Not So Fast: Penalties Shuffle the Grid in Montreal

It was fun while it lasted for Nico Hulkenberg. On Saturday afternoon, Hulkenberg was beaming after a surprise second-place finish in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Hulkenberg’s team, Haas, doesn’t get a lot of days like that. So as Hulkenberg stood next to Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso in an improbable top three, he could not stop smiling and waving.

Alas, his joy was short-lived. Hours later, race stewards penalized Hulkenberg for speeding during a red flag in one of the qualifying sessions and imposed a three-place penalty. Second became fifth, and the front row suddenly looked a lot more familiar: Verstappen on pole for Red Bull, with Alonso, in an Aston Martin, right next to him.

Time: The Canadian Grand Prix starts at 2 p.m. Eastern time. (Global start times are here.)

TV: The race will air on ABC in the United States. Streaming is available on ESPN+. Prerace coverage starts at 12:30 p.m. Not in the United States? A full list of Formula 1 broadcasters, wherever you are, can be found here.

Verstappen is on pole position — try to act surprised — and Hulkenberg’s penalty bumped Alonso up to second one week after he vowed that he would not finish off the podium again this season.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will start third and fourth and fifth, which should be heartening for Mercedes after both finished on the podium last time out. But Ferrari’s struggles continued. Carlos Sainz fell out of the top 10 after he was handed a three-place penalty for impeding Pierre Gasly in qualifying, and Charles Leclerc blew up at the team on the radio after he believed it had botched a change of tires. “We need to improve now,” Leclerc fumed.

Momentum Red Bull has won all seven races this season, and 17 of the past 18 overall. There is no reason to think that dominance will take the day off on Sunday, and especially not with a chance to earn the team’s 100th Formula 1 victory.

Upgrades Lewis Hamilton likes the feel of what he is seeing from the Mercedes technicians. (Interesting.) Charles Leclerc implied that his Ferrari team was still groping around in the dark, unable to figure out what’s wrong. (Not good.) Still, if some of these teams don’t start getting faster with their upgrades soon, Verstappen and Red Bull could have new trophies in their garage before you’ve finished your summer vacation.

Weather Heavy rain in Saturday’s sessions made it hard for drivers to see and hold the track, and may have played a role in several penalties. The weather is expected to be marginally better on Sunday — cloudy, but not rainy — but if there is even a hint of showers, tire choice will be critical.

  • “The ending of the day is not quite as good as it was earlier, that’s obviously a pity and it’s a shame not to be staring on the front row. We have to face the consequences with that.” — Nico Hulkenberg, who drove his Haas into second (briefly) before a penalty dropped him down the grid.

  • “Those are exactly the plans: Get two cars on the podium. I’m extremely confident.” — Lawrence Stroll, the Aston Martin team owner (and a proud Canadian), predicting a big weekend in Montreal. Fernando Alonso has positioned himself to deliver on that boast; Stroll’s son, Lance, has not. He will start 16th.

  • “The whole team has this new energy and kind of feels like we’ve got a North Star. We know where we’re going; we know how to get there.” — Lewis Hamilton, who was loving the Mercedes upgrades entering the weekend.

  • “I basically want a restart, to go again.” — Sergio Pérez of Red Bull, whose disappointing performances in his past two races have made his two early-season victories a distant memory. His 12th-place finish in qualifying on Saturday won’t help turn things around.

  • “He needs to stop thinking about the championship and just drive.” — Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, after hearing Pérez’s comments — and before his latest dismal qualifying effort.

Verstappen led from wire to wire at the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago, winning by 24 seconds.

With his fifth win in seven races — he was second in the other two — Verstappen widened his points lead to 53 over his teammate, Pérez.

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