had that winning streak (four successive victories) and to bring that to an end was important."

As to where he now feels he has gained the upper hand, the 28-year-old said: "It's just working at it all the time.

"I'm looking at the data, working with my engineers and trying to understand areas where I can do better. It's just a process and I'm glad it's worked out."

Hamilton must have wondered where it had all gone wrong, admitting to running slightly wide at turns six and eight, but perhaps more intriguingly as to where Rosberg had found his extra speed.

Knowing he had been beaten fair and square on this occasion, Hamilton said: "Nico did a fantastic job, so congratulations to him.

"My final lap was not particularly bad. It just wasn't the greatest qualifying. Sometimes you have a good qualifying, sometimes you have bad qualifying.

"Nico just did a better job, so I need to work hard to make sure I do better tomorrow.

"But it's great to get a one-two for the team, a fantastic performance. Let's hope we can make history tomorrow."

That was with reference to the fact a one-two in the race will set a new F1 record for Mercedes of six in a row, not that Hamilton will want to be second again in that part of the scenario.

At least the circuit offers plenty of opportunities to pass, unlike in Monaco, yet Hamilton appreciates he will still have his work cut out.

"It's not that easy, especially with Nico so fast. Overtaking the same car as mine is going to be very difficult, especially when we are so close in pace," added Hamilton.

"Obviously I'll do what I can."

Reigning four-times champion Sebastian Vettel was the best of the rest, albeit seven tenths of a second adrift of Rosberg, such is the gap between Mercedes and Red Bull.

Williams pair Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, who have looked strong this weekend, will start fourth and fifth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull.

Ferrari pair Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, who had seemed set to challenge here, could only manage sixth and 10th.

Sandwiched in between the pair will be Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne and Jenson Button in his McLaren.

Max Chilton missed out on a place in Q2 by just over a tenth of a second to underline Marussia's recent improvement, with the Briton to line up 18th ahead of team-mate Jules Bianchi.

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