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Canadian Grand Prix: Max Verstappen Wins Pole On A Wet Track As He Chases Ayrton Senna On Win Column

Max Verstappen, who has won five of seven races this season, will lead the field to green on Sunday as he attempts to win his 41st career race.

Max Verstappen won the 25th pole of his career at the Canadian GP.
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Max Verstappen won the 25th pole of his career and moved one step closer to tying the late Ayrton Senna for Formula One victories as the two-time reigning world champion overcame wet conditions in Saturday qualifying at the Canadian Grand Prix. (More Motorsport news)

Verstappen, who has won five of seven races this season, will lead the field to green on Sunday as he attempts to win his 41st career race. It would tie him with Senna for fifth on F1′s all-time winners list.

Rain in Montreal hampered most of Saturday at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and although the track was only slightly slick at the start of qualifying, it was absolutely pouring by the pole-deciding third session. The 10 drivers who advanced into the round tried to get a clean lap down, but Oscar Piastri of McLaren crashed and Alex Albon of Williams didn’t get on track.

Most of the drivers returned to their garages with time still on the clock.

“I like driving in the wet. I come from Holland and we are used to driving in the wet,” said Verstappen, who competes under the Dutch flag.

“I feel in general it helps if you’re confident in the wet. It’s sort of a feeling, knowing how to drive it, what lines to take and it is difficult to fully explain,” Verstappen said. “It’s something you’ve been learning since you were little kids. I remember back in the karting days, my dad was standing on the track telling me where to drive in the wet because I think back in the day he was also quite good in the wet. So I think it’s just learning and understanding yourself what is going on and what you have to do and how to drive fast in the wet.”

Nico Hülkenberg of Haas initially qualified second, but hours later was handed a three-place penalty on the starting grid for violating rules during a red flag. He’ll now start fifth despite his strong qualifying effort.

“It was crazy, the changing conditions are tricky. It was wet to dry to back to wet, so you have to readjust all the time,” Hülkenberg said of his qualifying run.

Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin was third and believes if it rains Sunday, he has a shot at challenging Verstappen. He’ll now start alongside Verstappen following Hulkenberg’s penalty.

“We have a chance to put some pressure,” Alonso said. “They have had it very easy winning and hopefully (Sunday) they have to push.”

Red Bull is a perfect 7 for 7 so far this season, with Sergio Perez winning the two races that Verstappen did not. The Red Bull dominance has been jarring because of the massive margin of victory race after race.

Asked what kind of pressure Alonso planned to put on Red Bull, he said: “Two seconds behind them. Not 20 seconds behind them.” He also noted that Perez and Charles Leclerc starting in the back should help other teams challenge Verstappen.

Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell qualified fourth and fifth, but with penalties will start on the second row.

Esteban Ocon of Alpine qualified sixth and was followed by Lando Norris of McLaren. Carlos Sainz Jr. of Ferrari was eighth but summoned to the stewards after the session for “unnecessarily impeding” Pierre Gasly during qualifying.

Sainz was given a three-place grid penalty.

Gasly was livid over his radio at Sainz, calling his driving “completely inappropriate” and blamed the Spaniard for Gasly’s failure to advance out of the first group.

“Definitely (should be a penalty) but it’s not even what I care about as the damage has been done,” Gasly said. “I’m sitting here in P17 when we have the pace to be in the top 10, 8 or even 6 in these conditions, so whatever they decide — OK, it’s gonna damage him, but it’s not going to give us back the qualifying we should have had.”

Charles Leclerc qualified 11th for Ferrari and was disappointed in team strategy for the changing weather conditions.

“This time it wasn’t hard to read that it was a dry track,” Leclerc said. “I said that on the out lap. I don’t know why stayed with intermediates (tires) on a dry track. We went on slicks when it started to rain. It was supposed to be an easy session, so I don’t agree with the team.”

Perez of Red Bull qualified 12th.

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