Sebastian Vettel claimed his second successive Canadian pole position as he beat Lewis Hamilton to the coveted grid slot on Saturday.
The reigning World Champ came to the fore in Saturday's final practice and carried that pace through to the afternoon's all-important qualifying session. Vettel clocked a 1:13.905 to take provisional pole on his first attempt but went even quicker on his second to ensure Hamilton had no chance of catching him.
Fernando Alonso qualified P3 ahead of Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg and a Felipe Massa who used every last millimetre of the Montreal track on his way to P6.
It was bright sunshine in Montreal with an ambient temperature of 24C and the track at 42C. Nico Rosberg had been sidelined in the final practice with a fuel pressure problem and so he was keen to get out on track and see that his car was working. He set a 1:18.763 which was soon beaten by Kamui Kobayashi and then Paul DiResta took the top time into the 1:16s.
Lewis Hamilton took over on top followed by Sergio Perez but it was Sauber team-mate Kamui Kobayashi, who'd survived a quick trip across the grass on the lap before, who set the first time in the 1:15s with a 1:15.906. This was then lowered by Nico Hulkenberg with a 1:15.803, Fernando Alonso with a 1:15.121 and then Hulkenberg took it back again with a 1:15.106.
Cars were running multiple laps on the Soft tyre during the opening ten minutes, with a fast lap followed by a slow lap and then another fast lap. Fernando Alonso cruised for his obligatory slow lap and then set the first 1:14 lap with a 1:14.916.
With ten minutes gone Sebastian Vettel seemed in no hurry to set a time and finally put one on the timesheets with nine minutes of the session remaining. Many had thought that Mercedes would be on the front row in Canada with their super-efficient double DRS and Michael Schumacher now made his move taking P1 with a 1:14.892 (Nico Rosberg was way back in P8 at the time).
At this stage of Q1 everyone from Michael to Bruno Senna in P15 was in the 1:14s or 1:15s, it was incredibly tight. The one driver who was not at his usual pace was Jean-Eric Vergne, who had to sit out most of FP3 after an early accident. He was lingering behind both Caterhams and showing no sign of improving in a hurry.
Because of the tightness at the top, McLaren felt compelled to save any embarrassment and send Jenson Button out on a set of SuperSoft tyres that he had been hoping to save for Q2 and Q3.
Sebastian Vettel's late emergence from the pits meant that he started his run of fast-and-slow laps later than everyone else and gradually whittled the P1 time down from a 1:14.743 to a 1:14.661 as we hit the four-minute mark.
At this stage the dropzone was between: 16.Senna, 17.Ricciardo, 18.Petrov, 19.Kovalainen, 20.Vergne, 21.de la Rosa, 22.Glock, 23.Pic, 24.Karthikeyan
Jean-Eric Vergne was doing his best to get himself clear but would typically put in one or two personal best (green) sectors and then make a mistake in the other one. As the clock ticked down he failed to beat both Caterhams. Frustratingly for Vitaly Petrov he had been ahead of Heikki Kovalainen for all of the session until Heikki's final lap grabbed P18 with the clock on zero.
Out went: 18.Kovalainen, 19.Petrov, 20.Vergne, 21.de la Rosa, 22.Glock, 23.Pic, 24.Karthikeyan (1.5 seconds inside the 107% time). Amazingly there had been just 0.9 seconds between P1 and P17 and just 0.3 between P3 (Hamilton) and P15 (Massa).
Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo set the benchmark time at 1:15.995 which was reduced by Kamui Kobayashi to 1:15.454, which was then reduced considerably by Nico Rosberg with a 1:14.568.
Fernando Alonso set off in the vain hope to make his soft tyres set a good enough time in Q2, a strategy that almost cost him dear when he had an off-track excursion at Turn 1. After two slow laps he headed back for the pits for some SuperSofts. At which stage he was P17.
Lewis Hamilton had reduced the top time to a 1:14.510, but then Sebastian Vettel showed exactly what could be done with an RB8 with no hole sin tthe floor by hacking lumps off that time with a 1:14.187. Mark Webber then took P2 and Hamilton re-took P2 off him.
With four minutes left the danger positions were: 7.Button, 8.Hulkenberg, 9.Massa, 10.Grosjean, 11.Ricciardo, 12.Raikkonen, 13.DiResta, 14.Maldonado, 15.Senna, 16.Kobayashi, 17.Perez.
