Vettel hopes it doesn't rain for race

Red Bull's Sebastien Vettel qualified first and will start on the pole for Sunday's Canadian Grand...

Red Bull's Sebastien Vettel qualified first and will start on the pole for Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix. (Pierre-Paul Poulin, QMI Agency)

Dean McNulty, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:13 PM ET

MONTREAL — You can forget about what happened in qualifying Saturday at the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix.

No matter that Sebastian Vettel claimed his fifth pole in six rounds of the 2011 world championship as even he said that none of it matters if, as expected, it rains on the 4.361-km Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Sunday.

And that is exactly what Environment Canada experts say will happen.

What they don’t know for sure is just when it will rain.

Vettel, who put his Red Bull Renault on top of the time charts with a lap of one minute, 13.014 seconds, is hoping against hope that the rain will fall in the morning, before the lights go out to start the race at 1 p.m. EDT.

“The only thing we can do is wake up tomorrow morning, look outside, and then go from there,” he said. “We are pretty sure there will be rain in the morning but it can change quickly and be dry by the time the race starts.”

According to FIA rules the only thing the teams can do to deal with wet conditions is to change from slick tires to rain tires.

The chassis set-ups that they ran during qualifying Saturday cannot be toyed with.

And that could be even more of a problem for two-time F-1 champion Fernando Alonso who had his best qualifying session of the season, putting his Ferrari on the front row beside Vettel with a lap of 1:13:199.

“We have not done a lot of wet testing,” the Spanish driver said. “A little bit in Barcelona and a few laps in China and that is it.”

Facing the rain on Sunday very well could wash out any gains Alonso may have made Saturday which, he said, would be a waste, but it is something that everybody will have to deal with.

“With rain forecast (for Sunday) it makes this qualifying the least important one of the season so far,” he said. “But it is still better to start up front regardless of the weather.”

Alonso did take solace in the fact that Ferrari — which has struggled as a team all season long — did have its strongest showing yet with Filipe Massa, clocking the third-fastest time Saturday with a 1:13.217 in the second team car.

“We really were much better than expected,” Alonso said. “This was our best Saturday this season. I like that we were fighting for pole position. But the real job starts tomorrow.”

Starting fourth beside Massa will be Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, who managed a lap of 1:13.429.

Webber was hampered when his race car’s Kinetic Energy Recovery System failed, robbing him of much needed horsepower.

Lewis Hamilton was the best of the rest at 1:13.565, claiming the fifth spot on the grid for McLaren Mercedes.

Ferrari and the remainder of the grid, however, have a formidable foe in Vettel and the Red Bull gang.

Even with rain it will be hard to get past the defending series champion and Vettel is confident his team will be ready regardless of track conditions.

“We can be very confident but it won’t be easy tomorrow,” he said. “On this track you really need to squeeze everything you can out of your car.”

If there one thing that might brighten the day of his competition at the Canadian GP it is that Vettel admits the circuit is not among his favourites.

“This is probably not our favourite race track,” he said. “The kerbs are very tough and the track is bumpy.”

But he said that he is as ready as he can be to make the best out of whatever conditions prevail on Sunday.

“There is not much more that we can do,” he said. “We can only make small changes. Tomorrow will be a different ball game. But we are as prepared as we can be. It should be a very close race.”

For Alonso, he said that he has one thing on his mind when the race starts.

“We have to maximize our chances,” he said. “If we can overtake one Red Bull on the start it will be a good day.”

BOOST FOR WICKENS

 

MONTREAL — Canada’s Robert Wickens got some good news Saturday in his bid to get a full-time job driving in the Formula One world championship.

The 22-year-old Wickens was hired only last week by the struggling Marussia Virgin team as a reserve driver, the final step before joining the F-1 fraternity full time.

On Saturday the team’s biggest backer — billionaire Richard Branson — was at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve where he said he was committed to the team.

That means there is enough capital to keep Wickens with the team at least for the foreseeable future.

“I thoroughly enjoy Virgin’s involvement with the team and the sport, and hope it will be for a while,” Branson said.

“This isn’t my team, we’re effectively a sponsor, but for as long as we’re helpful to Marussia and the team then we will stay involved.”

Branson said he was encouraged by recent moves within the team, like the departure of technical boss Nick Wirth and the arrival of Wickens.

“Everybody accepts that performance needs to improve,” he said. “The team have made tough decisions, and they’ve one or two quite exciting things they’ve told me about — which I can’t talk about — but will hopefully see them go up the grid over the next year or two.

“Marussia are fantastic owners, they’ve the kind of deep pockets the team need, and they’re very committed to it.”

HAMILTON HOPES FOR BETTER

 

MONTREAL — Lewis Hamilton can’t understand what happened to him and his McLaren Mercedes team Saturday in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix.

He came to Canada confident that he could resurrect the team’s chances of catching rival Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel for the world championship.

Hamilton, after all, is the defending race winner in Montreal and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is the track where he recorded his first pole and win in F-1.

But Saturday, even though he thought he had a great lap, Hamilton ended up fifth.

“Personally, I was very happy with my lap. I don’t think I’ve ever driven a car as hard in my life as I did this afternoon,” he said. “I was right on the ragged edge and I think I even touched the wall at one stage.”

There was nothing more that he thought he could do to improve his time.

Hamilton, however, thinks that he can overcome starting on the third row on Sunday and still challenge for a victory.

“I hope our race pace will prove to be stronger tomorrow than our qualifying pace was today,” he said. “We’re losing a couple of tenths along the back straight, which hurt us in qualifying. We’ve got a long seventh gear — a bit too long for qualifying perhaps — but that should be good for overtaking and will be a help when I’m slipstreaming as it means I won’t be on the limiter. That should enable me to challenge the guys in front of me.”

 


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