MONTREAL – Disappointed championship leader Lewis Hamilton said his laps "just did not come together" on Saturday when he missed out on a fourth successive pole position at the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix.
The defending champion was out-paced by a team-mate, Finn Valtteri Bottas, for only the second time in 10 visits to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and cut a glum figure after qualifying fourth. Four-time world champion Hamilton has had six poles and six wins overall in Canada and arrived seeking a record-equalling seventh victory.
"It was just a very difficult session," he said. "The laps weren't great laps. Our race pace was good yesterday. Or single lap pace was good too, but today, it just didn't come together. Ferrari did a better job today and that's just the way it is."
Hamilton's title rival and fellow four-time champion Sebastian Vettel took his 54th career pole to put Ferrari on top in qualifying in Canada for the first time since 2001.
It meant that Hamilton missed out on a front row start with Bottas qualifying second and under-fire Dutchman Max Verstappen of Red Bull taking third place. Hamilton leads Vettel by 14 points in the standings after six races and will be determined not to allow him to cut substantially into that cushion.
He is likely to hope that Bottas can play a key role in keeping Vettel within reach in what may be a very tactical race in which tyres play a big part. The Finn said: "That was close, very close. It is always annoying when it is so close, but anyway: front row.
"Let's see what we can do tomorrow.”
Hamilton will have to cope with the supercharged Verstappen starting from third – the Dutchman having responded to his critics in perfect fashion since he threatened to "head-butt" someone on Thursday when irked by persistent questions about his many crashes this year.
Verstappen topped the times in all three free practice sessions and was very impressive in qualifying, clearly having replaced his confrontational mood with a clear sense of determination to succeed.
"I think we can do a great job in this race, it is great to start from third. I am very happy with this weekend so far."