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China’s Zhou Guanyu will start in 10th on the grid for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. Photo: AFP

Formula 1: Verstappen on pole for Canadian Grand Prix, Alonso second, as Zhou Guanyu hits new heights in Montreal

  • Chinese driver makes it to third stage of qualifying in fledgling career to qualify 10th on the grid
  • Teammate Valtteri Bottas will start in 11th after a wet and windy Saturday at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

An “extremely happy” Zhou Guanyu qualified in 10th for the Canadian Grand Prix as the reliability issues plaguing Alfa Romeo disappeared in the wind and rain of Montreal.

The Chinese driver made it to the third stage of qualifying for the first time in his fledgling Formula 1 career, while teammate Valtteri Bottas will start a place further back on the grid.

At the front, Max Verstappen grabbed pole, but it was the performance of Fernando Alonso which stood out, with the Alpine driver celebrating his first front row slot in a decade.

Guanyu Zhou of Alfa Romeo Racing at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit in Montreal. Photo: EPA-EFE

“From the moment I woke up this morning and saw the conditions, I knew that anything could happen,” Zhou said. “We’ve been often close to Q3 in the past, but I was not expecting to reach it here in Montreal, which is a completely new track for me.

“It was really tough out there today, the track was slippery and it was almost impossible to see the other drivers in front. I’m happy to have been able to give everything I got, my laps in Q3 have been a bit messy but I am glad to have extracted the full potential from the car.”

The Alfa Romeo pair are in prime position to add points to the team’s total, with Zhou hoping the car trouble that has plagued his season so far has been solved so he can add to the single point he won on debut in Bahrain.


“In terms of race pace, we have always been quite strong in the past in dry conditions, so we will try to give our best tomorrow and fight for a top 10 finish,” Zhou said.

Zhou out-qualifies Bottas, but top 10 start eludes Alfa Romeo in Baku

Verstappen’s main title rivals sunk out of sight, Mexican teammate Sergio Perez crashing and qualifying 13th while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc ended a run of four poles in a row by dropping to 19th because of engine penalties.

“I still expect it not to be a straightforward race,” said Verstappen after his second pole in nine races.

“But today with the tricky conditions we stayed calm and didn’t make mistakes.”


His qualifying time of one minute 21.299 seconds was 0.645 faster than 40-year-old Alonso’s surprising best.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez is helped out of his car by emergency crews after hitting the wall during the qualifying session for the Canadian Grand Prix. Photo: AFP

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was third fastest on a drying track and seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton fourth for Mercedes on a weekend dominated by talk of bouncing cars and driver safety.


“I can’t tell you how happy I am,” said Hamilton of his best Saturday showing so far this season. “On pure pace in the dry we’re still a long way off but to get top four in qualifying in those conditions is awesome.”

The race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, which starts at 2am on Monday (Hong Kong Time), will be the first in Canada since 2019 and the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and it is forecast to take place in sunny and dry conditions.

Verstappen has won four of the past five races, with Red Bull chasing a sixth in a row. He leads teammate Sergio Perez by 21 points, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc a further 13 behind.