There was frantic scramble from the midfield who were making the SuperSofts last more than one lap. Kobayashi jumped to P8, Paul DiResta grabbed P7, Jenson Button slotted in at P8 pushing Felipe Massa out of the top ten into P11. Nico Hulkenberg took P10, Massa snatched P10 back and then Hulkenberg took it back again. Romain Grosjean could only manage P11 but it meant that Felipe was now back in P12.
Kimi Raikkonen entered the fray with P10, Felipe Massa pulled out all the stops, going perilously close to the walls and making himself safe in P8. Jenson Button could only manage P9 before Romain Grosjean pushed him further backwards by taking P7.
Button's place in Q3 looked over as Pastor Maldonado (then P17) set the timing screens purple for the first sector, followed by a good middle sector. Sadly for the Venezuelean he spun his car into the same Champions Wall that his team-mate had visited on Friday and his Q2 was over.
So out went: 11.Kobayashi, 12.Raikkonen "It is what it is." 13.Hulkenberg, 14.Ricciardo, 15.Perez, 16.Senna, 17.Maldonado
Maldonado should have been in Q3 and another wild moment let him down. Raikkonen lost out to Grosjean again and Nico Hulkenberg was dismayed to be behind his team-mate at the start despite edging him earlier.
Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were out early in the session, but Lewis had to back off after making a mistake on his first lap while his team-mate just looked slow on Soft tyres.
So the first serious provisional pole was put in by Nico Rosberg with a 1:14.664, followed by Felipe Massa with a 1:14.465. Lewis Hamilton came round in a less-than-convincing 1:14.439, a time that was put into sharp perspective by Sebastian Vettel with a jaw-dropping 1:13.905. Alonso slotted into P2.
After the first runs it was: Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Webber, Grosjean, Rosberg, Schumacher and Button. DiResta had been out, but set no time.Button then got out of his car and decided not to continue. And it looked as though Mercedes were leaving it very late to deliver a front row position.
On the second runs Sebastian Vettel was out early and set the timing screens to purple (even with the luxury of running slightly wide at the Casino hairpin) reducing provisional pole to an unbeatable 1:13.784.
Lewis Hamilton could go faster than Vettel in just one sector but managed to get himself ahead of Alonso for a potential front row start. Alonso was still to come.
Nico Rosberg grabbed P4, Alonso came up just short of Hamilton's time and stayed P3 and then Mark Webber took P4 off Rosberg, finishing his lap over 0.5 slower than team-mate Vettel. It was Sebastian's 32nd pole position and he looked far and away the class of the field.
Behind Rosberg in P5 was Massa P6, Grosjean P7, DiResta P8, Schumacher in P9 and Jenson Button already doing interviews in P10. It had been a poor session for Michael Schumacher who - going on the progression of times from session to session - should have been in P6 behind his team-mate. As it was he was almost 0.4 slower than his Q2 time.
So with no prospect of rain on Sunday the fates will have to deliver some extraordinarily-timed Safety Cars to make Schumi the seventh winner in seven races. Hamilton, with no win in 2012, stands a much greater chance.
01 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:13.784 16 laps
02 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:14.087 0.303 22 laps
03 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:14.151 0.367 23 laps
04 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:14.346 0.562 19 laps
05 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:14.411 0.627 25 laps
06 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:14.465 0.681 24 laps
07 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:14.645 0.861 28 laps
08 Paul di Resta Force India 1:14.705 0.921 22 laps
09 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:14.812 1.028 18 laps
10 Jenson Button McLaren 1:15.182 1.398 24 laps
11 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:14.688 0.008 21 laps
12 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:14.734 0.054 22 laps
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:14.748 0.068 18 laps
14 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:15.078 0.398 21 laps
15 Sergio Perez Sauber 1:15.156 0.476 21 laps
16 Bruno Senna Williams 1:15.170 0.490 20 laps
17 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:15.231 0.551 21 laps
18 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:16.263 1.602 12 laps
19 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:16.482 1.821 10 laps
20 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:16.602 1.941 12 laps
21 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:17.492 2.831 8 laps
22 Timo Glock Marussia 1:17.901 3.240 10 laps
23 Charles Pic Marussia 1:18.255 3.594 9 laps
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:18.330 3.669 9 laps