Lewis Hamilton: Canadian Grand Prix is real unknown

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Montreal
Lewis Hamilton on pole in Canada as big names struggle
Canadian Grand Prix
Venue: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Date: 7 June
Live on BBC One (18:25 BST-21:00) and Radio 5 live (18:30-21:00), plus live text, TV and radio commentary on the BBC Sport website and app (18:00-21:00). Full coverage details here.

Lewis Hamilton says he does not know what sort of challenge to expect for victory in the Canadian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes man took pole from team-mate Nico Rosberg by 0.309 seconds, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen third.

But speed shown by Ferrari during their race preparation in Montreal has left Mercedes questioning how strong a challenge they will face in the race.

The polewinner has only won the race 4 times in Canada since 2000 - 2 of those were Hamilton (2007, 2010)

Hamilton said: "Ferrari have picked up their pace this weekend. The race is a bit of an unknown."

The champion leads Rosberg by 10 points in the drivers' championship standings ahead of Sunday's race at 19:00 BST.

Hamilton and Rosberg will likely only have to be concerned by Raikkonen, as his team-mate Sebastian Vettel qualified 16th following an engine problem and has been hit with a five-place grid penalty for infringing safety regulations.

The Canadian Grand Prix, which is live across the BBC, is famous for producing eventful races

Vettel illegally passed Roberto Merhi's Manor after the final practice session had been red-flagged because Jenson Button's McLaren had stopped on track.

Rain during the second practice session on Friday, when the teams do their race preparation work, has meant Mercedes have a less accurate than normal picture of their rivals' potential pace.

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said: "The Ferrari running on Friday looked different and it was either different because what they have done to the engine was different and new or they have played around with fuel loads.

"It did not quite add up so I can't really tell you what we are expecting because on a first look it was very impressive but if you prepared the data properly and looked at corner speeds and the speeds on the straights, which were really impressive, we found we still had a bit of margin even on the long runs, of a couple of tenths.

"But I wouldn't want to say that is true for sure, because it was more difficult to analyse than previously."

Sebastian Vettel
Vettel received a five-place grid penalty for the race on Sunday

The race will be held in warm sunshine, with no threat of rain, in front of the usual capacity crowd at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Hamilton's pole was the 44th of his career and it came after a difficult build up through the weekend.

"Collectively as a team we have managed to at least maintain the pace we had or try to improve in some areas, which is good," he said.

"Ferrari had good race pace but I think they had more (tyre) degradation than us maybe.

Hamilton's Canadian GP pole lap

"It's not been the smoothest of weekends but we can build on the foundation that Nico and I have achieved and bring the fight to them."

Hamilton heads into the race after losing victory in the last race in Monaco because of a strategy error by the Mercedes engineers.

But he denied that his impressive form in qualifying was in any way a statement following the disappointment of Monaco.

Hamilton now has 4 poles and 7 front row starts in 8 visits to Montreal Only Michael Schumacher (6) has more Montreal poles than Hamilton (4)
Vettel's last Q1 elimination was at the 2014 US Grand Prix Ferraro's last Q1 elimination was at the Hungary Grand Prix in 2014 (Raikkonen)

"I don't think it's a statement at all," he said. "It's definitely a positive to come back into this weekend on the right foot.

"While it hasn't been as clean a weekend as I wanted, to come back with good pace, that I had in the last race and after obviously a difficult time (feels good).

"But obviously there are no points for qualifying, the big race is on Sunday and that's going to be challenge for us all, but I feel in a good position."

Full qualifying results